How does geothermal air conditioning work versus conventional air conditioning?Have you been looking into air conditioning options? Maybe you’re intrigued by geothermal air conditioning but you’d like to understand a little more about it.
In this post, we’ll give you a thorough rundown of all things geothermal AC. We’ll also help you understand the major differences and advantages of geothermal over conventional AC.
What is geothermal AC?
Geothermal air conditioning uses the same system installed for geothermal heating. For heating purposes, a pump moves temperature-conducting fluid through an underground loop of pipes beneath or near your home. This allows the fluid to collect the thermal energy deposited in the earth from the sun.
This works well even in the coldest winters because the latent energy deposits beneath the earth’s surface keep it a fairly steady 55 degrees Fahrenheit all year long. The heat is circulated back into the pump and then distributed evenly throughout your home. So how does this work for air conditioning?
Essentially, the process works in reverse. Instead of collecting heat energy from underground and transferring it to your house, geothermal air conditioning works by the duct system removing warm air from your house and sending it to the heat pump and then into fluid-filled pipes to be released easily into the earth.
How conventional air conditioning works
With standard AC, the process is similar to a geothermal air conditioner in that the hot air is captured and removed from your home.
The way this is done, however, is completely different. Evaporator coils, which are usually held within a metal box inside your attic or basement, circulate refrigerant to collect the warm air. The air is then sent through your ductwork to an outside, above-ground unit called the air compressor. This compressor releases the hot air into the atmosphere.
Efficiency: geothermal AC versus conventional AC
When it comes to efficiency, geothermal air conditioning has the upper hand over conventional central air conditioning. Installing a geothermal air conditioner can reduce your electricity use by 25 to 50 percent.
Part of the reason for geothermal AC’s ultra efficiency is that it moves the collected heat from inside your home into the cooler ground, rather than the hot outside air.
Since hot summers that require blasting the air conditioning for weeks or months on end contribute to some of the largest spikes in electricity bills, taking advantage of geothermal cooling is a great way to reduce those unpredictable and painful increases.
It’s also one of the most impactful things you can do to support a healthier environment. The use of air conditioners across the U.S. alone releases about 100 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. So, finding a more energy-efficient and cleaner method to cool your home is a big deal.
Geothermal systems improve air quality
Fewer fossil fuels are burned to generate electricity to power a geothermal system, which means cleaner air for everyone. On a broad scale, this applies not only to the air quality of our atmosphere in general but also to the air quality inside your own home.
At home, geothermal air conditioning does not rely on the use of carbon monoxide, which could leak and cause sickness or even death. It’s a truly threatening health hazard, as carbon monoxide is odorless, tasteless, and colorless.
With a geothermal cooling system, you don’t risk this at all, and there are no other fumes created by burning oil or gas.
System lifetime: geothermal versus conventional air conditioning
Conventional central air conditioning systems typically last 15 to 20 years at the most. Often, the main components significantly degenerate within the first 5 to 10 years, causing a steady decline in efficiency. They also require more regular maintenance and are more likely to incur damage as the compressor is exposed to the elements.
A geothermal cooling system pump lasts 20 years, and the underground looping system lasts for 50 years or more. They also require very little maintenance, if any, during that time. With no exposure to the elements, the parts that keep a geothermal system running last longer and maintain excellent efficiency during this time.
Apart from system lifetime, geothermal also has a cosmetic edge over conventional air conditioning. With geothermal, most of your system is underground and out of site. There’s no boxy metal unit taking up space in your backyard.
The economy of a multi-functional geothermal system
Any time you can simplify and reduce the number of bits and pieces needed to achieve the same results, it’s a very good thing. In conventional heating and cooling, different appliances serve different functions. These various moving parts play their part depending on the season.
Perhaps you heat your home using a central furnace powered by natural gas, electricity, or even oil. Or maybe you have a boiler, which runs on natural gas, fuel, or oil. Maybe you use gas-fired or electric space heaters in addition to a wood-burning stove or fireplace.
Then, in the summer, none of this equipment is used and your attention turns to the central air conditioner with its various parts, both inside and outside. At a minimum, conventional heating and cooling require two distinctly different systems for different seasons.
Since a geothermal energy unit can provide both heating and cooling, it’s a more straightforward means of modulating your home temperature all year round.
Geothermal systems qualify for state and federal incentives
So, this whole geothermal AC thing is starting to sound pretty good. But maybe you’re a little unsure about the cost of installing geothermal. Not only are the costs of geothermal coming down thanks to Dandelion’s ingenuity, but even these more affordable models are eligible for significant state and tax incentives.
These reductions in upfront cost can reduce geothermal payback to as few as five years. To read more about the biggest tax incentive available for geothermal, the 30 percent federal income tax reduction, read on here.