Geothermal Heat Pump Resource
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Geothermal Heat Pump Systems

How Does Geothermal Heating Work?

If you're planning to build a new house, office building, or school, or replace your heating and cooling system, you may want to consider a geothermal heat pump (GHP) system. Geothermal heat pump systems are also known as GeoExchangeSM, ground-source, water-source heat pumps (as opposed to air-source heat pumps), earth-coupled heat pump, heat pump ground-source, or ground-coupled heat pump. Regardless of what you call them, energy-efficient geothermal heat pumps are available today for both residential and commercial building applications.


Geothermal Heat Pumps

Geothermal Heat Pumps (GHP's) have been supplying homes and businesses with high efficiency heating and cooling for nearly 20 years.



 geothermal heat pump


Did you know? The average life span of a geothermal heat pump is 22 years. That's a long time!

Geothermal heat pumps save money, reduce emissions, and are cost effective in replacing conventional heating and cooling technologies.

A geothermal heat pump system can be installed in virtually any area of the country and will save energy and money. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), GeoExchange systems are the most energy efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available (source: "Space Conditioning: The Next Frontier," EPA 430-R-93-004, April 1993).

While residential geothermal heat pump systems are usually more expensive initially to install than other heating and cooling systems, their greater efficiency means the investment can be recouped in two to seven years. After that, energy and maintenance costs are much less than conventional heating and air-conditioning systems.

When geothermal heat pump systems are installed in commercial buildings, the state-of-the-art designs are extremely competitive on upfront costs when compared with cooling towers and boilers, and they have lower energy and maintenance costs.

In addition to their cost effectiveness, geothermal heat pump systems offer aesthetic advantages, quiet operation, free or reduced-cost hot water, improved comfort, and a host of other benefits.

In winter, fluid is circulated through pipes in the ground and draws radiant heat stored in the earth.  The system removes this heat and compresses it to a higher temperature and distributes it throughout a building.

In the summer, the system extracts heat and humidity from the building and transfers it back to the cooler earth.

  Summer Winter

geothermal cooling vertical loop design  geothermal heating vertical loop design


Geothermal Vertical Loop Design

Geothermal operates efficiently because the energy source, the sun, has already created the energy and stored it in the earth. Geothermal heat pumps may be referred to as geothermal energy pumps, ground-coupled heat pumps, and ground-source cooling geothermal.

Renewable Geothermal Energy 

Why is geothermal energy renewable?  Geothermal is nothing more than absorbed solar energy, which is a renewable energy source. The earth absorbs about 50% of the sun's energy that reaches the earth's surface.

In physics, there are two types of energy: potential and kinetic. Let's think of a loaded spring. When the spring is stretched, it has potential energy (no movement). When the spring is released, it has kinetic (moving) energy. Solar energy in the earth is potential energy waiting to be used.

Efficient and Reliable Energy

A geothermal heat pump is four to five times more efficient in fuel conversion than a gas furnace.  One benefit of the super efficiency is a longer lifespan of the equipment. The lifespan of geothermal units is estimated to be 22 years by the U.S. Department of Energy. I have had geothermal in my own home for 17 years. The most energy-efficient central heat and air and the highest-rated HVAC units are by far geothermal heating and cooling systems.

For both residential and commercial buildings, there are three ways to put geothermal energy sources to use:

  1. Horizontal Loops   Horizontal loops are sometimes used where adequate land is available for underground loops that range from 100 feet to 500 feet in length. 

geothermal heat pump horizontal loop 

  1. Vertical Loops   Vertical loops are ideal when land surface is limited.   Vertical holes (about 6 inches in diameter) are drilled to depths ranging from 100 feet to 300 feet.   Vertical loops are almost always used in a neighborhood setting.

    geothermal heat pump vertical loop design
  2. Po nd Loops – Pond loops are a very economical alternative when a body of water is nearby.   The pipes are placed along the bottom of the lake.

The success of a geothermal heat pump or geothermal energy pump is directly related to the quality of the geothermal heating and cooling installation. DO NOT let any company install your geothermal system that does not have adequate experience. Always ask for references.

If you have trouble finding an installer in your area, please give me a call at 501-653-7931, and I will be happy to help you. Carrier, Trane, and Water Furnace are major manufacturers of geothermal equipment. Manufacturers use software programs that give you accurate geothermal operation costs; however, the software I use when sizing your system calculates both accurate geothermal operational costs and geothermal residence savings.


Geothermal as an investment

How much does it cost to install geothermal heating and cooling?  As a general rule, installing geothermal will cost about $3,000 more per ton than an air-to-air heat pump. Don't say, “Yikes, $3,000 per ton!” Think about this: Let's say your house requires a two-ton air-to-air heat pump. It will cost roughly $6,000 more to install geothermal than to install a less efficient system. If you add the $6,000 to your thirty-year mortgage, your payment increases around $4  0a month.

Geothermal heating and cooling, could save you $60 a month and much more in some cases, for the rest of your life, not to mention almost zero maintenance, an average 22-year life span, and a percentage of FREE hot water. You actually make money every month. Take a moment and calculate how much you can save at $60 a month for 22 years: almost $16,000, on your $6,000 investment, and you’ll probably save even more.

You can have the best and pay less!

A geothermal heat pump that utilizes a closed loop system has many benefits and NO risk or environmental downside. In a closed loop system, the heat pump compressor is inside you r home or crawlspace, and water is circulated through the pipes connected to the compressor.  You have NO outdoor equipment. Not only can an energy efficient home save you a lot of money, but it can also save the environment.



Are you building a home and looking for a custom, energy efficient house plan? Visit my home design site at for more information.

 phillip rye custom home design


Benefits of a Geothermal Heat Pump   How does a geothermal heat pump work?



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