A good alternative energy source available is geothermal energy. This allows you to heat and cool your home and it is particularly useful for off grid living when optimization is key.
The ground absorbs energy from the sun throughout the entire year. Geothermal energy maximizes this relatively constant heat in the ground by placing an underground piping system (called a loop, pictures below) along with a heat pump. Water circulates in the loop, exchanging heat between the pipes and a home or building.
In the winter, the heat is taken in by heat pumps below ground and then delivered indoors. In the summer, heat is absorbed from the home and transferred into the loop where it is taken in by the cooler ground. Now the heat pump uses the cooler water from the loop to cool a home.
The ground and lakes around us represent a vast reservoir of renewable thermal energy stored from the sun. This geothermal energy is estimated to exceed all other energy sources combined by more than two thousand times. At depths below 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3 meters), the earth’s temperature remains at or near the average annual air temperature above. During the winter, a geothermal system collects this low-grade thermal energy from the earth and concentrates it inside the house or building to provide space heating. For every unit of energy used by a ground source heat pump, a well-designed geothermal system can provide three to four units of heat energy to the building. All ground source heat pumps are rated by an industry standard called the Coefficient of Performance, or COP, which typically range from 3.0 to 4.0. This represents efficiencies of 300% to 400%.
Geothermal offers great benefits:
- Can be a combination heating/cooling and hot water heating system
- Some can save you up to 50% on your water-heating bill by preheating tank water
- Made of mechanical components that are either buried in the ground or located inside the home
- About the same size as a traditional heating/cooling unit
- Pipe carries up to a 50-year warranty
- Can cut energy consumption by 20 to 50% and reduce maintenance costs
- Very quiet, providing a pleasant environment inside and outside the house
- No open flame, flammable fuel or potentially dangerous fuel storage tanks