The standard water heater systems for most homes generally involve a natural gas line to fuel the burner that then heats the water into the home faucets. However, that isn’t the only way to provide hot water. A number of alternatives have been coming online, such as tankless heaters and heat pumps. There is also geothermal heating too, which many haven’t yet heard of or fully understood.
How Geothermal Systems Work
The idea of geothermal involves literally using the heat from inside the earth for energy or temperature control. Geothermal technology has been used for decades in Scandinavian companies like Iceland and Norway with active geology and plenty of natural steam vents to tap into. The earth generates the heat through high temperature heating of water, which then turns to vapor and, under pressure, releases upward.
In the U.S., where it applies, geothermal heating can be applied as well with today’s technology in homes too. Instead of vented steam, geothermal heat for U.S. homes utilizes the ambient temperature of the earth itself, which is unaffected by the air level temperature outside and above. Instead, with the use of piping and subterranean grids, temperature change can be drawn from the soil deep down and used to change the temperature inside a home.
Many will argue that geothermal heating can’t match the convenience of direct heat. However, in reality, home heating is very much about the overall temperature of a home, not just one immediate location. As long as there is an imbalance, the rest of the temperature will be drawn to it and cooled until the overall temperature evens out. This is what causes a home to be colder. When the overall air in the home is the same and raised higher via geothermal differences, it heats up versus the outside cold. A homeowner could still use a direct local space heater as well, if desired.
In comparison to a traditional heater, geothermal heating provides a noticeable improvement in temperature efficiency, and it tends to cost a lot less than traditional heating sources of natural gas, heating oil or electricity. Additionally, long-term benefits include less use of fossil fuels since water and steam are essentially renewable.
Bigger benefits also include fewer emissions produced by a home. Anything that involves burning a fuel, no matter how clean, produces emissions. A natural gas heater has both the risk of emissions and CO leakage, which can be harmful and deadly in a home. None of that occurs with a geothermal system. Electricity, on the other hand, has to be generated elsewhere by some other fuel. In the case of hydroelectric dams, no problem, but if power is being created by coal-fired generators, then that contributes to pollution as well.
For the typical home, a geothermal heating approach starts with the placement and burying of pipes that work as the temperature mechanism for the house above. In the case of a geothermal pump, the earth’s deep temperature is used to produce the alternative to what is going on in the home. So, where the home is colder during the winter, the air is then circulated through the pipes underground, which then heats it up and warms the house when the air returns through the circuit. The pump continues the push of the air, and the circulation raises the overall temperature of the home.
A geothermal heat pump installation does require enough land and space for the pipes to be installed with a clear path connection into the home. Fortunately, the piping is not restricted to just a singular approach. Horizontal or vertical installations can be applied, depending on the limitations of the specific property as well as the land underneath the home area (rocks, bed layers, water tables etc.).
Thinking Beyond Just the Same Again
While replacement of a traditional water heater tends to be a familiar path and easy to do, there are enough alternatives available, as well as better technology, that homeowners should give them good consideration. Geothermal was for decades something done overseas, but today it’s very much an option for homeowners in the U.S.