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Working with Geothermal Heating and Cooling for Residences

written by: Asheesh • edited by: KennethSleight • updated: 6/19/2011

This guide will give you the ins and outs of how to install geothermal heating and cooling systems in your home. Geothermal heatpumps are a fantastic way to cut heating and cooling costs using the ambient temperature of the Earths crust at 600 ft. down.

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    A geothermal heat pump or geothermal heating system is a device that extracts heat from the ground or ground water during winter time and then transfers heat to them in the summer so as to maintain the temperature inside a house. It has become popular for home heating and cooling systems due to its low maintenance cost and long service life.

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    How Geothermal Heating Systems Work

    The geothermal heating system is a different type of HVAC system that doesn’t require fuel to generate heat. It uses a seriesGeothermal Heating System  of pipes called loops that extract natural heat from earth. These pipes are installed below the earth’s surface and are connected to the rooms of the house. Water or any other refrigerant circulates inside these tubes and transfers heat from one point to another. This system also contains a compressor and heat exchanger that are responsible for absorbing heat from earth and transferring it inside the house. Ductwork is used to distribute the heat to the rooms of the house.

    The process of the whole system is reversed in the summer. This means it extracts heat from the house and delivers it to the earth similar to a refrigerator. The material used to make loops is polyethylene due to its durability, and ability to pass heat with high frequency. The joints of different sections of the pipes must be stronger than the pipe itself. Therefore, they are fused by providing heat to increase their strength.

    The fluid, which is circulated inside the loop, has very important role. It should have high heat transfer capacity. Therefore, high quality refrigerants like freon gas can be used into the loops. Water may also be used; however, its heat absorption and rejection capacity is lower than other refrigerants.

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    The Installation Cost of the Geothermal Heating System

    The installation cost of this system is very high, and this is the biggest drawback. Its cost may vary from place to place; the only way to make sure is to ask to several contactors. Just for an idea, if a conventional air-conditioning package with ductwork would cost $5000 in your area then the cost of geothermal heating and cooling system would be $8000.

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    How Much You Can Save

    This is the most important question, if the initial cost is very high then what is the advantage of installing this system? You have to pay thousands of dollars to install this; though, you can save sufficient electricity bill of your house. This system can save up to $60 per month. Its maintenance cost is very low, and the service life is more than 22 years. Due to this, it would save more than double of its total installation cost in future.

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    Types of Geothermal Heating and Cooling System

    Open-Loop System

    In this type of geothermal system loops are connected to the well water. The well water is used as a heat source in this system. Loops extract heat from the water and it reduces the water temperature up to 5 degrees F.

    Closed-Loop System

    These use ground as the heat source. They are directly fixed inside the ground, and extract and liberate heat in the ground. The whole system contains about 2,000 running feet of pipe that are buried beneath the frost line of the earth. The service life of this type of geothermal system is more than 50 years.

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    Steps to Install Geothermal Heating and Cooling System

    Decide on the Appropriate Type of Geothermal System

    The most important thing in this process is determining what type of geothermal system should be installed for your house. The selection of the type depends upon certain factors, which are given below.

    • The location of the house
    • The properties of the ground
    • The availability of water source like well and lake.

    If well or lake is present near to your house then you can install open-loop system. Otherwise, you should install closed-loop system. However, you should consult with an expert regarding this topic.

    Dig Holes for Piping

    Now, it’s time to dig holes and trenches to bury the pipes. However, if you are installing open-loop system then you don’t need to dig holes, but trenches are required to connect the loops to your house.

    After digging the holes and trenches install the pipes provided in the package of geothermal system.

    Install the Geothermal Heatpump

    There are two pumps to install for your geothermal system. These are the geothermal heatpump and the recirculation pump. Purchase these pumps according to the housing and electrical codes of your area, and install them properly.

    Connect Loops to the Pumps

    Your geothermal kit may have all specific connectors required for the connections; else the manufacturer will provide the information about required things for connections. Get all the required things from the market, and make all connections.

    Fill the Refrigerant into the Loops

    If you are installing closed-loop geothermal system then a refrigerant needs to be filled into the loops. Open the air eliminator valve present on the recirculation pump; fill the refrigerant, and start the pump.

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    This is how to install geothermal heating and cooling systems. However, testing of the geothermal system is very necessary. To test it, switch the thermostat to the cool setting, and set its temperature ten degree Celsius below the room temperature. If you find the geothermal system working properly then the installation is correct. Now, you can set the temperature of the thermostat according to your comfort.

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