Q: How does geothermal work?

A: No matter your climate or location, the temperature beneath the Earth’s surface (and your home) remains constant regardless of the season. Geothermal systems work by utilizing stable, underground temperature to provide heating, cooling and hot water to your home. Geothermal technology uses a series of sealed piping loops buried in the ground that tap the renewable energy of the earth. These loops create a better heat transfer medium than traditional air source systems.

Q: How is heat transferred from the earth to my home?

A: The earth has the ability to absorb and store heat energy. To use that stored energy, heat is extracted from the earth through a liquid medium (water or an antifreeze solution) and pumped to the heat pump heat exchanger. There, the heat is used to heat your home. In summer the process is reversed and indoor heat is extracted from your home and transferred to the earth. You can change from one mode to another (heating to cooling) with a simple flick of a switch on your indoor thermostat.

Q: Are geothermal systems efficient?  

A: Yes. At Wyckoff Heating & Cooling, we utilize energy-efficient ClimateMaster systems that result in remarkable efficiency. In fact, by installing geothermal energy, homeowners may reduce energy usage by up to 80 percent. Geothermal heat pumps are up to five times more efficient than most fossil fuel systems. Why? Instead of burning a combustible fuel to make heat, they simply transfer heat that already exists.

Q: Are geothermal system environmentally friendly?

A: Yes. All ClimateMaster geothermal heat pumps use EarthPure® refrigerant, a non-ozone depleting refrigerant that has significant advantages over other refrigerants that harm the environment. Geothermal systems also avoid harmful emissions by transferring heat to and from your home, rather than burning fossil fuels.

Q: How long do geothermal systems last?

A: Anticipated lifetime longevity of geothermal systems far exceed that of traditional HVAC systems. With indoor installation eliminating exposure to the elements, geothermal systems last longer than traditional systems that are outdoors. Indoor geothermal components last approximately 25 years, compared to 15 years for traditional systems, while the underground outdoor components (ground-loop) last for 50 years.

Q: What are the components of a geothermal heat pump system?

A: The three main parts are the heat pump unit, the liquid heat exchange medium (open or closed-loop), and the air delivery system (ductwork).

Q: What is a geothermal heat pump?

A: A geothermal or ground-source heat pump is an electrically powered device that uses the natural heat storage ability of the earth to heat and cool your home or business. Like any type of pump, it transports heat energy from one place to another. Your refrigerator works using the same principle.

Q: What types of loops are available?

A: There are two main types of loops: open and closed.

Closed-loop: The term “closed-loop” refers to a geothermal heat pump system that uses a continuous loop of special buried plastic pipe as a heat exchanger. The pipe is connected to the indoor heat pump to form a sealed, underground loop through which an antifreeze solution is circulated. Unlike an open-loop system that consumes water from a well, a closed-loop system recirculates its heat transferring solution in pressurized pipe. Closed-loops are trenched horizontally in yards adjacent to the home if the yard is large enough. Or, for smaller yards, the loops can be installed vertically, much like a water well installation.

Open-loop: The term “open-loop” is commonly used to describe a geothermal heat pump system that uses groundwater from a conventional well as a heat source in winter and a heat sink in summer. The groundwater is pumped through the heat pump where heat is extracted (in winter) or rejected (in summer) then the water is disposed of in an appropriate manner. Since groundwater is a relatively constant temperature year-round, it is an excellent heat source/sink.

Q: Which system is best?

A: The net results in operating cost and efficiency are virtually the same. Which system to choose depends on whether you have an adequate groundwater supply and means of disposal. If you do, an open-loop system can be used very effectively. If not, either a horizontal or vertical closed-loop system is your best option. Over a period of time, a closed-loop system will require less maintenance because it’s sealed and pressurized, eliminating the possible build-up of minerals or iron deposits.

Q: Will an earth loop affect my lawn or landscape?

A: No. Research has proven that loops have no adverse effect on grass, trees or shrubs. Most horizontal loop installations use trenches about three feet or less wide. This will leave temporary bare areas that can be restored with grass seed or sod.

Q: Is a geothermal heat pump difficult to install?

A: Most units are easy to install, especially when they are replacing another forced-air system. They can be installed in areas unsuitable for fossil fuel furnaces because there is no combustion, thus, no need to vent exhaust gases. Ductwork must be installed in homes that don’t have an existing air distribution system.

Q: Can a geothermal heat pump heat water for my home?

A: Yes. Using a hot water generator, some types of geothermal heat pumps can save you up to 50 percent on your water heating bill by pre-heating tank water.

Q: Can a geothermal heat pump be added to my existing furnace?

A: Split systems can easily be added to existing furnaces for those wishing to have a dual-fuel system. Homeowners can use the heat pump as the main heating source and a furnace as a supplement in extremely cold weather if additional heat is needed.

Q: Will my current ductwork be compatible with a geothermal system? 

A: In all likelihood, yes. Your installing contractor should be able to determine ductwork requirements and any minor modifications, if needed.

Q: What is the average cost of geothermal installation?

A: Geothermal systems typically cost more upfront than a separate forced-air furnace and central air conditioning system. However, the initial cost of installation is not the only factor you will want to consider, as geothermal systems can save you thousands over the course of the system’s lifetime. To get an accurate comparison of costs you need to consider several factors, including: the amount of time it will take to recover the difference in costs between the two systems through energy savings, energy efficiency and availability, maintenance costs, system lifetime and the number of years you plan to live in your home.

Q: Do tax credits apply for geothermal installations?

A: Yes. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, geothermal systems are eligible for both federal tax credits and state incentives. Wyckoff’s ClimateMaster geothermal heat pumps quality for up to 30 percent of the total system installment.

Q: Can I use my geothermal heat pump for radiant floor heating?

A: Yes. Water-to-water heat pumps heat water instead of air. The principle is the same as far as loop piping is concerned, but instead of heat, warm water is circulated through the floor to heat the home.

For more information on geothermal, contact Wyckoff today.