Everyone is looking for ways to green their house and save money. This is the case with geothermal heating. Here in Canada, it is not uncommon to walk into a friend’s house and see the temperature resting around mid to high teens. This is a comfortable temperature for most people, although seniors homes are often higher in temperature. And large homes require more heat, and at that most housing designs require more heat due to the house being constantly divided into separate rooms.

GeothermalPowerStation 300x200 Energy friendly dirt (and geothermal heating)Kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, recreational rooms, and bathrooms all being in closed quarters require more heat to maintain a comfortable temperature, or in the case of summer –  more cooling. You can see how much effort it takes to keep a house at an average temperature.

Geothermal 101

Geothermal heating/cooling can make incredible improvements in one’s energy consumption. When we explore the average furnace system or air conditioning system, we obviously have to look at two major components. Furnace and air-conditioning systems require more maintenance as they are two separate systems, and have a multitude of components within them.

There is also aesthetics to be taken into consideration. A large unit sitting to the side of one’s home is a rather large eye sore, that hums along on those extra warm days. The furnace, which is often closed away in its own room, can easily be swapped with a geothermal system that would allow a more environmentally friendly heating/ cooling system to operate.

How does it work?

Geothermal works in a fascinating way, which is similar to how rammed earth buildings work. The geothermal system is installed in a basement or other convenient location within the home. From there we have a few parts to navigate.

There is the earth that your house is built on, which is where it all beings, approximately six feet below the ground the temperature averages 10 degrees Celsius.

From there we have the pipes laid in. This can be done in two ways either vertically or with horizontally. The pipes themselves are filled with an ethanol based solution that is circulated through the loops. In the winter the ethanol solution absorbs the heat from the earth and travels back inside, whereas in the summer the hot solution travels outside and is cooled by the earth before it travels back inside.

The pipes are connected to a geothermal unit, which is the primary component of the system transferring the heating/cooling of the pipes to either a forced air system or a water radiator system.

The additional components are decided by the existing heating/cooling system (more often being forced air). Within the house the heat from the pipes is pushed through the existing system, heating the home. Whereas in summer it works backwards, the hot air is absorbed by the geothermal unit and through the pipes is forced out into the ground before returning as cooler air into the house.

There is also use of the geothermal unit as a water heater, which works 2-3 times more efficiently than a traditional system.

How much does it cost?

But lets get to the topic that most people are interested in which is cost. The overall cost of a geothermal heating system has a large range. Vertical open loops are cheaper than horizontal loops, but it seems that it can range from as low as $10000 to upwards of $25000 (for a 2000 sq.ft. home).

Obviously you would have to discuss with an installer the range of prices and the needs of your home. The best part though is that it has the ability to lower your utility costs by up to 70% according to some reviews and statistics. Thus, in a relatively short period of time, you could have the upfront costs made up for by your savings. If you plan on living in your home for the next thirty years as most families are planning for, then the overall cost and savings is pretty simple.

With the cost of housing and utilities constantly rising the best thing to do is increase the efficiency of your home. Utilizing the free energy of the earth, without causing any harm to the ecosystem seems to be pretty smart to me. Who would have thought that dirt could be so friendly?

For more information please visit www.nextenergy.ca

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