Learn the ABCs of geothermal heating

October 21, 2014

First, here’s a quick refresher in the earth sciences: the ground under your home retains some of the heat that originates from the earth’s centre, as well as from the sun. This is called geothermal energy. A geothermal heating system allows you to recover this energy and use it to warm or cool your home.

Learn the ABCs of geothermal heating

How does it work?

The system captures some of this geothermal energy, concentrates it and then uses a heat pump to bring the air in the home to the desired temperature. This heated air is then distributed throughout your home. The reverse is done for cooling; the air is cooled by the heat pump and returned to the ground.

What are the benefits?

This technology has greatly improved over the last 20 years. Its effectiveness is touted by many home owners who are adamant about the benefits associated with geothermal heating.

  • The system is multifunctional, as it can both warm and cool a home. It can also be used to heat water for household use or for swimming pools.
  • This energy source is inexhaustible, renewable and available around the clock.
  • On average, one unit of electricity generates three or four units of geothermal energy. It is cost effective in the medium and long term. The bigger the home, the greater the savings.
  • The system is buried in the ground, thereby sheltering it from the elements. It can last for at least 50 years if it’s well maintained.

What are the constraints?

Geothermal heating is an economical and environmentally friendly way to heat your home without warming the planet. However, there are a few aspects of this kind of heating system that make it unsuitable for some home owners:

  • Even though you’ll save on heating costs in the long term, installation requires a significant investment. Installation costs usually run between $20,000 and $40,000, depending on the circumstances.
  • To distribute geothermal energy efficiently throughout the home, it may be necessary to adapt existing infrastructure, such as radiators or pipes.
  • In some cases, additional heating is required.
  • The installation of a geothermal system in the ground may temporarily damage your landscaping. The type of soil and bedrock on your property may also affect the final cost.

How to decide

Talk to an expert specializing in geothermal energy to better understand and evaluate every aspect of geothermal heating for your home. He or she will be able to tell you about all the necessary adjustments that will have to be made to your property, as well as the costs involved. If you go ahead with a geothermal system, make sure it’s approved by the Canadian GeoExchange Coalition; this certification is a guarantee of quality.

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