The amount of solar energy reaching the surface of the planet is so vast that in one year it is about twice as much as will ever be obtained from all of the Earth's non-renewable resources of coal, oil, natural gas, and mined uranium combined…this is more energy in one hour than the world uses in one year.
46% of the sun’s energy is absorbed by the ground. Just outside your backdoor, a few feet under the ground surrounding your home, there’s an amazing energy source just waiting to be tapped. The name of this amazing source of energy is “geothermal ” (“geo=earth; “thermal” = heat”).
For centuries, people have tried numerous ways to obtain relief from the excess heat of summer and the unwanted cold of winter. To learn that the technology to do this is now available is exciting. And as an added bonus, that this energy is free, clean, and endlessly renewable…it eliminates the need to burn any fossil fuels, only enhances the desirability.
Now rising energy costs coupled with increasing concerns about air pollution and global warming, there is a renewed and unprecedented interest in the use of geothermal energy systems as people discover that geothermal is the most natural heating and cooling choice to heat and cool their homes.
The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have both endorsed ground source heat pump systems as amongst the most energy efficient and environmentally friendly heating, cooling, and water heating systems available. As far back as 1993, a report from the EPA concluded that geothermal technologies represented a major opportunity for reducing national energy use and pollution, while delivering comfort, reliability and savings to homeowners.
And the concept is so simple. Simply put, a geothermal system uses the solar energy that is stored year-round just beneath the earth's surface… energy that is free, unlimited, 100 percent renewable while leaving no carbon footprint…emitting absolutely no carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide or other harmful greenhouse gases.
It does this by using a high-strength pipe made of thermal plastic buried in the ground in a loop configuration. This closed loop is filled with an environmentally safe water/antifreeze solution that transfers heat to or from the earth as needed. The closed loop circulation system is virtually maintenance free, with a life expectancy of over 50 years. There are several ways to connect your home to the earth’s energy power station.
1. Horizontal Loops – Horizontal loops are sometimes used where adequate land is available for underground loops that range from 100 feet to 500 feet in length.
Here are 4 typical geothermal earth loop designs:
2. Vertical Loops – Vertical loops are ideal when land surface is limited. Vertical holes (about 6 inches in diameter) are drilled to depths ranging from 100 feet to 300 feet. Vertical loops are almost always used in a neighborhood setting.
3. Geothermal loop pond applications – Pond loops, referred to by some as pond source heat pumps, are a very economical alternative when a body of water is nearby. The pipes are placed along the bottom of the lake.
4. Open "loop" applications - Open loop applications do not use a closed loop of pipe containing a water/antifreeze solution. An open loop system utilizes a near-by water source such as an existing well to circulate water and then discharges the water once it has been used. Because of filtering problems, we do not recommend using an open loop system. However, if you have a near-by well or pond, this type of application could be an alternative if there are no local restrictions.
When you invest in a Geothermal system, you can be assured that you're receiving the highest-quality, best-performing heating and cooling system available. Here are some additional benefits of Geothermal ownership:
- Four Times the Efficiency: A Geothermal system uses the Earth's thermal properties in conjunction with electricity to provide unprecedented efficiency. For every unit of electricity the system uses, it provides four units of heating energy, giving a geothermal system a 400 percent efficiency rating, on average. These numbers can translate into real savings on your utility bills year-round.
- Lower Operating Costs: A Geothermal system operates more efficiently than ordinary heating and air conditioning systems - 30 to 60 percent more efficiently, in most cases.
- Comfort: Because a Geothermal system uses the relatively stable temperature of the earth as an energy source, you're assured of constant, even winter heating and better humidity control in summer.
- Safety: With a Geothermal system, there are no flames, no flues and no odors. There's no danger of combustion, fire or carbon monoxide, either. What you get is safe, reliable operation year after year.
- Clean Operation: A Geothermal system minimizes environmental threats linked to fossil-fuel burning, including acid rain, air pollution and the greenhouse effect.
- Quiet Operation: A Geothermal system is designed and manufactured to be exceptionally quiet. It'll run at least as quietly as your refrigerator or freezer.
- Flexibility: A Geothermal system provides heating, central air conditioning and hot water, all from the same compact unit.
- Economical Water Heating: Water heating can be a significant energy expense. A Geothermal system can reduce the high cost of water heating by as much as 66 percent.
Like all HVAC systems, geothermal units have some limitations also:
- First, because of the drilling costs, geothermal unit’s initial costs tend to be $4000-$6000 higher than conventional systems. However, a U.S tax credit is currently (2009) available to help offset this additional cost when geothermal equipment is installed as required. Coupled with the substantial savings that this high efficiency equipment produces, the additional installation costs are recovered comparatively quickly.
- Secondly, land area (to enable drilling) must be available. While these things rarely present a problem in new construction, sometimes existing houses can be more difficult.
Even when the higher initial installation costs are taken into consideration, the substantial reduction in energy costs plus the low operating and maintenance costs of geothermal systems make it a very worthwhile investment. In new construction i.e., the monthly energy savings typically exceed the increased mortgage payments. Therefore, cash flow can be positive from the start.
If you want to know more about reducing your electric bills and at the same time, contribute to a cleaner, greener environment, call (757.468.5800) or email (email@example.com) to contact one of our very knowledgeable design representatives. There is no obligation, of course.