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Tapping the Earth’s Energy

Submitted by on 12 December, 2021 – 4:32 am

Sue Servant decided it was time to chop the twine on carbon-based fuels.


So when her aging gas furnace required replacing, she turned to the Earth for a solution. She installed a geothermal system–also called a ground-source heat pump, a water-source heat pump, or geo-exchange system–which lately started heating and cooling her Cambridge, Mass. Servant asserted she was inspired by environmental reasons and worries over carbon monoxide from burning natural gas.

“It’s not that much more pricey and I could manage it.

And it means the end of combustion and it is getting the building off carbon, which is urgent,” she revealed. Ground-source heat pumps have been around for years but each year appear to attract more house owners and organizations who are searching for alternatives to conventional space heating and cooling. Beginning in 2006, nearby Harvard Varsity installed 6 ground-source heat pumps as a part of its Green Campus initiative.


One real-estate developer, MassInnovation, has made geothermal an integral part of its eco-themed housing and office buildings. Having provided one senior living center with geothermal, it’s now planning on changing what used to be a giant 19th century factory into one of the biggest geothermal installations in New Britain , according to Chairman Robert Ansin. Folk who go with geothermal are usually either interested in it as it’s a clean energy technology or because they are looking to flee fossil fuel costs, announced Diona Roberg, the Ops Director at Water Energy Distributors, which distributes geothermal systems from ClimateMaster. “Business is out of control–we can hardly keep up with it,” Roberg asserted. About half of the clients go geothermal to chop heating and cooling costs. But the other one the half “don’t care what it costs, they just need to do green,” Roberg announced.


The family-owned business has doubled in size over the last 4 years. Strictly talking, what’s regularly called a “geothermal system” is a misnomer as it implies drumming the heat in the Earth, something already done at large scale to deliver electricity to applications.

Tapping The Earths Energy

This geothermal energy–and its offshoot boosted geothermal–works only works in certain geographies and uses different technology. Instead of use underground heat, geothermal heat pumps attached to buildings gain advantage from the steady temperature of the ground or deep water wells. In effect, they treat the Earth like a giant energy savings bank, depositing or withdrawing heat depending on the time of the year. In the summer, the systems pump indoor heat underground and draw on the lower temperatures of the Earth to chill a building. In less warm months, the same process works in reverse, with heat from the ground being employed to warm indoor air. Indoors are box-shaped heat pumps that pull and and push either water or a working liquid,eg antifreeze, out and in of the ground. Using the same compressor loop mechanism a fridge has, a heat exchanger draws power from the circulating liquid to either heat or cool a building.

There are a number of different configurations for the liquid transfer loops–either water wells many hundred feet deep, which are claimed to be the most productive, or coils which could be dug just a few meters underground. Others employ a body of water like a pool as a heat sink.


With no regard for type, though, ground-source heat pumps are regarded as one of the best forms of heating and cooling. The Global Ground Source Heat Pump organisation, based in Stillwater, Oklahoma, related geothermal is fifty percent to 70 % more effective for heating than other systems. The US Office of Energy says a ground-source heat pump uses twenty-five p.c to fifty percent less electricity than traditional heating and cooling systems. Roberg recounted the maintenance costs for geothermal are half the price of normal heating and cooling systems.


The payback on geothermal systems, which used to be about 7 years, is now sometimes 4 years, she claimed. But even with these benefits, geothermal heating and cooling still remains a comparatively niche product, with approximately fifty thousand units installed a year in the U.S, according to the Office of Energy.

All told, a geothermal heating and cooling installation, including channel work, will be about fifty % dearer than fossil fuel-based system, Roberg expounded.

Drilling is sometimes the largest portion of the bill as it can cost many thousands of greenbacks alone. The geo-exchange pumps themselves for houses can cost between $17,000 to $30,000, according to Servant . Gurus warn that installations of these systems are extraordinarily site specific–poor installation of channels, for instance, can cause an underperforming unit. Also, certain regions seem to be better suited for geothermal-exchange technology ; some developers have said that pumps that spend the majority of the year pumping heat underground, and small time pulling heat out, don’t perform as well over time. A more refined challenge is the standing quo.

Homeowners who are not conscious of geothermal systems will install what contractors–also unfamiliar with the technology–will recommend.

Ansin of developer MassInnovation, encountered this prescribed disbelief first hand whilst restoring an abandoned shoe factory in Fitchburg, Mass. He was having a look at spending a major portion of his overall budget–about $500,000–on the standard commercial furnace and chiller when he had an opportunity run-in with a driller friend who advised that geothermal heat pumps could be less expensive. Ansin had not heard of geothermal, but when he looked into it, he noticed that it may be both inexpensive and let him differentiate his buildings in a way apart from just location. The facility, called Anwelt Heritage studios, is marketed as an eco friendly building that uses a ground-source heat pump and a solar array. The system is about half as dear as the conventional set-up, announced Ansin, who’s now part owner of a drilling outfit. He passes the lower utility costs to folk in the 86 residences, who pay less than a half what they were paying in utility charges.


He is really keen about the technology but admits that the geothermal industry is juvenile compared to the conventional heating and cooling business. “Even though heat pumps and geothermal space conditioning has been around for a bit, it’s still considered much a new market and as such, there are not virtually enough contractors and engineers,” he claimed, adding that an installation can need coordinating different contractors. “Unfortunately, till you’ve got an one-stop-shopping solution, it is not soon to be just about as omnipresent as it could be.”

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