Geothermal Energy Basics: Renewable, Affordable, Efficient!

As the world and homeowners explore new ways to reduce emissions, renewable sources like geothermal energy are finding new opportunities at power plants and in backyards.

Geothermal is a broad term that encompasses a range of fascinating technologies, some of which can benefit homeowners.

Learn more about geothermal energy and how to bring it home.

The Definition of Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is either 1) the heat found in volcanic springs or generated by the earth’s molten, radioactive core or 2) solar energy from the sun’s heat that’s absorbed just below the earth’s surface.

In any of its forms, geothermal is a continuous, endless source of heat that is available in nearly every part of the world.

By this definition, geothermal energy includes a variety of utility-scale and residential applications, including:

  • Geothermal power plants
  • Commercial ground-sourced heat pumps
  • Residential ground-sourced heat pumps

Is Geothermal Renewable or Non-renewable?

It’s renewable! Until the sun starts to run out of hydrogen 5 billion years from now, geothermal is an endless, renewable energy source.

Researchers are looking for ways to get more out of existing and planned geothermal power plants, which currently generate about 0.4% of US electricity output. In other places, like Iceland, geothermal power plants produce a very large or even a majority of the electric power.

Where Does Geothermal Energy Come From?

 Without getting into chemistry, the geothermal heat is constantly powered by the gradual decay of radioactive elements in the earth’s core. That heat rises toward the earth’s surface, where it pairs with solar heat in keeping the soil six to ten feet below ground at a consistent 55 degrees.

The earth’s heat is consistent, 100% dependable, and available 24 hours a day and year-round, unlike wind, photovoltaic solar, or hydropower. And it doesn’t have to be burned like natural gas – it just has to be harnessed and redirected to produce electricity and heat and cool our homes and businesses.

Related: Geothermal Advantages and Disadvantages

How Homeowners Use Geothermal Energy

As important as geothermal is to meet global energy demand, it’s having a real impact at home, too. Geothermal residential space heating and cooling systems provide heating that’s 300% more energy efficient than traditional fossil fuel-powered furnaces and boilers.

Ground-source heat pumps, or GSHPs, are the most accessible and affordable way for homeowners to lean on the earth for their heating and cooling needs. GSHPs use a network of pipes buried a few feet under your yard (or a nearby water source) to harness the ambient heat energy to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures year-round.

These systems are exceptionally efficient because the heat already exists (it doesn’t have to be created by burning something), which lowers energy use by 30-60%.

Is a Ground-Source Heat Pump Right for You?

Heat pumps are a cost-effective way to lower your home’s heating and cooling bills and reduce carbon emissions. With a 30 percent federal tax credit available, it’s never been a better time to learn more about geothermal heat pumps. Air-source heat pumps also come with generous federal incentives!

The friendly, professional HVAC experts at One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning will help you choose the right heat pump, access available financial incentives, and work with your geothermal system installer to install your shiny new GSHP in no time.

Find your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning or call (800) 893-3523 today to get started!