How it Works – Geothermal Heating

How it Works – Geothermal Heating

- in Green Energy

Many people around the world are switching to alternative forms of energy, either to save money on their utilities bills or to reduce their carbon footprint in the environment. But how do these systems work? Installing a heat pump by NIBE can reduce your heating costs by up to 80%, so we’re taking a look at how these impressively innovative systems work.

The basis of geothermal energy is heat transfer. Cooling or heating liquids or gases is literally the transfer of energy, and geothermal power simply harnesses the energy transfer to provide power for residences and businesses. Ground soil and ground water tends to be at a very consistent temperature year-round, so by using this constant temperature you can heat water or air to the same temperature for a long time. Geothermal pump systems use tubing to circulate water mixed with an anti-freezing component (methanol, denatured alcohol, or propylene glycol, the latter of which is the most popular in Europe, as it has the smallest environmental impact in case leakage occurs) through the ground water or soil so it can transfer heat from the earth into the mixture. Then, the mixture gets pulled back up into the unit and is condensed in order to collect the energy of the heat within the earth. That energy is distributed throughout the system and the mixture gets re-circulated to produce more energy.


There are several different methods for circulating the mixture through the ground. Direct exchange uses a single loop of tubing to circulate the refrigerant through the tubing, and the tubing is in direct contact with the ground, as opposed to other methods where the refrigerant tubing is encased in another, slightly larger tube willed with water. The benefit of this system is that it is more efficient than other forms of geothermal power, as well as having a lower installation cost due to the reduced square footage needed to get the refrigerant to the target temperature. Closed loop systems use two sets of tubing, one with a refrigerant and one that circulates a largely water-based substance. The drawback to this system is the amount of real estate the you need in order to reach peak efficiency. By comparison, a direct exchange system used about 15% of the square footage as a closed loop system, although the versatility of the system has its benefits. These systems can be installed vertically, with pipes running up to 400 feet beneath the surface; horizontally, with a mat of tubes being laid out below the area’s frost line, radially, for smaller properties that need all of the space they can get, and also in ponds, where the tubing is submerged at the bottom of a nearby body of water.

If you decide to get a geothermal heating system, make sure that you get it installed by a professional installer. These systems have the potential of leaking chemicals into local groundwater if installed incorrectly, so using a professional installation team will ensure that you keep not only your house warm this winter, but also keeping your community safe and thriving.

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