Geothermal as renewable source of energy - Our Daily Green

Friday, October 4, 2013

Geothermal as renewable source of energy

While many environmentally conscious consumers are exploring new technologies, such as fuel cells and solar panels, to save energy, geothermal energy is literally as old as the earth. In fact, the word geothermal comes from the Greek words geo (earth) and therma (heat). Geothermal energy is heat from the earth.
photo courtesy of: Wikimedia Commons

Natural evidence of geothermal heat is present in volcanoes and hot springs. Ancient Romans, Chinese, and Native Americans utilized the geothermal heat from hot springs when the heated water flowed to the surface.

Traditionally, applications and use of the earth's heat has taken place near tectonic plates boundary zones, such as the Pacific "Ring of Fire" with an abundance of active volcanoes. Geothermal energy has been developed in Indonesia, The Philippines and several countries in Central America, as well as more industrialized nations including Japan, New Zealand, and Mexico. With today's more sophisticated technology, a consumer does not need to be located near a hot spring or tectonic plate to appreciate the benefits of geothermal energy.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “geothermal heat pumps are among the most efficient and comfortable heating and cooling technologies currently available…” In fact, some geothermal heat pumps can be over 45% more energy efficient than traditional options.

Geothermal heat pumps take advantage of the uniform temperatures beneath the surface of soil or water to heat or cool the home. A heat pump moves heat from outdoors to indoors. There are four types of geothermal heat pump systems, three closed loop options: horizontal, vertical, or a pond/lake system and one open-loop option. The best choice for residential applications would be dependent on climate, soil, available land, and local installation sites.

A geothermal system begins with buried pipes a few feet beneath the surface, where the temperature remains steady throughout the year. A heat pump operates on the basic principle of transferring heat. Rather than burning fuel such as oil or gas to create heat, a device moves the heat from one place to another, via the buried pipes and tubes, employing a refrigerant to direct the heat flow to the desired area. Heat naturally moves from a high temperature to a lower temperature. Heat pumps can either bring heat into or remove heat from a building, depending on how the flow is directed. The technology is very similar to the way refrigerator coils work, but on a smaller scale. To capture or disperse the heat from beneath the earth's surface, a larger system of coils and tubes is required, hence the need to first assess whether a geothermal system needs horizontal or vertical loops, as well as the open or closed system.

There are several Energy Star rated geothermal heat pumps on the market that qualify for a consumer energy efficiency tax credit. While ENERGY STAR products may initially cost more to purchase, between lowered energy bills and tax credits, the cost is often offset. Currently, several models qualify for a 30% rebate of cost, through December 31, 2016. The rebate applies to both existing homes and new construction.

Today's post has been brought to you by American Comfort Heating in Chicago.

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