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What Is a Geothermal Heat Pump?
A geothermal heat pump actually functions much the same way a traditional air source heat pump does. In the winter, it heats your home by extracting heat from the ground and then transferring that heat to your indoor air. In the summer months, the cycle is reversed and the heat from your home is removed and transferred back into the ground. This makes a geothermal heat pump a great option for year-round home comfort and temperature control.
There are two basic components of a geothermal heat pump. The indoor unit houses the compressor and air handler, and the underground unit is made up of a loop of pipe that contains a liquid, usually a combination of anti-freeze and water that cycles through on a closed circuit. As the liquid moves through the underground portion of pipes, it absorbs heat from the surrounding soil.
It then makes its way back up to the indoor unit where the heat is extracted and moved through the house by the air handler. In the summer, of course, the opposite occurs and the heat from your home’s air is transferred to the liquid and then released into the ground below.
What’s the Difference between Vertical and Horizontal Loops?
Horizontal geothermal heat pump installations are by far the more popular choice. This is true mainly because they cost less and are easier to install than their vertical counterparts. In a horizontal installation, pipes are buried in a trench that measures between 100 and 400 yards long and about 4 feet deep. This is deep enough that the pipes shouldn’t come in contact with frozen soil even if the ground above freezes.
In a vertical installation the pipes for your geothermal heat pump are installed straight up and down in a hole drilled into the ground next to your home. Because of the expense involved in drilling a hole like this, vertical heat pumps are typically more expensive to install. But a vertical installation is better in certain circumstances.
For instance, if the ground around your home freezes for long stretches of time each year, a vertical installation may be called for. You might also have to go vertical if you don’t have enough space around your home to accommodate the horizontal pipe loop.
How Do I Know if a Geothermal System Is Right for Me?
There are a lot of factors to take into consideration when trying to decide what the best option is for your home. Geothermal heat pumps are a great option, but they aren’t right for everyone. While you can certainly sort through much of the data on geothermal heat pumps on your own, it helps to get an opinion from a professional with experience installing and maintaining these types of systems. They can help you go over the particulars of your situation and come to a conclusion that’s in your best interests.
How Much Will a Geothermal Heat Pump Save Me?
The amount that you save on your monthly heating and cooling bills with a geothermal heat pump has a lot to do with how much you were spending to begin with. A typical geothermal heat pump is between 50% and 70% more efficient than most conventional home heating and cooling systems, but to calculate your actual savings in dollars, you need to know how the heat pump compares to the system you currently have.
You should also take into account how much you use your home heating and cooling system. In general, the more you use this system, the more you’ll save by switching to the more energy efficient geothermal heat pump. A geothermal professional can help you put all of these variables together to come up with an accurate estimate of your projected savings.