Geothermal heat pumps have been around since the late 1940’s yet many of us still don’t know what these devices are. Below you will find details on what a geothermal heat pump actually is and how they can be used.
Also known as GeoExchange, earth-coupled or ground-source heat pumps, geothermal heat pumps are fairly simple systems that have the capability to both heat and cool our homes or provide a source of hot water. They are able to do this by harnessing the geothermal energy trapped beneath our feet in a rather clever way.
Only a few feet below the earth’s surface, the temperature of the earth remains fairly constant all year round regardless of the outside air temperature. Depending on your location, this temperature can be anywhere between 8°C and 20°C. This stored geothermal energy is often warmer than the average outside air temperature in winter and cooler than the average outside air temperature in summer. Geothermal heat pumps tap into this source of heat in order to provide heat, hot water or cooling for our homes.
What Do Geothermal Heat Pumps Look Like?
Geothermal heat pumps often have the appearance of a modern boiler. A rectangular plastic casing is often used to house the equipment that pumps water through a network of pipes buried beneath the earth’s surface.
The pipe or “loop” network linked to a geothermal heat pump can be found in a variety of different designs. Often, a loop based system is utilised where pipes will be laid either horizontally or vertically with each end routed back to the heat pump. This design is referred to as a “closed loop system” and is the most common choice for homeowners across the globe.
How Do Geothermal Heat Pumps Work?
Geothermal heat pumps can work in a variety of ways in order to provide heating, cooling or even to help heat the hot water supply of a building.
As mentioned above, most geothermal heating systems utilise a closed loop design. In this design, water is pumped through one end of the network of pipes. As the water flows through the expansive network of pipes, it is able to absorb some of the heat contained within the earth. Once the water emerges at the output of the loop system, it features a higher temperature than when it entered the system.
The warm water that is received from the closed loop system can then be used in a variety of ways. It can be fed through an under floor heating system in order to provide warmth (or cooling) to a building and can even be fed through a boiler in order to provide part of a home’s hot water supply.
Although it may seem pointless in having a geothermal heating system only to then have to boil this water, it actually isn’t. Boiling water from cold consumes much more energy than boiling water from a warm temperature and a geothermal heat pump can help you reduce your energy bills associated with providing a source of hot water for your home.