The Hidden Genius Of Geothermal HVAC Systems

August 24, 2020

For more than 60 years, geothermal HVAC systems have been used in the U.S. and around the world. They work with nature, not against it. They can heat and cool a home without burning any fuel or emitting greenhouse gases.

The popularity of geothermal energy began around 2005 though when The Energy Policy Act of 2005 was signed into law. It changed the U.S. energy policy by providing tax incentives and loan guarantees for various types of energy production. It included provisions aimed at making geothermal energy more competitive with fossil fuels in generating electricity. In fact, according to, there are approximately 50,000 geothermal heat pumps installed in the United States each year.

From Then Until Now

Even though archaeological evidence shows that the first human use of geothermal resources in North America occurred more than 10,000 years ago, there are more timely examples to study. As European settlers moved westward across the continent, they gravitated toward springs of warmth and vitality. In 1807, settlers founded the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas, where, in 1830, Asa Thompson charged one dollar each for the use of three spring-fed baths in a wooden tub, and the first known commercial use of geothermal energy occurred. Akin to the comfort and luxury of a modern hot tub, geothermal energy warmed the Hot Springs water. The energy originates from the heat retained within the Earth since the original formation of the planet, from radioactive decay of minerals, and from solar energy absorbed at the surface. It really is a very simple idea that has since been harnessed into an HVAC system that makes use of a geothermal heat pump or ground source heat pump (GSHP) that transfers heat to or from the ground, without any intermittency. In essence, the pump acts as a heat source (in the winter) or a heat sink (in the summer). But what makes these systems differ from traditional furnaces and air conditioners?

Illustration showing green home energy

How Do They Work?

Even though the temperature in the air changes frequently, the temperature underground remains relatively constant. This ground temperature is warmer than the air above it during the winter and cooler than the air in the summer. Geothermal heat pumps use that to their advantage. They pump underground heat into buildings, heating your home with a fraction of the energy needed by an air-based system. During the summer, the heat pumps can reverse that process and pump the heat from your home back into the ground, cooling your home.

As the sun heats the earth, geothermal heat pumps push this heat to water and antifreeze mixture-filled underground pipes. This heated water is pushed through the heat pump, which transfers it to the air using a conventional ductwork system. In the summertime, this process is reversed and excess heat is pumped from the home into the ground or redirected to heat hot water in order to cool the home.


Geothermal systems can offer space heating, space cooling, and water heating from a single system. Geothermal heat pumps usually have no outdoor compressors or cooling towers whereas, with traditional HVAC systems, a furnace is used for heating and an air conditioner for cooling. Add to it a water heater that acts separately to provide hot water throughout your home. With these various systems come multiple moving parts that require regular maintenance. Geothermal systems have fewer components which means fewer parts and less overall maintenance.


As with most home sustainability features, geothermal heating and cooling systems are more expensive to install than traditional heating and cooling systems. This is largely because of the ground loop component that has to be installed in order to absorb and transfer ground heat below the soil. While more expensive to install, geothermal heating and cooling systems are less expensive to operate than traditional HVAC systems. They are more efficient than their fossil-fuel counterparts. The lower operating costs generate a rather quick ROI (return-on-investment). Homeowners typically recoup their investment in less than five years! Homeowners can save 30–70 percent in heating costs, and 20–50 percent in cooling costs, compared to conventional HVAC systems. It is a great way to save money and stay comfortable.

To find out if your home is eligible for geothermal heating and air contact Joe Blanchard at Rich’s Heating + Air in Wallace, NC. The team at Rich’s is prepared to assess your needs, suggest a perfect system, and install.

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