How to Install a Geothermal Cooling System
A geothermal cooling system is a sustainable alternative to central air conditioning that is both more efficient and less of a pollutant. Instead of super-cooling air and blowing it in to a home or building, a geothermal system draws the hot air out thereby lowering the interior temperature. Liquid circulates through a pipe loop buried in the ground outside of the building which acts as the energy transfer. The system works because there is a stable temperature below the surface of the earth, and it allows for the constant transfer of heat. In the winter the process can be reversed as well, making geothermal energy one of the cleanest ways to condition a home.
Step 1: Decide on a System
There are numerous methods for harnessing geothermal energy in your home. Which you use will depend upon the climate where you live and the presence or lack thereof of a fresh water supply. Basically, there are open loop and closed loop systems. Open loop systems move water from a well or pond and uses it to transfer the heat. Closed loop systems are sealed and rely on a mixture of water and antifreeze running continuously through the loop for the exchange. Since this is a highly involved procedure, talk to the installer about the right method for your home.
Step 2: Lay the Pipe Loop
Assuming you opt for the closed loop system, the next step is to install the pipe loop in the ground. It can run in a horizontal or a vertical loop. Again, this will depend on specific characteristics of your home, land and region. A backhoe is the tool of choice as there is a lot of digging involved, and it can get very deep. For residential use, a horizontal loop is recommended as it is more cost effective. There should be 3 trenches each 2 feet wide and 5 feet deep laid out side by side. Consult the installer for the proper length of the trenches.
Step 3: Connect the Pipe Loop to the Home Circulation System
After the pipes are in the ground, they must be connected to the home’s hot and cold air circulation system. The conditioned air that is generated by the geothermal system is delivered to the rooms of your home in the same way as with a furnace or air conditioner.
Step 4: Install Pump and Fan
Where the pipes enter the home there is a pump that works to move the sealed liquid continuously through the loop. As heat is drawn out, the fan works to blow the cool air through the duct system of your home. Both of these components are required for the proper functioning of the system.
Installing a geothermal cooling system is not a do-it-yourself project unless you have very specific training in the area. It involves work on a scale best left to professional installers. Consult with a professional geothermal installer and find out if there is any preliminary work you can take care of before the installation to help make the job efficient.