Home & Garden Do It Yourself

Geothermal Heating Systems

If you live in a hot climate, you have probably noticed that during the summer months, the cold water coming from your faucet can actually be quite hot. Geothermal heating systems work in exactly the same way, because all that is happening is heat from the earth is being transferred into the water pipes carrying water to your house.

While this effect is well known in certain climates, it is generally not known to happen in colder places, but the fact is, it happens all the time. In Iceland, for example, some towns are completely run on geothermal power and geothermal heating systems are the only way that these towns are powered. Using these systems is not only cost effective, but they are extremely environmentally friendly, because the source of energy is virtually inexhaustible.

Iceland has a lot of volcanic activity and the super-heated rock called magma is found very close to the surface, making this country an ideal place to use geothermal heating systems. So what about other countries?

Certain parts of the U.S.A. have similar volcanic activity, Yellowstone National Park being a prime example. But what if you don't live in an area like this?

The southwest United States (Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Southern California etc. and even places like Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas) have climates that make the earth's surface extremely hot. Even in the winter, a few feet below the surface remains hot throughout the year, allowing geothermal heating systems to work very effectively.

These systems not only allow you to heating in your home, they also offer you hot water, which can be stored in insulated tanks, just like a regular boiler. But what about cooling your house?

What many people don't realize is that you can also use geothermal heating systems to cool your house. Here's how it works: pipes that are run underground collect the heat from the earth, compressed to heat it further, and is then pumped around the house to heat the rooms either directly via radiators, or indirectly with air blowing over radiators.

During the hotter months, the process is actually very similar, but this time heat is drawn out of the house, rather like heat being drawn out of a refrigerator to cool its contents, using the same compressor that was used to super-heat the water during the winter. This is exactly how all refrigerators and many air-conditioning systems work.

Geothermal heating systems and cooling systems are becoming a very popular way to heat and cool homes around the world and the Environmental Protection Agency along with the Federal Department of Energy are strong advocates of this emerging technology.

Though the technology is relatively new, the idea behind it isn't. For centuries, houses (and castles) were built with extremely thick walls, allowing heat to accumulate slowly during summer months while keeping the occupants cool, and then releasing that accumulated heat slowly into the rooms slowly during the cold winter months. Though the heat didn't come from the ground, the principle behind the idea is similar, using the energy (the heat) to both cool and warm.

As this technology improves with each passing year, more and more people are discovering how they can protect the planet and keep more money in their wallets at the same time.

Although initial installation costs can take up to seven years to recoup, this figure can be greatly reduced with the help of tax credits and grants, which are becoming more available with each passing year.

With the increasing fear of damage to the environment and the spiraling costs of fossil fuels such as gas and oil, geothermal heating systems are here to stay.

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