Energy 101: Geothermal Heat Pumps

DOE logoAn energy-efficient heating and cooling alternative, the geothermal heat pump system moves heat from the ground to a building (or from a building to the ground) through a series of flexible pipe “loops” containing water. This edition of Energy 101 explores the benefits Geothermal and the science behind how it all comes together.

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Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs), sometimes referred to as GeoExchange, earth-coupled, ground-source, or water-source heat pumps, have been in use since the late 1940s. They use the constant temperature of the earth as the exchange medium instead of the outside air temperature. This allows the system to reach fairly high efficiencies (300% to 600%) on the coldest winter nights, compared to 175% to 250% for air-source heat pumps on cool days.

Although many parts of the country experience seasonal temperature extremes — from scorching heat in the summer to sub-zero cold in the winter—a few feet below the earth’s surface the ground remains at a relatively constant temperature. Depending on latitude, ground temperatures range from 45°F (7°C) to 75°F (21°C). Like a cave, this ground temperature is warmer than the air above it during the winter and cooler than the air in the summer. The GHP takes advantage of this by exchanging heat with the earth through a ground heat exchanger.

Read more on Geothermal Heat Pump Basics

Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Geothermal Heat Pump Basics