What are geothermal heat pumps, and how do they work?
Geothermal heat pumps are similar to ordinary heat pumps, but use the ground instead of outside air to provide heating, air conditioning and, in most cases, hot water. Because they use the earth’s natural heat, they are among the most efficient and comfortable heating and cooling technologies currently available.
The geothermal heat pump functions on the same principle as refrigerators and air conditioners: A liquid absorbs heat as it turns into a gas and releases heat as it returns to a liquid state.
During the summer, the geothermal heat pump operates as a standard central air conditioner: It removes heat from the house and vents it to the outside. A liquid refrigerant is pumped through an evaporator coil of tubing. The liquid expands as it moves through the coil, changing to its gaseous state as it absorbs heat from the air surrounding the coil. A blower then pushes air around the cooled coil through ducts and into the house. The gas, now carrying considerable heat, moves through a compressor and begins the liquefying process. It then moves to a condenser coil outside the house, where the compressed gas releases its heat and returns to a liquid state.
During the winter, the geothermal heat pump reverses this process, extracting heat from the cold air outside and releasing it inside the house. The geothermal heat pump is very efficient when the outside temperature is around 45° to 50° F, but it becomes less efficient as the temperature drops. When the outside air temperature is very low (below 20° F), an auxiliary electric heater must be used to supplement the geothermal heat pump’s output.
Geothermal heat pump maintenance is very important. Sign up for a preventative maintenance plan today, to ensure your geothermal heat pump runs optimally all year round. Small problems that are not addressed early can lead to very expensive compressor problems later. Maintaining a geothermal heat pump is different than caring for the average heating system, so you want to make sure you work with a contractor like James River Air that has staff trained in geothermal maintenance. You can, however, keep the heating and cooling system free of dirt and debris by keeping the filter clean and removing any other obstacles that block the flow of air.