Geothermal Heating & Cooling Phenix City, AL
Heat pumps deliver both air conditioning and heating. They work well in climates with moderate winters like those in eastern Alabama and western Georgia. Geothermal heat pumps use a slightly different technology than air heat pumps. Coils are laid vertically or horizontally into the ground or a water body to capture heat.
How Geothermal Heat Pumps Work
The concept of using the heat of the earth to provide heating and cooling is not new. Geothermal heat pumps, also called water-source or ground-source heat pumps, have been used in the U.S. since the 1940s. The soil of the earth just a few feet below ground level maintains a fairly constant temperature all year long in moderate climates. Underground temperatures six feet below the surface range from 45 degrees to 75 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the latitude of where you live. During the winter, the subsurface soil is warmer than the ambient air temperature. During the summer, the temperature underground is cooler than the air. Geothermal heat pumps use a heat exchanger to move ground-temperature liquids circulating through piping to the indoors.
Just like conventional air conditioners, heat pumps operate using a compressor and evaporator coil to transport liquids or refrigerants from one section of the unit to the next. When the refrigerant is compressed, it becomes a hot liquid. When it expands, it becomes a cool gas.
In geothermal systems, looped coils carrying fluids are buried in the ground or immersed in a nearby body of water. Piping is either copper tubing or high-density polyethylene plastic. Fluid can be water or an environmentally safe antifreeze. The fluid is routed through tubing into the building and passed through the evaporator coil. Fans distribute conditioned air through ductwork throughout the building.
There are several types of ground loop systems. Three types of closed loops systems—vertical, horizontal or water body—use a closed coil system to circulate refrigerant. An open loop system uses an exterior clean water source as the liquid that circulates through the piping. After the water has been transported through the system, it is discharged into the ground or a re-charge basin. An experienced contractor will evaluate the soil, climate, and geologic conditions of your site and recommend an appropriate system.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Geothermal Heating Systems
Although electricity is required to run the fans and compressor, no fuel is required to produce geothermal heating or geothermal cooling, so geothermal heat pumps cost less to operate. According to the Department of Energy, geothermal systems use between 25 and 50 percent less electricity than conventional systems, reduce total energy use by up to 75 percent and do not emit greenhouse gasses.
Geothermal units are quiet and easy to operate. The indoor components last up to 25 years and require very little maintenance. Exterior components last up to 50 years, sometimes longer.
Geothermal heating and cooling units do have higher installation costs. There must be ample exterior ground available to install the coils, and the substrate must be conducive to drilling. Although the installation costs are higher, reduced energy usage results in a return on fuel bill savings in as little as five years. Some units provide hot water while others work with radiant floor heat systems.
If your conventional furnace or central air conditioner needs to be replaced, installing a geothermal unit is a green option, especially if your property already has ducts. At Riley Heating and Air, we recommend geothermal heat pumps to deliver geothermal heating and geothermal cooling for your building. These units meet stringent Energy Star requirements, which means they are 45 percent more energy efficient than standard units. They may also qualify for federal tax credits.
Call our office to discuss your geothermal possibilities.