How Geothermal Heat Pump Technology Works
- Does geothermal technology work well for Texas homes?
- How are geothermal and traditional heating and air conditioning different?
- How much does a ground source heat pump cost?
Texas is blessed with a relatively mild climate, despite the heat of summer and chilly winters. Compared with most US states, Texans enjoy reasonable heating and air conditioning costs. Still, the increasing cost of natural gas and electricity means that many Texas homeowners are looking for money-saving residential HVAC technology that can reduce their energy bills. That’s why more and more Texans are opting for cost-cutting geothermal systems for new homes and replacement purposes, from Houston to Dallas, and from Fort Worth to San Antonio. This technology is fairly recent, though, and not familiar to most people.
We want you to understand how these new systems work and how they compare to traditional home-comfort systems, such as gas furnaces, boilers and central air conditioners. Below, you’ll find the basic information you need to help you make your best possible decision when considering new or replacement home comfort products and the contractors who supply and install them:
Geothermal Heat Pumps Are Based on Proven Technology
At the core of every ground source geothermal installation is a heat pump, which utilizes the evaporation and condensation of a refrigerant to transfer heat from one place to another. Using environmentally-safe refrigerants, like R-410A, a compressor and a pair of heat exchangers compresses, condenses and liquefies the refrigerant, and then allows it to evaporate and expand. This cycle is how heat exchange takes place. If you’ve ever stood near an operating AC unit, you’ve felt the hot air that emerges from the fan. A heat pump uses a specialized reversing valve to allow either heat exchanger to serve as the condenser or evaporator system. This allows it to act as either an air conditioner or heater. Air circulating in the home flows over the heat exchangers to transfer heat.
Residential Heat Pumps Save Energy by Using Ambient Conditions
A typical split system heat pump or ductless mini-split system makes use of the ambient temperatures in outside air to power much of the refrigeration cycle. For cooling, it uses indoor heat to evaporate the refrigerant, producing indoor cooling. As a heater, it uses the residual heat in outdoor air for evaporation, transferring heat into the home. Since outdoor air is the source, these systems are called air source heat pumps. Geothermal systems, instead, rely on residual heat beneath the surface of the ground, instead. The process is similar, but the external heat source is different. In both cases, the heat pump’s compressor and heat exchangers handle both interior home heating and cooling by reversing the refrigerant flow with a thermostat-controlled switching module.
Ground Source Heat Pumps Are Far More Efficient than Air Source Systems
In Texas, air temperatures vary widely throughout the year. During the cooling season, an air source heat pump cools less efficiently when outdoor temperatures are very high. During the heating season, they heat less efficiently as outdoor air temperatures drop. The system must work harder and harder. That loss of efficiency raises your energy bills. In contrast, ground source heat pumps rely on the constant temperatures deep underground. In Texas, underground temperatures remain between 60-70 degrees year round, just a few feet underground. What that means for you is that your heating and air conditioning system works equally efficiently, regardless of the air temperature outside your home. Geothermal can save you up to 80% on your energy bills, compared to traditional systems.
How Ground Source Heat Pump Systems Access Underground Energy
Heat stored underground comes primarily from the Sun. Over thousands of years, it has heated the Earth. Just a few feet underground, temperatures remain constant year after year, regardless of the weather. By pumping water through loops of special tubing that is buried underground, the heat pump can collect that thermal energy to power the evaporation and condensation of refrigerant. The water circulated is in a closed loop. A pump moves water through the loops transferring energy for both cooling and heating. In most Texas homes, there’s no longer a need to burn fuel for heating when a properly sized geothermal heat pump is installed. These energy-collecting loops can be buried horizontally or vertically, and are sized to match your home’s requirements.
Geothermal HVAC Systems Cost More Initially, but Deliver Long-Term Savings
The closed thermal energy transfer circulation loops used with this new technology add to the initial cost of installing a ground source heat pump. Large excavations or deep well drilling is required. In Texas, which is an ideal location for geothermal energy, homeowners can usually repay the additional costs within 3-5 years through lower energy bills. Then, over the lifetime of the system, which can be measured in decades, the savings dramatically lower the cost per year of operation. During a consultation with an AC contractor in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston or San Antonio, you’ll be able to see accurate estimates of both your initial cost for both types of systems, along with how much you can save over time. The decision is yours.
Texas Is Ideal for Money Saving Geothermal Heating and Air Conditioning
The mild weather makes ground source heat pump technology an outstanding choice in all parts of Texas, from Richmond, Humble and Cypress to Danbury, Grangerland and Lochridge in the Houston area, from Campbellton, Fentriss and Poteet to Valdina Farms, McQueeney and McCoy in the San Antonio area, and from Kennedale, Northlake and Saginaw to Irving, Richardson and Grapevine in the Dallas Fort Worth area. There are several top brands of equipment to choose from, including Carrier, ClimateMaster, GeoComfort, WaterFurnace and Trane. Your installer will advise you on the type of thermal energy transfer loop to install, whether it is vertical, horizontal or pond loop.
The stable moderate underground temperatures means the availability of plenty of thermal energy. Opting for geothermal HVAC systems is becoming more and more popular here, due to their reliable, even home comfort control, and the opportunity to both cut down on energy use and save money over time. You’ll find many residential heating and air conditioning companies in our easy-to-use directory who are experts in supplying, installing and maintaining these systems. Be sure to ask the contractors you contact for comparisons of both cost and savings before making your decision.