Solar panels are a great way to power your home, and still one of the leading green upgrades in residential home improvements. But what about heating and cooling your home specifically? Geothermal heating and air isn’t necessarily new by any means – it’s been around for well over 60 years – but maybe not as widely understood or utilized. Not to be confused with Geothermal Energy, Geothermal HVAC is a great green addition to your home. Let’s take a look at what Geothermal HVAC is and how it helps you, your home, and the planet.

The Framework

Geothermal Energy is essentially drawing energy from the heat of the earth to use in electricity. Geothermal HVAC is specific to individual sites and the heating/cooling systems in those homes or buildings. They still utilize the heat from the ground, but in a very different way.

A series of pipes are laid 4 to 6 feet underground (where the temperature remains between a steady 68 and 72 degrees year round), creating a loop around the house. Loops can be laid horizontally or vertically with the option of installing a well to create an open loop system. Water is pulled from the well, passes through a heat exchanger, and runs through the system to either heat or cool the home, and then gets returned back to the well through reinjection.

Electricity is used to run the pump, but everything else just goes on its own using the earth’s temperature to handle the HVAC system in your house. But no fossil fuels or other chemicals are used in this process.

With traditional air conditioning units, a large fan is stuck sucking in 100+ degree air, converting it down to 72 degrees, and pushing it into your house to keep the climate comfortable inside. Same thing happens in the winter with the conversion being from cold (below freezing, often in many areas) to that perfect 72 degrees. All that conversion requires massive amounts of energy. Geothermal HVAC merely runs water in a circuit, pulling heat from a naturally recurring source that’s only a few degrees difference from the temperature you want.

The Savings

A proper Geothermal HVAC system can set you back several thousands of dollars (reaching to the $15,000 range easily). However, heating and cooling bills are instantly reduced by half. Over time, the investment pays for itself in savings. The maintenance on these systems is relatively low as they are durable. One homeowner reported in their much older home built in the 1930s only ever needing to repair two parts in 13 years, spending around $3,000 total on all repairs; roughly one year of savings in total.  

These units are also unbelievably quiet, running without you ever knowing, or rather hearing it. That same house built in the 1930s (two stories, with a basement) runs a 6 zone unit with 4 wells that holds and uses 10 gallons of water. 10. Gallons. That’s the same amount non-energy efficient dishwashers use to run one normal cycle of dishes. And that water – aside from what you may need in repairs – is never replaced.

If you’re looking for another way to reduce your energy bills and carbon footprint, Geothermal HVAC systems are the next best place to go after you’ve converted to solar energy to power your home. The savings are undeniable and the effect couldn’t be kinder to the earth.