Community associations are increasingly looking toward environmentally-friendly options to heat, cool and power their properties in order to reduce their carbon footprint and save money. Wind turbines, solar panels, combined heating and power (CHP), and various other energy alternatives all provide varying degrees of efficiency and savings, while simultaneously ranging in availability and viability depending on one’s area and building type.
An arguably lesser-discussed option – at least on a residential level – is geothermal heating and cooling, a method of re-allocating heat from the earth itself and utilizing it in one’s dwelling. The U.S. Energy Department website lays out how this works:
“Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs), sometimes referred to as GeoExchange, earth-coupled, ground-source, or water-source heat pumps, have been in use since the late 1940s. They use the constant temperature of the earth as [an] exchange medium instead of the outside temperature.
“Although many parts of the country experience seasonal temperature extremes – from scorching heat in the summer to sub-zero cold in the winter—a few feet below the earth’s surface the ground remains at a relatively constant temperature. Depending on latitude, ground temperatures range from 45°F (7°C) to 75°F (21°C). Like a cave, this ground temperature is warmer than the air above it during the winter and cooler than the air in the summer. The GHP takes advantage of this by exchanging heat with the earth through a ground heat exchanger.
“As with any heat pump, geothermal and water-source heat pumps are able to heat, cool, and, if so equipped, supply the house with hot water. Some models of geothermal systems are available with two-speed compressors and variable fans for more comfort and energy savings. Relative to air-source heat pumps, they are quieter, last longer, need little maintenance, and do not depend on the temperature of the outside air.