The Basic Science of Geothermal Heating and Cooling

A number of residents here in Rochester, Indiana, have sought Gast Heating & Cooling Inc. to turn their homes into geothermal homes. Still hesitant about geothermal heating and cooling yourself? Knowing something of the science behind it – and the mechanics as well – would undoubtedly help.

We’ve written elsewhere about the virtues of geothermal heating and cooling. It’s enough to say here that hardly any other means of maintaining a comfortable home environment throughout the year are as efficient, trustworthy, or economical, especially when you gauge the energy savings.

Here’s how geothermal makes that possible.

Thar’s Gold Heat in Them Thar Hills!

We mine the earth for precious metals. We drill the earth for oil. Now, to an unprecedented degree, we’re tapping the earth for a resource no doubt just as valuable to most of us: the energy to heat and cool our homes that doesn’t entail oil.

You see, just beneath the earth’s crust – that would be in the neighborhood of 33,000 feet under our feet – is a layer of magma. This is a molten and semi-molten mixture, for the most part comprised of silicates, in which temperatures vary from 1300 degrees Fahrenheit to 2400 degrees Fahrenheit and hotter the deeper you go (not that you’d want to go there!). What this does is keep the ground immediately under the earth’s surface at a reasonably stable year-round temperature of between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Meaning? Underground temperatures in Rochester (and pretty much everywhere stateside, as it were) are warmer than the ambient air above ground in Winter and cooler than the ambient air above ground in Summer.

Time to Get Pumped!

This, then, is what geothermal heating and cooling systems do: they transfer heat from the ground  to your home or heat from your home to the ground, as the season dictates. Either way, your home is maintained at an optimal temperature to keep you and your family comfortable throughout the year.

The appiance that handles the transfer is a geothermal heat pump. It continuously circulates water or some mixture (predominantly antifreeze) between your home and loops of piping (predominantly made of polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, PVC, or CPVC) buried in the ground. In Winter, the liquid is cold when it enters the ground. As it travels through the loops, it sucks up heat from the earth and is reintroduced to your home warm. In Summer, the process is reversed: warm liquid enters the loops, where it’s cooled by the cooler ground temperatures before it’s returned to your home. Need details? You’ll find more comprehensive information on ground loops here.

The central point is that geothermal heating and cooling systems don’t produce energy. They don’t work like central heating systems, which generate heat themselves. Instead, geothermal systems heat and cool your home by putting to use the energy already amply available beneath the earth’s surface. That’s why geothermal systems are not only quieter but also much more dependable, need less maintenance, have far longer lifespans, and are more environmentally friendly than old-school HVACs. That’s also why, in the long run, you’ll save considerably more more money by going geothermal.

Curious now? Consult with Gast Heating & Cooling Inc., your Rochester geothermal heating and cooling specialist, today.