Today, I am sharing a guest article by Patrick Gibson, a Biotechnology Engineer in Australia.
The earth is literally welling over with energy that we can tap into. While some of it we can directly experience such as the wind, sunlight and wave energy, there is another kind that is not so visible but has plenty of potential for supplying our large-scale and household energy needs: this is geothermal.
Heat that is trapped underground can be used to heat (and cool) nearly any building over ground. The advantage of underground heat is that it remains nearly constant throughout the year. And you don’t even have to go too deep to be able to reach this great energy source. Just a few feet beneath the surface, temperatures remain a constant 5.56° to 26.67° Celsius.
An Excellent Renewable Source Of Energy
Lately, a number of energy providers have been designing heat exchange systems that can use heat pumps to indirectly tap into the heat wells underground. Sustainable homes and businesses are taking advantage of these systems to cut down their energy costs and feel great about using renewable sources that cause the least environmental impact.
If you use a geothermal heating system, you can say goodbye to energy-guzzling air conditioners and gas, oil or LPG run heaters that have high running costs and need regular maintenance. Geo-exchange systems can work as both heating systems in the coldest of winters and cooling systems in the summer.
Geothermal heating systems are incredibly effective as coolers. When it’s a torrid 45 degrees C outside, you can enjoy a balmy 24 degrees C indoors. This is possible by simply reversing the heating system, taking warm air from the building and transferring it to the cooler underground.
In the winter, the temperatures below ground are warmer than those at the surface. This enables the heat pump to draw heat from under the ground and circulate it through the building through a system of ducts.
How Geothermal Systems Work
Geothermal heating systems don’t directly draw heat from the ground. A network of pipes is laid below the ground near the building, and fluids like water or a mixture of water and anti-freeze passes through them. This fluid carries the heat between the ground and the heat pump. The heat pump then circulates the cooled or heated air through the ducts or radiant floor heating methods. When you combine the energy system with good indoor insulation, you get the best out of it.
Many permaculturists are also advocating the heating of greenhouses with geothermal systems. The ground surrounding your greenhouse and glass structures can become a giant battery of sorts, and maintain the most optimal temperatures no matter the season.
The Costs Involved
The initial costs of installing your geothermal system can vary from place to place. Costs depend on how easily the underground pipes can be laid near your building, the elevation and composition of the soil etc. In some areas, pipes can access underground heat wells within 6 feet, while in other areas the pipe network may have to go deeper. You will have to consult an engineer and service provider to find out the costs of laying down a heating and cooling system for your home.
At the same time, the efficiency of geothermal systems far exceeds any other kind of system, including air-source systems. A typical gas furnace may have an energy efficiency of 94 percent, compared to that a geothermal system offers as much as 400 percent of energy efficiency. This means that for every 1 unit of electrical energy consumed, it delivers 4 units of energy. If placed in a well-insulated building, it can lower running costs by as much as 70 percent.
The cost of maintenance is also significantly lowered because of the longer life cycle of these units. While your typical gas furnace will last about 7 to 10 years with regular maintenance, a geothermal system can last over 15 years. The ground pipe loop is even longer lasting; they usually come with a warranty of a whopping 50 years. This means that once you’ve laid down the pipes, not only you but even your children or the subsequent building owners will be able to enjoy its benefits. Like many other sustainable home fittings, this can increase the resale value of your home significantly.
Add to that the fact the these systems are as quiet as a mouse and there are no fears of carbon monoxide poisoning involved, there is no reason for homeowners to not take advantage of this excellent source of clean, renewable energy!
Patrick is an Engineer of Biotechnology, he studied at Victoria University, Melbourne. Patrick works for a leading certification company as a quality control inspector, and his vast field experience has taught him to make use of almost everything land has to offer.
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