Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Geothermal heating and cooling systems can reduce energy bills

Geothermal energy is renewable source of energy with the abundant potential in many parts of the world. Geothermal energy refers to the heat stored within the earth's core. This heat can not only be used to generate electricity but also for heating and cooling purposes via geothermal heating and cooling systems.

In the coldest days of winter and the hottest days of summer, energy costs related to heating and cooling can rise significantly due to the increased use. Add to this the additional costs of the fuels needed for heating systems, such as gas or oil and one can get really high bills that can present real burden to home budget.

Many people are trying different methods to cut down energy bills by doing everything from wearing lot more clothes and keeping the thermostat way down in the winter, to keeping all of the windows open and running several fans in the summer.

There is however one more method that doesn't require to sacrifice comfort in order to reduce energy bills, namely the installation of geothermal heating and cooling systems. Geothermal heating and cooling systems are able to use thermal energy stored beneath the earth's surface for both heating and cooling purposes. 
The geothermal system at Argonne's Visitor Center saves $4,000 in heating costs per year and 53 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
A geothermal heat pump gets installed in the ground outside home and gets stored down into the earth to a level where the temperatures consistently remain between 50 and 60 degrees Celsius. During cold winter period, geothermal heat pump transfers the warmer air from beneath the earth up into the home, heating home in the process.

Switching the direction of heat flow, the same system can be used to circulate the cooled water through the house for cooling in the summer months. The heat is exhausted to the relatively cooler ground (or groundwater) rather than delivering it to the hot outside air as an air conditioner does. As a result, the heat is pumped across a larger temperature difference and this leads to higher efficiency and lower energy use.

What this basically means is that the geothermal heat pumps rely primarily on an energy exchange between the air within house (or other building) that is being heated/cooled and the ground.

Geothermal heating and cooling systems are becoming increasingly popular renewable energy option but they are yet far off from fulfilling their potential as currently there is less than 30 GW of geothermal heating capacity installed worldwide, accounting for approximately  0.07% of global primary energy consumption.

The economics of geothermal heating and cooling systems is constantly improving with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claiming that these systems save homeowners 30–70 percent in heating costs, and 20–50 percent in cooling costs, when compared with conventional heating and cooling systems. The EPA has even called these systems as „the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available.“

The additional advantage of these systems is that they are extremely reliable, do not require much maintenance, and once built can last for decades. They are also less polluting as compared to the traditional ones.

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