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Carney Plumbing, Heating & Cooling is the leading plumbing, heating and air conditioning company in Bucks and Montgomery Counties.
Get answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding geothermal heat pump systems below.
What is a geothermal heat pump?
A geothermal heat pump or ground source heat pump (GSHP) is a central heating and cooling system that pumps heat to or from the ground. It uses the earth as a heat source (in the winter) or a heat sink (in the summer). This design takes advantage of the moderate temperatures in the ground to boost efficiency and reduce the operational costs of heating and cooling systems, and may be combined with solar heating to form a geosolar system with even greater efficiency. Geothermal heat pumps are also known by a variety of other names, including geoexchange, earth-coupled, earth energy or water-source heat pumps.
How does a geothermal heat pump work?
A geothermal heat pump doesn't create heat by burning fuel, like a furnace does. Instead, in winter it collects the Earth's natural heat through a series of pipes, called a loop, installed below the surface of the ground or submersed in a pond or lake. Fluid circulates through the loop and carries the heat to the house. There, an electrically driven compressor and a heat exchanger concentrate the Earth's energy and release it inside the home at a higher temperature. Ductwork distributes the heat to different rooms.
In summer, the process is reversed. The underground loop draws excess heat from the house and allows it to be absorbed by the Earth. The system cools your home in the same way that a refrigerator keeps your food cool - by drawing heat from the interior, not by blowing in cold air.
The geothermal loop that is buried underground is typically made of high-density polyethylene, a tough plastic that is extraordinarily durable but which allows heat to pass through efficiently. When installers connect sections of pipe, they heat fuse the joints, making the connections stronger than the pipe itself. The fluid in the loop is water or an environmentally safe antifreeze solution that circulates through the pipes in a closed system.
Can I have a geothermal heat pump system installed in my home?
In most cases – yes. If your home is a single detached dwelling, it is likely the installation of a geothermal heat pump would be feasible and beneficial. Contact Carney today for a free evaluation.
Can I replace my existing conventional heating and air conditioning system with a geothermal heat pump system?
Again, in most cases – yes. A geothermal system can be installed utilizing your existing duct system. Contact Carney today for a free evaluation.
Does a geothermal heat pump system have an outdoor unit?
No. Geothermal heat pumps do not utilize an outdoor unit to heat and cool your home, instead, they use the renewable energy of the earth to provide warm and cool air.
Does a geothermal heat pump system provide hot water?
Yes. When in operation, a geothermal heat pump can be configured to provide hot water for domestic uses (showers, laundry, dish washing, etc.). In heating mode, a geothermal system will provide hot water in a more energy efficient manner than a traditional hot water heater. In cooling mode, the byproduct of the geothermal heat pump’s operation is heat – therefore it provides hot water for free! When the geothermal system is not in operation, your hot water is heated with a traditional water heater. Installing an additional water heater is optional for a homeowner, but not necessary in most cases.
If a geothermal heat pump can provide hot water, can it heat my pool or spa?
Yes. A geothermal heat pump system can be configured to heat your pool or spa in a manner that will reduce your current costs to heat either or both of them.
How energy efficient is a ground-source system?
A geothermal heat pump system is more than three times as efficient as the most economical fossil-fuel furnace. Instead of burning a combustible fuel to create heat, a ground-source system moves the earth’s energy. By moving heat, the ground-source system provides three to four units of energy for every one unit used to power the system's compressor, fan and water pump.
For more information on energy efficiency of geothermal heat pump systems, click here to view our Geothermal Cost Benefits page our click here to view our Geothermal Environmental Benefits page.
What is a “loop”?
A “loop” is an industry term for the underground piping that is connected to a geothermal heat pump to move the free and renewable energy from the earth to the indoor unit that circulates warm and cool air in your home.
There are several types of loop systems that are utilized in the United States. The most common type of loop system installed today is a “closed loop”.
Closed loop systems are environmentally benign. They are sealed so that no fluid is exchanged with the environment. The fluid often includes an antifreeze solution to protect the heat pump equipment. The connection process heats the pieces of tubing and fuses them together - effectively becoming one continuous pipe. The high density polyethylene piping used in geothermal heat pump systems is the same or higher grade of pipe used in cross country natural gas piping and closed loop systems installed by Carney come with a 55 year warranty (yes, that’s fifty five years)!
Do I need a separate loop for heating and air conditioning?
No. Your geothermal heat pump utilizes the same loop to absorb and exchange the earth’s free energy in both heating and cooling mode.
What does a loop look like?
A loop is simply a series of thermally fused black high density plastic tubing. If you want to see what it looks like, make sure you get a look when it’s being installed. Once the loop has been installed, it is buried and out of sight forever!
Is there a comfort difference with geothermal heat pump systems compared to conventional heating and air conditioning systems?
Yes. 97% of homeowners who replace their conventional heating and air conditioning system with a geothermal system report increased levels of comfort in their home.
Is a geothermal heat pump system noisy when compared to a conventional heating and cooling system?
No. First, geothermal heat pump systems do not utilize an outdoor unit, so any noise outside is completely eliminated. The indoor air handling unit will produce as much – or less noise than your current indoor unit. Many homeowners who convert to geothermal systems from oil are very pleasantly surprised by the quiet operation compared to their old system.
Is geothermal heat pump technology a new, risky “fad” type of technology?
No. Geothermal heat pumps have been installed in the United States since the 1940’s. Over 1 million geothermal heat pumps are in operation in homes, business, schools and government buildings across the United States. Approximately 50,000 geothermal heat pump systems are installed in the United States every year – most of them replacing inefficient, fossil fuel burning, environmentally harmful heating and air conditioning systems.
Do geothermal heat pump systems require extensive maintenance?
No. In fact, they require less maintenance than conventional heating and cooling systems. Carney recommends 1 annual maintenance visit per year for a geothermal system as opposed to 2 separate visits for conventional systems. It is therefore less expensive to maintain a geothermal heat pump system when compared to a conventional system.
I want to install a geothermal heat pump system but I don’t think I can afford one.
Due to the initial investment, this can be a common concern among homeowners. Many homeowners alleviate this initial burden by utilizing financing that can be secured individually or through third party lenders recommended by Carney. In many cases, homeowners employ intermediate term loans that are flexible and allow for convenient monthly payments that may be less than the monthly utility savings that they realize through the geothermal system. Contact Carney to schedule a free survey to provide an estimate of approximate savings and costs to see if a geothermal system makes sense for your home.
I am environmentally conscious. Is a geothermal heating and cooling system “green”?
Absolutely. In fact, it’s the “greenest” of all heating and air conditioning systems available today. In addition, geothermal systems can be combined with solar and wind power generating systems to further reduce your carbon footprint.
Do geothermal heat pump systems work well in our climate?
Yes. Due to their durability, flexibility, efficiency and ability to provide extremely comfortable home environments in both mild and harsh weather conditions (which we experience in Bucks and Montgomery Counties), geothermal heat pump systems are ideal for our climate.