How Does Geothermal Air Conditioning Work?

How Does Geothermal Air Conditioning Work?


Hundreds of years ago, a French chemist buried a mercury thermometer 85 feet below the streets of Paris. What this 17th century scientist discovered paved the way for modern geothermal heating and cooling.

Antoine Lavoisier discovered that in both summer and winter, the thermometer readings were consistent.

This confirmed that Mother Nature has her own natural air conditioning, and today’s HVAC companies have taken advantage of this principle. It’s an innovative part of modern air conditioning that taps into a safe, quiet, reliable and green source of energy.

Geothermal Air Conditioning

Without commercial air conditioning, your business customers would swelter in the Raleigh summer heat. But underground, it’s a different story.

A geothermal system has three main components: a heat pump unit, a liquid heating/cooling exchange and a delivery system.

It requires a lot of technical expertise to fully understand the inner workings of geothermal units. On a basic level, here’s the 4-1-1 on how they work:

  1. Polyethylene pipes (the “earth loop” ) are buried. They are placed either horizontally or vertically, depending upon the site.
  2. These pipes connect an outdoor geothermal unit to your indoor cooling system.
  3. A well is drilled into underground water. If available, an aquifer— a rock formation containing groundwater—is used.
  4. Water is pumped up, run past an exchanger, and then returned to the aquifer.
  5. When it returns to the aquifer, the water cools and the cycle starts again.

Geothermal heating units work on the same principle.

Because the earth maintains a stable temperature, it’s able to warm homes in winter and cool them in the summer. One of the best things about geothermal heating and cooling is that it doesn’t use fossil fuels, so you’re doing something great for your home and for the planet.

The Wall Street Journal predicted that more energy efficient “green housing” like this will grow from $36 billion a year to as much as $114 billion—nearly 40 percent of the housing market!

Benefits of geothermal AC systems include:

  • They require little maintenance—usually periodic checks and cleanings are enough.
  • They’re extremely efficient.
  • Depending upon tax laws, owners may receive green energy credits.
  • Because they are mostly underground, they are protected from the elements. This means that a solid geothermal cooling system can last decades.
  • They use little electricity—the only power required is to move cool air from the ground to the home.
  • They can be effectively used for commercial air conditioning.
  • They are significantly less noisy than regular units.
  • Most systems do not use refrigerant, only water. Therefore, no refrigerant lines are placed into the ground.
  • They do not consume water. Instead, the water used is returned to the aquifer and cycled through the system again.
  • Commercial geothermal air conditioning systems can eliminate millions of gallons of water that otherwise would have been evaporated in cooling towers.

If you’re looking for an efficient, effective way of keeping your home cool during the sticky, humid Triangle-area summers, geothermal air conditioning is a great option—and it’s more affordable than you think.

We provide information on finance options and federal tax credits. Visit our geothermal page for more information.


Betcha didn’t know that!



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