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Earth-stored solar energy heats homes.

Maybe you don't think you'll ever have any use for the in-ground ice house on the preceding pages, because that idea is too old-fashioned.

Ah, but you'd be mistaken, at least partly. Because that "old-fashioned" "low tech" method of preserving ice into the warm months is now being used in a high-tech but Earth-friendly heating and cooling system.

Ken Sharabok explains:


If you have a fair sized pond near where you are planning to build a home, consider using it for heating and cooling at a significant cost savings through geothermal energy technology.

The primary difference between a geothermal heat pump and a conventional one is that the former transfers heat or cold from the constant temperature in the ground or body of water using water in a closed-loop piping system, while conventional systems do so from the temperature of the air inside or outside of a building. Conventional systems lose efficiency in very hot or cold weather. However, several feet underground, and at the bottom of ponds, the temperature remains fairly constant year'round. That means the geothermal unit doesn't have to work so hard. In addition, water is a more effective heat transfer medium than air.

A typical process is to have a backhoe dig trenches about three feet wide and five to six feet deep for a length determined by the size of the unit. One and one-half inch diameter plastic heat transfer pipes are then buried in a closed loop at the bottom of the trench, connected to the heat pump and filled with water.

This can be expensive due to the digging and backfilling involved. However, if you have a pond nearby, the piping can be laid on the bottom, saving the cost of digging. This would work particularly well in a northern climate where the piping could be laid out over a frozen pond surface and allowed to sink when the ice melts.

An alternative to piping is to draw water from an existing well, process it through the geothermal heat pump, and then vent it either to a drainage field or to a sprinkler system. This would be cheaper to install if you will be having a well put down anyway, but somewhat more expensive to operate than the closed-loop system since the well pump needs to be run when the heat pump operates.

Some benefits of geothermal heat pumps are:

* The mechanics are simpler and the unit does not work as hard, resulting in many years of use.

* Through a separate heat transfer unit from the coils, domestic hot water can be provided.

* Some electric companies, particularly rural co-ops, are supporting the technology through attractive incentive packages of rebates and low-interest loans. Thus, inquire at your local electric company about their participation and for referrals to local suppliers and installers.

* Installation of a geothermal heat pump can cost twice what a conventional unit would, but it operates at a cost about 25 percent less than conventional heat pumps, about 50 percent less than using natural gas or propane, and about 60 percent less than electric heat. Savings are realized in the cooling mode as well. Thus, the extra installation cost can be paid back in just a few years.

For more information on geothermal heat pumps, consult the book Ground- and Water-Source Heat Pumps, available for $22.95 ppd. directly from the author, Steve Kavanaugh, University of Alabama, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, Box 870276, Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0276.

Since geothermal technology is not standard, you may not find anyone in your area qualified to install the complete system. For a list of certified installers in your state contact the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association, c/o Jim Bose, Oklahoma State University, College of Engineering, 482 Cordell South, Stillwater OK 74078-0154; ph 1-800-626-4747.

Manufacturers of geothermal heat pumps include Addison Products Co. (FL), 407-292-4400; Water Furnace International (IN), 219-478-5667; Command-Aire (TX), 817-840-3244; Florida Heat Pump (FL), 305-776-5471; Bard Manufacturing Co. (OH), 419-636-1194; ClimateMaster (OK), 405-745-6000; and Econar Energy Systems (MN), 612-422-4002.


Solar energy has a great appeal to homesteaders; it's renewable, quiet, non-polluting, and "free." But in higher latitudes where winter days are short, the sunlight that does reach the ground is weaker, and heat is more essential than in other places, solar heat doesn't work when it's most needed.

Unless you can use solar energy that was stored during the warm season.

That's what a geothermal heat pump does.

We found this concept interesting several years ago, investigated -- and lost interest because of the cost, and the state of the technology. Those have changed.

Our local Rural Electric Cooperative estimates that in this area (northern Wisconsin) a homeowner could save up to 70% on annual heating bills, and 66% on water heating costs.

As the ECONAR ads say, "Free heat for the taking. You don't have to pay to make it, just move it. The System 25 heat pump extracts it from your own backyard."
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Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related article on use of geothermal heat pumps
Author:Scharabok, Ken
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1995
Previous Article:Build an in-ground ice house.
Next Article:These homesteads are marked by smiles & experiences that last a lifetime.

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