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The earth absorbs almost 50% of all solar energy and remains a nearly constant temperature of 50°F to 70°F depending on geographic location. Working with an underground loop system, a geothermal unit utilizes this constant temperature to exchange energy between your home and the earth as needed for heating and cooling.
In winter, water circulating inside a sealed loop absorbs heat from the earth and carries it to the unit. Here it is compressed to a higher temperature and sent as warm air to your indoor system for distribution throughout your home.
In the summer, the system reverses and expels heat from your home to the cooler earth via the loop system. This heat exchange process is not only natural, but is a truly ingenious and highly efficient way to create a comfortable climate in your home.
Horizontal Loops are installed in areas where the soil conditions allow for economical excavation. Taking up more land area than any other loop type, they are used where space permits. Trenches are normally 5 feet deep. Normally, several hundred feet of trench is required.
Vertical Loops are used extensively where land area is limited. A pair of pipes with a special U-Bend assembly at the bottom are inserted into a bore hole that averages between 150 to 250 feet in depth per ton of equipment.
Lake Loops are usually very economical to install. If a pond or lake at least 8 feet deep is available, lake loops can utilize the water (rather than soil) for heat transfer. Reduced installation costs are characteristic of this type of loop system.
Open Loop installations actually pump water from an underground aquifer through the geothermal unit and then discharge that water to a drainage ditch or pond. Discharging water to a pond or lake is considered ideal.
Below is a video clip that explains how geothermal works.