How does Geothermal work?

Geothermal systems do the work that ordinarily requires two appliances, a furnace and an air conditioner. They can be located indoors because there’s no need to exchange heat with the outdoor air. They’re so quiet homeowners don’t even realize they’re on. They are also compact. Typically, they are installed in a basement or attic, and some are small enough to fit atop a closet shelf. The indoor location also means the equipment is protected from mechanical breakdowns that could result from exposure to harsh weather.  Furnaces must create heat by burning a fuel–typically natural gas, propane, or fuel oil. With geoexchange systems, there’s no need to create heat, hence no need for chemical combustion. Instead, the Earth’s natural heat is collected in winter through a series of pipes, called a loop, installed below the surface of the ground or submersed in a pond or lake. Fluid circulating in the loop carries this heat to the home. An indoor geoexchange system then uses electrically-driven compressors and heat exchangers in a vapor compression cycle–the same principle employed in a refrigerator–to concentrate the Earth’s energy and release it inside the home at a higher temperature. In typical systems, duct fans distribute the heat to various rooms. In summer, the process is reversed in order to cool the home. Excess heat is drawn from the home, expelled to the loop, and absorbed by the Earth. Geoexchange systems provide cooling in the same way that a refrigerator keeps its contents cool–by drawing heat from the interior, not by injecting cold air.

Do I need a lot of space for the loops?

No. The loops themselves are concealed underground and are unobtrusive. To put the loops in , some access is needed to the loop field area. An entire loop system for a house can be contained within a 75 foot by 75 foot area. Once installed, the loops in a geothermal system remain out of sight beneath the Earth’s surface while it works unobtrusively to mine the energy under the structure. The loop is made of a material that is extraordinarily durable but which allows heat to pass through efficiently. This is important so it doesn’t impede the exchange of heat between the Earth and the fluid in the loop. Loop manufacturers typically use high-density polyethylene, a tough plastic. When installers connect sections of pipe, they heat fuse the joints. This makes the connections stronger than the pipe itself. Some loop manufacturers offer up to 50-year warranties. The fluid in the loop is water or an environmentally safe antifreeze solution that circulates through the pipes in a closed system.

Can it work with our temperature range here in northern Illinois?

Yes, geothermal technology can be used in any part of the country. Why? Because it transfers heat to and from the earth, which remains at a relatively constant temperature, rather than the air, where temperatures can vary greatly. In a climate like the one in northern Illinois, there are more heating degree days than cooling. Therefore systems are sized for the heating load. Call Air-ease to find out more about case studies of geothermal installs in this area.

Can I use geothermal with radiant heat?

Yes! Both radiant only systems and hybrid systems with forced air and radiant; both work terrifically with geothermal!

Can I really heat my pool and cool my house at the same time?

Yes!. Geothermal can be in heating and cooling mode simultaneously. It will literally take the heat from your house and put it into the water in your swimming pool! This dual action mode increases the performance of the geothermal system and it does all of this without using any natural gas

How much does it cost?

A geothermal system can be divided into two parts. The internals which include the geothermal unit itself, all ductwork, radiant heating runs, and thermostats. And the externals, the loop system, a manifold which connects the individual loops together, and runs through the wall or floor into the structure. The internals cost about the same as traditional HVAC components. The externals become an additional expense, and can be figured in somewhere between $1k and $1.5k per ton, installed. Houses start at around 3 tons. A 5000 sq. ft. ICF house can require a 5-ton system. For large projects, loop leasing programs can remove the up front expense of the loops, and instead spread that cost over time. 

Who can best use geothermal? 

Homeowners, businesses, churches and schools in virtually every region of the US are enjoying a high level of comfort and significantly reducing their energy use with geoexchange (geothermal) heating and cooling.  This tired and true technology relies on the Earth’s natural thermal energy, a renewable resource, to heat or cool a house or multi-family dwelling.  This energy is in a constant state of replenishment, primarily by absorbing the sun’s energy.  Since every land owner owns the energy stored in the ground beneath their home or business, why not tap into this source for heating and cooling our homes?  Why buy energy from other sources when we already own the energy under our feet?!

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