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What is a Geothermal Heat Pump?

Posted by Brooke on Sep 11, 2014 2:57:29 PM

How a Geothermal Heat Pump Works

These days, people are increasingly interested in being energy efficient, environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible. A heating and cooling system called geothermal heat pump (GHP) is a technology that is catching on and meets all three of these desires. Although this method of heating and cooling isn’t necessarily new (it has been used since the 1940s) its just recently becoming a more common option for many homeowners. What is a geothermal heat pump system and why might it be a good choice for your home?

A geothermal heat pump is a central heating and/or cooling system that transfers heat to or from the ground. Sounds interesting, right, but how does it actually work?

Here in Minnesota we experience seasonal temperature extremes – from blistering heat in the summer to sub-zero cold in the winter. But a few feet below the earth's surface the ground remains at a relatively constant temperature. This ground temperature is warmer than the air above it during the winter, and cooler than the air in the summer. The GHP takes advantage of this by exchanging heat with the earth through a ground heat exchanger.

There are several options of geothermal heat pumps to choose from. Which one of these is best for you depends on the climate, soil conditions, available land, and local installation costs at the site. All of these options can be used for residential and commercial building applications.

In simplest terms, these systems use an array of pipes laid underground, either horizontally or vertically to capture and transfer the earth’s heat to warm your home. Refrigerant is piped through the pipes, and extracts heat from the ground, much in the same way as it would extract heat from a refrigerator. This heat is then re-distributed in your home heating system, either to heat the home or hot water, or both. Electricity is used to drive the pump to circulate the refrigerant, rather than to provide heat, so the electrical costs are in any case much lower than with some forced air systems.

It’s definitely a bigger installation process than a traditional forced air furnace, as the tubes are buried three to six feet underground to access the earth’s heat. The installation price of a geothermal system can be several times that of an air-source system of the same heating and cooling capacity. But the additional costs are returned to you in energy savings in five to 10 years, leaving you with many years of energy and cost efficient service. A geothermal heat pump has a system life estimated at 25 years for the inside components and 50+ years for the underground components, which is much longer than a traditional air-source system.

Intrigued? Turn to a heating and cooling expert in Minnesota if you’re considering this type of heating system for your home. You will need a heating professional in the Twin Cities you can trust to help you make the best heating decisions for your home based on your needs, budget and property restrictions.



For more energy saving and home comfort tips, visit! Stay Comfy, Minnesota is your Minnesota resource for air conditioning repair, furnace repair and HVAC tips and advice. 

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Topics: Energy Efficiency