How Geothermal Systems Work

The Natural Way

Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) are electrically powered systems that tap the stored energy of the greatest solar collector in existence—the earth. These systems use the earth’s relatively constant temperature to provide heating, cooling, and hot water for homes and commercial buildings.

The earth absorbs almost 50% of all solar energy and remains a nearly constant temperature of 50 degrees to 70 degrees F depending on geographic location. In winter, a food-grade antifreeze solution circulating inside a sealed loop absorbs heat from the earth and carries it to the geothermal unit. Here it is compressed to a higher temperature and sent out as warm air or warm water to your indoor system for circulation throughout your home.

In the summer, the system reverses and expels heat from your home to the cooler earth via the loop system, creating an air conditioned environment. This heat exchange process is not only natural but is a truly ingenious and highly effective way to create a comfortable climate in your home or business.

The process of harnessing energy from geothermal depends on the relationship between the earth and the sun. The sun provides energy – the earth provides the storage of energy.

It’s important to us that you fully understand the many benefits of geothermal energy…
Please contact us if you have any questions.

Closed Loop System:

Closed Loop Systems consist of an underground heat exchange network of sealed, high-strength polyethylene pipe and flow distribution pumps. When cooling, the loop fluid temperature will rise, and rejected heat is dissipated into the cooler earth. Conversely, while heating, the loop fluid temperatures fall, and heat is absorbed from the earth. A closed loop system does not require a ground water supply or drain; therefore it isn’t subjected to mineral build up from outside contamination. Pipe connections in a closed loop system are heat fused to form joints that are stronger than the pipe itself. An EPA-approved water/antifreeze solution is used in the loop to eliminate the opportunity for freezing and to optimize the thermal transfer of ground temperatures. A closed loop system can be installed in vertical or horizontal configurations or submerged in a pond or lake.

Horizontal Closed Loop:

  • Horizontal loops are often considered when adequate land space is available. A typical trench for residential applications are 4 to 6 feet deep, and 100 to 400 feet long—per system ton.
  • Depending on the design, 1 to 6 pipes are installed in each trench. Multiple pipe and coiled “slinky” configurations are often used to conserve land requirements and to reduce overall installation costs.
  • The earth above the loops may still be utilized for other uses including driveways or shallow rooted landscaping options with no adverse affects to the piping system.

Vertical Closed Loop:

  • Vertical loops are used extensively where space is a consideration. Wells are bored or drilled to an average typical depth of 300 ft.
  • A U-bend pipe configuration is installed within the well and is then backfilled with a thermally enhanced grout to seal the well and ensure thermal transfer of ground temperatures.

Pond / Lake Closed Loop:

  • Pond or lake loops are usually more economical to install because of the reduced need for excavation.
  • Water (as opposed to soil) is the medium from which heat is absorbed or discharged. Coils or “slinky” lengths of pipe are placed at the lake bottom at a minimum depth of 8 feet.
  • Note: Local covenants and permitting requirements should be taken in consideration with this method.

Radiant System:

  • Heated water is circulated through the floors, walls, or ceiling in a sophisticated system of polyethylene pex tubing. The tubing is laid out in a pattern, which provides wide spread coverage of the surface being treated.
  • A number of circuits allow for varying temperature control of individual zones throughout your home.
  • The system can be operated by a geothermal heat pump or boiler.

Can I Add a Radiant System on a Wood Floor in My Existing Home?

  • The answer is YES!
  • Most remodeling clients wanting radiant floor systems start their research with their general contractor, whose first reaction may put an end to the investigation before it really gets off the ground. After all, the idea of pumping a 1 ½” layer of lightweight concrete or gypsum in an existing home to facilitate a radiant floor is enough to scare just about anyone away from taking on such a project. Not only is it a very messy for your beautiful white carpeted home, but there are the major structural concerns of the additional weight of the product as well as the headaches of retrofit framing for the additional height allowances needed for stairs, doors, and baseboards.
  • Fortunately, there’s a product available that provides an answer to all the above concerns. Viega™ has a patented underpayment panel which is specially engineered for wood frame construction. Each panel of this amazing product is ½” thick consisting of 2 pieces of floor underlayment bonded side by side to an aluminum heat transfer sheet for 1 panel assembly. A groove runs down the middle of the panel for the Viega™ pex tubing to lay snuggly inside. The panels come in 4’ lengths and are available 7” or 10” widths to accommodate an above sub floor or below sub floor (between joints) installation. The latter system enables a client to retain their existing flooring when desired. Special tubing U-Turn panels and filler strips are part of the system and make the tubing bends fast, neat and easy.
  • For new hardwood floor installation, the Viega climate panels are installed perpendicular to the hardwood layout. Once the pex tubing has been installed and pressure tested, you are ready to nail down your hardwood directly to the Viega climate panels. The tubing remains visible during the install, which should eliminate accidental nail punctures to the tubing. You will end up with a 2” build up as opposed to a 3-3/4” overall build up when a lightweight concrete layer has been installed.
  • A tile installation with the climate panel will result in a 2” build up as opposed to a 2-3/4” build up when using gypsum.
  • Can carpet be installed above a radiant floor? Yes—no problem, it’s all in the pad you select.
Take the time to talk with the radiant floor experts at EarthHeat. We make it our business to warm you up—radiantly!