What is Geothermal Energy
Geothermal energy is a sustainable source of renewable energy that can be extracted from the heat derived from the earth. The natural heat of the earth creates geothermal energy that can be used by geothermal power plants to create electricity. The geothermal heat comes from molten rock called magma located at the earth core, deep below the geothermal resource.
As the rain water seeps through the cracks in the earth surface over hundreds and thousands of years, it accumulates and collects into underground water reservoirs forming underground springs and bodies of water. The magma heats this underground water until it becomes a super-heated fluid. These super-heated fluid reservoirs and springs exist all over the world. To reach the super-heated fluid wells are drilled 5000 – 10000 feet below the surface of the earth. These wells called production wells bring the superheated fluid to the earth surface where it can be used to generate electricity for homes and businesses.
The superheated fluid flows up the production wells under its own pressure, this is an essentially important aspect, because it requires no energy to bring the superheated fluid up to the surface. The steam is then obtained from the superheated fluid, and delivered to the steam turbines that spin under the pressure and force of the steam. The steam turbines rotate the shaft of the electrical generator which produces electricity that is then delivered to the homes and businesses.
Ground Source heating and Cooling
Many people often call it geothermal heating and cooling, but this is not correct because there is no geothermal energy that is being derived from the depth of the earth. What it is a just a ground source heat that is stored underground. This heat is not generated by the earth, but rather it is the heat that is absorbed by the surface of the earth from the sun.
Still it is often referred to as Geothermal heating and cooling, but in reality it is just a ground source heating and cooling. This residential application is also commonly referred to as a ground source heat pump. Ground source heat technology uses ground temperature to increase the efficiency of the home heating and cooling systems and to lower the cost of operation. A geothermal heat pump transfers heat from the heat collector in the ground through the insulated pipes to the thermal storage collector in our home. This heat is then distributed to our home heating systems, baseboards, and floor heating.
The operation of the ground source heat pump requires electricity, but it only requires 1 unit of the electricity for every 4 units of heat generated. Thus, the ground source heat is very cost effective, and efficient in terms of energy expanded and the heat obtained. The principle of cost effectiveness comes from the fact that ground temperatures are always more stable than air temperatures, so the exchange of heat with the ground is more efficient.
How does Ground source Heat Pump work?
Once again, it must be stated that the ground source heat pump is not the same as the geothermal energy. It does not use the super heated underground fluid that is used to power geothermal power plants. The ground source heat works in a very simple way. In a typical system, the ground source horizontal heat collector, which is a network of pipes forming a continuous loop are laid out one meter below the earth surface. The warmth obtained from the heat collectors gets transferred by means of ground source heat pump that uses insulated pipes to deliver warm fluid inside the thermal storage collection inside the house. This heat is then available to heat the home.
There are also vertically oriented trench collectors, and bore drill up to 200 meters heat collection methods for homes with limited ground area. a Typical home will require about two and half times floor space ground area for the horizontal collectors. Less ground area is needed for trench or, bore heat collection method.
Benefits of using ground source heat pump
Air pollution is also reduced when using a ground source heat pump. According to the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), geothermal heating and cooling systems are clean as well as energy and cost efficient. Ground source heat pumps themselves produce no emissions, but unless the electricity is from renewable resources, the electricity source normally does.
Greenhouse gas emissions are less than most other options of heating and cooling; natural gas is the only one that might be in the same league if the local electric supply is environmentally friendly. One of the downsides to the eco-responsible geothermal heat pump used to be the use of ozone depleting refrigerant. Ozone-friendly refrigerant is replacing the old type of refrigerant.
Ground source heat pumps work by taking ground heat out of the ground in the winter and putting heat into the ground during the summer. Geothermal heating and cooling systems can be designed to work as a singular heating or cooling system depending upon the climate of the area.
The difference in efficiency when compared to an air-source heat pumps is dramatic. A ground source can reach an efficiency of up to 600% in contrast to the air-source, which can only reach up to 250% efficiency.
The initial cost of a ground source heat pump is more than other types of heating and cooling systems, but the return on investment is usually seen within the first 10 years of service. Most ground source heat pumps will last 25 years or more. Geothermal heating and cooling options such as the ground source heat pump work will with radiator heating and under-floor systems and are, therefore, good for open interior spaces found in offices and such.
Installing a ground source heat pump system will call for a licensed professional. Technical knowledge of the system is essential as well as the skill at designing a properly sized system that will provide for adequate heating and cooling benefits. Ask for references while shopping for a reputable company. Dealers and installers should be more than willing to discuss their qualifications with you to make sure you are comfortable.
A common concern is whether or not the underground loop of a ground source heat pump will damage the lawn or landscaping. While there might be a few bare areas from the digging of small trenches might occur, there is no lasting damage from the installation or operation of geothermal heating and cooling systems.
Be sure to get an inclusive estimate of installation cost as you will not only be paying for the system, but also the electrical work, water hook-up and duct work necessary to install all of the components. While every job is different, it is typical for the installation of this type of system to take about two days. There are tax credits associated with geothermal heat pumps and some utility companies will even offer a rebate to customers who purchase a ground source heat pump.