One source of energy for heating and cooling solutions which has been often overlooked is geothermal energy. Lately, high oil and natural gas prices have caused many people to look at incorporating the use of this sort of energy into their new houses or developments.
A geothermal energy system uses the solar energy stored beneath the earth as the main source for your heating and cooling needs. The amount of energy which is stored beneath the ground is not minimal; about 47 % of the sun’s energy is stored underground. No matter what the temperature is above ground, temperatures underground remain fairly constant. These temperatures can range from about 7 degrees Celsius in Canada and the northern United States to about 21 degrees Celsius in the southern United States. In the Kamloops area, for example, the underground temperature at a development using geothermal energy remains a constant 13 degrees Celsius year round.
There are two different types of geothermal energy systems. An Open System takes water from an aquifer or deep lake, and sends it through a heat pump, which transfers the heat from the water into warmed air or water for the building. A compressor heats the air or water to the desired temperature and circulates it through the building through air ducts or radiators and flooring panels. The cooled water is returned to its source. (NOTE: Check with local regulations to comply with any laws or regulations pertaining to the obtaining of water for an open system or how this water is to be returned to its source.)
A Closed System is where a system of geothermal pipe loops are inserted about 100-300 feet underground. A water-based solution is circulated through the pipes. When heating is required, the solution absorbs the heat from the earth and transports it to a geothermal unit attached to the house. This unit compresses the transported heat to the desired temperature and pipes it through the air drafts of the house. When cooling is required, the warm air in the house is absorbed through the air drafts, and taken by the geothermal pipes underground where it is cooled. Excess heat is stored to pre-heat water in your house. The cooler, dehumified air is then piped back into your home. (NOTE: When considering this option, the solution used in these pipes must be approved by the manufacturer of the heat pump and by some government agencies.)
One example of a community currently using a closed system geothermal solution is the Sun Rivers Golf Community near Kamloops. The developer at Sun Rivers has installed indvidual closed loop systems for each lot which harnesses the balmy constant 13 degree geothermal heat. The geothermal ground loops are treated as utility infrastructure, and residents are billed a monthly fee for its use.
One of the main benefits to a geothermal system is the cost savings in your heating bill when comparing this solution to a gas, oil, or electrical system. Heating your home with a geothermal system is 1/3 the cost compared to electrical heaters or a traditional furnace. Another benefit is the lower carbon emissions from a geothermal system. When compared to an area where oil furnaces provided most of the energy, geothermal solutions produced over 60% less carbon emissions over a 20 year time period. Another benefit which goes hand in hand with lower carbon emissions improved air quality, which makes this system perfect with people with respiratory ailments. Finally, the lack of emissions paired with the fact that there is no outdoor unit in these types of systems means that limited maintenance is required. Most units can last for 50 years with limited maintenance needs.
One drawback, however, comes in the initial installation of the geothermal energy system. In most cases, the cost to install a geothermal unit will be more expensive than installing a traditional furnace. However, once the capital costs for the installation are covered your monthly costs can drop dramatically.
When considering a geothermal solution, look for equipment certified by the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute, a non-profit organization which rates the performance of residential geothermal units. Also consider what your heating needs are before purchasing a solution. A system that is too large for your home will waste energy and may cost you more money in the long run.
Geothermal energy is an exciting alternate source of heating your home. The ultimate benefit for recreational property users is, of course, you don’t have to go very far to find it. Why not consider geothermal energy as a potential energy source for your recreational property?