Throughout the year, outdoor temperatures fluctuate with the changing seasons. However, underground temperatures do not. In fact, about four to six feet below the earth's surface, temperatures remain relatively constant year-round. A geothermal system, which consists of an indoor unit and a buried earth loop, capitalizes on these constant temperatures.
North Americans everywhere are feeling it, not only the pinch at the pump, but also the strain of monthly utility bills. That's a big reason why more and more homeowners are turning to geothermal systems like those from WaterFurnace as a means of reducing the high cost of their energy bills. With 70 per cent of a home's total energy bill resulting from the costs of heating, cooling and hot water, the use of geothermal energy not only increases the energy efficiency of a home, but also significantly reduces energy bills. In addition, geothermal has been declared the most environmentally friendly, cost-effective and energy-efficient heating and cooling technology available by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Geothermal systems use the solar energy that is stored year-round just beneath the earth's surface. This energy is free, unlimited, 100% renewable and increases the energy efficiency of heating, cooling and hot water systems in a home in a proven cost-effective way while emitting absolutely no carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide or other harmful greenhouse gases.
2. How does it work?
In the winter, fluid circulating through the system's earth loop absorbs stored heat and carries it indoors. The indoor unit compresses the heat to a higher temperature and distributes it throughout the building. In the summer, the system reverses, pulling heat from the building, carrying through the earth loop and depositing it in the cooler earth. A geothermal system utilizes the energy from the sun, which is stored in the earth, to heat and cool homes and buildings. Typically, electric power is used only to operate the unit's fan, compressor and pump. So, unlike conventional systems, geothermal systems do not burn fossil fuel to generate heat--they simply transfer heat to and from the earth.
The heating process involves extracting heat energy from the ground, and moving it into the building. Transferring the heat from the earth to the building involves a cycle of evaporation, compression, condensation and expansion.
A refrigerant is used as the heat transfer medium. The heating cycle starts as cold, liquid refrigerant passes through a water-to-refrigerant heat exchanger and absorbs heat from the low temperature source (earth loop fluid or well water). The refrigerant evaporates into a gas as heat is absorbed.
The gaseous refrigerant passes through a compressor where the refrigerant is pressurized, raising its temperature to over 180° F. The hot gas then circulates through a refrigerant-to-air heat exchanger where heat is removed as the cooler return air passes over it. Now heated, this warm air is delivered into the building by way of the blower and the duct system. Upon releasing its heat energy into the air, the refrigerant returns to the water-to-refrigerant heat exchanger where the process is repeated continuously during the heating process.
The cooling process involves the extraction of heat energy from the air in the building and moving it into the earth.
Transferring heat from the air in the building to the earth involves a cycle of expansion, condensation, compression, condensation and evaporation. A refrigerant is used as the heat transfer medium.
The cooling cycle starts as the compressor delivers refrigerant to the water-to-refrigerant heat exchanger. Heat from the refrigerant is absorbed by (rejected into) the low temperature source (earth loop fluid or well water) resulting in the refrigerant turning cold. The cold refrigerant then passes through a refrigerant-to-air heat exchanger.
If you were given the choice of burning money or saving money,which would you choose? The question may sound crazy, but that’s what each homeowner faces when deciding whether or not to invest in Geothermal.
Because a Geothermal system tends to have a higher installation cost than most conventional systems, many homeowners view it as an expensive system. But this is only half of the picture. As a homeowner, consider more than the initial investment when purchasing a new system: consider the monthly energy costs and the annual maintenance costs. You may find that a fossil fuel furnace will cause you to burn money rather than save it, and a conventional air conditioner will cause you to waste energy rather than conserve it. When selecting a system, always consider the payback, efficiency, cash flow, operating costs and system life-span.
System payback is how long it takes to recover in energy savings the difference in the costs between geothermal and conventional systems. On average, the initial cost of installing a geothermal system can be recovered within three to five years. A WaterFurnace dealer or electric utility representative can help you figure your payback on a geothermal investment. Because geothermal systems deliver three or four units of energy to the home for every unit of electrical energy used to power the system, they rank first in energy efficiency and long-term operational savings.
Geothermal systems can be used in new and retrofit applications, but as a new home buyer, you are an especially good candidate for a geothermal system. The initial cost of the geothermal system can usually be tied into your monthly mortgage payment, because you are already making a long-term investment in new construction. The monthly savings from the system easily covers the additional amount added to your mortgage payment, so you are creating a positive cash flow right away!
Another consideration is total heating, cooling and domestic hot water operating costs. The geothermal system is the total comfort system with the lowest overall cost. With most conventional systems, overall operating costs are based on the efficiency of more than one system - a fossil fuel furnace, central air conditioner and a water heater. With a geothermal system, all operations are handled by one system, assuring that efficiency and savings are achieved in all areas. In addition, system maintenance and life span should not be overlooked. For instance, conventional systems frequently require regular maintenance for each unit - the furnace, the air conditioner and the water heater. However, a WaterFurnace Geothermal system requires little or no maintenance beyond periodic checks and filter changes.
When faced with the purchase of a new heating, cooling and water heating system, you have two choices: either burn money with a conventional system or save it with a geothermal system. You may find the cost of a geothermal system is just a phone call away!