Understanding the Geothermal Process

Geothermal heating and cooling is an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional forced air HVAC systems. Geothermal technology maximizes the heat exchange process, so it’s extremely efficient. Installing a geothermal heat pump in your Midland, NC home can help substantially lower your seasonal utility bills, but it’s important to choose a contractor who has the experience and skill required to understand the geothermal process.

Understanding Geothermal Systems

Traditional air-to-air heat pumps rapidly lose efficiency in extreme seasonal temperatures. By contrast, a geothermal system relies on the Earth itself as the heat transfer medium. Since the ground temperature is stable throughout the year, the energy exchange process is optimized.

SEER and HSPF ratings average the efficiency of a heat pump over a range of temperatures, but the actual performance of the unit may be far worse when operating during the extremes of our typical seasonal weather conditions. To understand the actual performance of an air-to-air heat pump, ask your contractor to see the manufacturer’s extended rating data, which will show how unit efficiency suffers in severe conditions.

In contrast, a geothermal heating and cooling system will remain consistent in all weather conditions because the ambient temperature surrounding the condensing coil remains essentially unchanged. The extended ratings for a ground source heat pump are exceptional in virtually all weather conditions.

A geothermal system comprises three essential components that accommodate the heat exchange process:

  • The Conduit: The conduit serves as the heat exchanger and consists of a piping system known as the loop. The conduit creates the pathway between the earth and the condensing coil.
  • Condensing Unit: The condenser includes the compressor, condensing coil and other components needed to transfer heat from one area through the process of the refrigeration cycle. Heat pumps include a reversing valve so heat can be exhausted outdoors in the summer and extracted and pumped indoors in the winter.
  • The Air Distribution Network: The air handler draws stale air from inside the building, and returns conditioned air through the supply side of the air distribution network.

Geothermal heat pumps are somewhat similar to conventional air-to-air models, but the process is distinguished by the conduit loop heat exchanger. Like a typical HVAC system, ground source heat pumps can be configured for forced air heating, air conditioning and radiant heating.

The unique heat exchanger is attached to the ground by a specially designed polyethylene piping grid. Geothermal heating and cooling systems can be installed in either closed loop or open loop configurations. An open loop system must be connected to a well or another water source since it needs water to exchange heat. A closed-loop system relies on an antifreeze solution circulated through the piping network. Closed-loop systems have become very popular since they’re flexible, convenient and reliable.

Geothermal Benefits

Geothermal technology provides a variety of important benefits:

  • Exceptional Energy Efficiency: In North Carolina, outdoor ambient temperatures can vary by as much as 60 degrees throughout the year, but the ground temperature hardly changes at all. Since the temperature of the Earth is so stable, a geothermal heat pump can save up to 40 percent in power costs when compared to a traditional 14-SEER heat pump, and it’s up to five times more efficient than a 96 AFUE rated furnace.
  • Environmentally Friendly: According to the EPA, geothermal is the most efficient technology currently available in the HVAC industry. This efficiency translates into lower emissions, reduced power consumption, and a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Longer Service Life: A geothermal unit accumulates fewer runtime hours while providing the same level of comfort when compared to a conventional HVAC system. Over time, this can reduce equipment repair costs and lead to a longer service life.

Complete Geothermal Service

Dulin Mechanical Services, Inc. offers complete geothermal services for residents in Charlotte and the surrounding area. If you would like to learn more about the geothermal heat pump process and benefits, call one of our friendly representatives today.

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