How does geothermal energy work?

The increasing popularity of geothermal heating and cooling has led many people to ask, How does geothermal energy work? Read on to answer that question.

Geothermal literally means "earth heat." Geothermal energy systems use a simple, nonpolluting way of using the earth's heat to both heat and cool our homes.

Have you ever been in a cave? There are many tourist attractions where you can travel deep within the Earth and explore natural caves.

You may remember the tour guide saying that the temperature in the cave remains at a constant temperature, usually between 45 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, throughout the year.

That is exactly how geothermal energy is used to provide a constant temperature in your own home.

Following are some commonly asked questions about geothermal heating and cooling.

How does geothermal energy work to heat my home?

The heat generated by the earth's core naturally moves outward from the core and to the surface. Some power generation plants tap into geothermal heat to create electricity. But geothermal energy can also be harnessed to heat and cool residential homes. Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) are placed just a few feet underground. The GHPs use a fluid that runs through pipes. This fluid then absorbs heat from the ground. The Earth's heat is transferred through the pipes into the circulating fluid and then transferred again into the home. Standard ductwork is used to fill the interior of the home with warmth.

How does geothermal energy cool my home?

During hot weather, the fluid that continually circulates in the pipes 'picks up' heat from your home and transfers it into the Earth. Only a small amount of electricity is needed to operate the GHP.

Is geothermal energy good for the environment?

Geothermal heat pumps use very little electricity. Using GHPs in conjunction with traditional heating and cooling systems allow those systems to use 40 to 70% less energy than without a GHP.

Another site with detailed information on geothermal energy is Green Energy Efficient Homes. They provide an overview of geothermal heating and cooling as well as a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of geothermal.

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