Geothermal Frequently Asked Questions


+ What is geothermal heating and cooling?

Geothermal heating and cooling is based on the fact that the temperature a few feet underground remains constant while the temperature of the air above ground fluctuates greatly with a change of seasons. Below the ground is an abundant source of energy equal to about 500,000 times the amount of energy contained in all of the earth's oil and gas reserves. Geothermal systems have low operating costs because most of the energy is provided for free from the ground. A Go Geo™ system uses a small amount of electricity to move and concentrate these constant temperatures into a building to provide the most efficient, high quality heating and cooling option on the planet. Precisely placed underground pipes collect and move heat into a building during winter, or in summer, they move heat from the building into the ground thus providing comfortable temperatures at a fraction of the cost because energy is moved and not created.

+ How does a geothermal system work?

Heat is transported to and from the home through a series of extremely durable, highly conductive plastic pipes buried in the ground. A water based solution is then circulated to exchange heat between the building and the ground. Usually these are closed systems of vertically or horizontally placed ground loops which means the same fluid is circulated through the pipes without ever having to add more. During the heating season, the pipes collect heat from ground that ultimately comes from the sun. After the heat is transferred to the building, the fluid is then sent back to the ground at a colder temperature than it came in which facilitates heat transfer from the ground to the fluid. For cooling, the whole process is reversed with the flick of a switch so that it is the heat from the building that is transferred to the ground. Therefore the fluid exchanges the heat in the ground to bring colder temperatures back to the building where they are concentrated and thus delivering comfortably cool temperatures for the building occupants.

+ Is this a new, untested technology?

Humans have been using the earth's geothermal resources for thousands of years. However people usually associate geothermal energy with hot steam vents from deep in the Earth in places like Iceland and Yellowstone National Park. The geothermal energy our systems use is harvested closer to the surface and is provided by the sun instead of deep within the earth. The principles behind geothermal heating and cooling were developed hundreds of years ago. These systems have been around in the US for more than thirty years and today there are more than one million installations in use.

+ What is the difference between a traditional furnace and a geothermal system?

A traditional furnace must burn fuel to create heat which leads to harmful emissions for the environment as well as the possibility of death due carbon monoxide poisoning. In comparison, a geothermal system has no need for chemical combustion, thus no danger, because it is simply moving heat from one place to another. In summer, a geothermal system is very similar to a standard air conditioner. A traditional cooling system uses air as its source which can be very hot in summer resulting in an inefficient process. A geothermal system uses the stable temperatures within the ground as its source so the input temperature of the water is much closer to the desired indoor temperature which results in greater efficiency.

+ How efficient is a geothermal heating and cooling system?

Geothermal heating and cooling systems represent the most energy efficient and cost effective space conditioning available today according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE). The process of creating heat means that the highest possible efficiency of a traditional furnace will be 95% meaning you obtain 95 cents worth of heat for every dollar you spend. Since a geothermal system is simply moving heat from one place to another, efficiencies of 300% to 700% can be expected. Since up to 70% of the energy comes from the ground, you will obtain 3 to 7 dollars worth of heating and cooling for every dollar you spend. System owners can be confident they are using the most efficient, Earth friendly heating and cooling system on the planet because it is more efficient and cost effective to move heat than to create it.

+ Can a GHEX system be installed in extreme climates like Alaska or Arizona?

Geothermal heating and cooling systems have been installed successfully from the tundra of Alaska to the deserts of Arizona. These systems range in size from small homes to massive skyscrapers. The reason we can install in almost any location is because of the consistent temperatures below the ground. Under the ground it will always be warmer than the air in places like Alaska and cooler than the air in places like Arizona. As a result, the benefits can be shared by everyone, anywhere because they can be adapted to all climates.

Geothermal System Components:+ What are the components of a geothermal system?

A geothermal heating and cooling consists of a ground loop made of polyethylene pipe, heat pump, distribution system such as air ducts or a radiant floor, and an optional water heating desuperheater.

+ How much space does a heat pump and ground loop require?

Depending on land size/availability, a horizontal or vertical loop can be installed.  Vertical heat exchangers have the advantage that they require the least amount of land to install.  You can contact Go Geo to learn more about which GHEX (Ground Heat Exchanger) will work for you.

+ How long do the components of the system last?

The heat pump is usually guaranteed for 5 to ten years however can be expected to last 25 to 35 years, almost double the life span of a traditional furnace. The polyethylene pipe we use is extremely durable, is of the highest quality, and the manufacturer guarantees it for 50 years. In fact, some studies indicate it will last for over 200 years so you can be confidant that the loops will last generations.

+ What is a Heat pump?

Heat pumps use a cycle of expansion and compression to absorb and then concentrate heat. This heat is then transferred into a building in winter and to the ground in summer. Most people are confused by this "strange" process but they use the same technology everyday in their refrigerator. Your refrigerator removes heat from the food chamber and transfers it to the air in your home through a heat exchanger or series of pipes. Cold air is never forced into the refrigerator; the heat is simply removed to the point that the air feels cold. A geothermal heat pump removes heat energy from the earth to heat your home. A desuperheater can be added to the system to provide hot water to the building through this same concept. In summer, the process is reversed to remove heat from inside the building and move it into the ground, leaving a comfortable environment inside and also virtually free hot water.

+ Is a heat pump noisy compared to a furnace and air conditioning system?

The only noise they produce is from the water pumps and the compressor which is inside an insulated box making them one of the quietest options available to consumers today.

+ What size GHEX system will I need?

This will be determined by our in house engineers who will study all of the characteristics of the building and the surrounding climate to come up with your heating or cooling load. This load is the amount of energy your building will need in order to keep it at a desired temperature during all seasons. This load varies greatly with location and quality of construction, so you can contact us so we can provide you with an estimate of size and cost.

+ Will my GHEX system need a back up heating source?

The quick answer is no. However geothermal heating and cooling systems are typically designed to meet the cooling needs. This will be approximately 80% to 100% of the heating needs in most northern climates with an inexpensive electric or gas backup heater providing the rest at extreme temperatures. Sizing to 100% of the heating load would mean no backup cost and slightly lower bills but the added cost of a larger system may not make sense economically in some cases. The problem with installing a system to meet 100% of the heating needs is that the extra cost of a larger system goes into being able to keep up with nature at extremes in temperature that only happen a few times a year. Another problem can be that the system is so large that it only runs for a few minutes during summer which is not adequate to dehumidify the air.

+ What is in the fluid that circulates through the ground?

The fluid that passes through the ground loop, usually contains water and polypropylene glycol, a food grade antifreeze. Methanol is another option but some municipalities may not approve of its use.

+ Will my existing ductwork be sufficient for my GHEX system?

In most cases the existing ducts with be adequate with only minor modifications needed in a few cases. Test will be taken to ensure the ducts will be appropriate for use in a geothermal system.

+ Is my existing insulation sufficient for a GHEX system to work?

Existing insulation will be sufficient because we can size the system for whatever your heating and cooling needs may be. However, adding insulation and sealing windows and doors can mean you need a smaller system which will save you money. This also means spending less money on your bills each month which means a huge savings over the life of the system. Go Geo will evaluate your energy use to see if additional insulation will save you a significant amount of money.

How will a geothermal system work for me?+ Are geothermal heating and air systems safe?

A traditional furnace must burn fuel to create heat which leads to harmful emissions for the environment as well as the possibility of death due carbon monoxide poisoning. In comparison, a geothermal system has no need for chemical combustion, thus no danger, because it is simply moving heat from one place to another. You will never worry about the possibility of death for family members or employees due to a faulty pilot light or carbon monoxide.

+ Will a geothermal system be comfortable for my family or employees?

Geothermal systems have no need for combustion so the air is never “burned" which means cleaner, more humidified air. A system with no combustion leads to more stable temperatures which results in no hot or cold blasts of air.

+ What parts of the system are guaranteed?

All major components will have guarantee's ranging from 5-10 years and the polyethylene pipe is guaranteed for 50 years.

+ Can my GHEX system work in conjunction with my Furnace?

Some homeowners want to install a geothermal system however cannot see replacing a fairly new furnace. In this case there are dual source type systems that use the geothermal heat most of the time while also using their gas furnace to provide a back-up heat source when temperatures are extremely cold.

+ What effect will my Go Geo exchange system have on the environment?

The efficiency of a geothermal system has lead to the Environmental Protection Agency to name it the most environmentally friendly heating and cooling option available today. If everyone in the US used geothermal, it would reduce our carbon dioxide emissions, which are directly linked to global warming, by a huge amount equal to that of which is produced by our entire transportation industry. Since no fuel is burned, there are no on-site emissions of any kind.

The emissions will only come from a coal burning utility which means an average geothermal system produces a pound less of carbon dioxide for every hour of operation in comparison to a conventional system. Every part of our systems, from the ozone safe factory sealed refrigerant systems to the food grade antifreeze in the ground loop, are designed to provide the most environmentally safe heating and cooling option on the planet.

+ What type of maintenance will need to be done?

You can expect very little maintenance with an GHEX geothermal system aside from regularly changing an air filter. A Go Geo technician should do an overall check every few years to diagnose any unlikely problems before they could do damage to components.

+ Where do I find someone to service my GHEX system?

Go Geo exchange will provide full service of your system during the warranty period. The components of the heat pump can be serviced by most any heating and air professional because they are basically the same as an air conditioner that can be reversed.

Geothermal Applications:+ I know a GHEX system can be used in my home but can it also be used in a large building?

Many large buildings such as schools and businesses are saving thousands of dollars every year thanks to their geothermal heating systems. Knowledge of the benefits and payback are changing policy in some areas where they now mandate that every school must use geothermal heating and cooling. Businesses and industry are also catching on to geothermal because of the comfort, safety, flexibility, and huge savings over the life of the system. The flexibility of geothermal technology means that consumers can see the benefits that it will have for any of their projects such as green houses, fish farms, and industrial production. The quickest payback of all geothermal systems is found on large projects such as schools, hotels, apartments/condos, retail space, office buildings, industrial, and manufacturing space. Because of this many large construction companies are also using geothermal heating and cooling in all their projects.

+ Can a GHEX system provide hot water for a building?

A desuperheater may be installed in any residential sized building to provide hot water for use in the home. A desuperheater is a small heat exchanger located on the outlet of the heat pump. Heat is transferred from the heat pump to the desuperheater where it is usually transferred to the homes hot water tank and then to the shower or faucet for use. Traditionally these systems have the benefit of free hot water in the summer.

+ Can a GHEX system be used to heat my pool or melt snow and ice in parking areas?

As well as providing the best heating and air conditioning available today, geothermal systems can also serve many other uses. Water heating can be utilized with significant savings over a traditional water heater. Snow and ice can be melted to provide low maintenance and safety to the parking lots and sidewalks. The expense of heating a pool can be daunting but with geothermal energy, heating a pool can be done at a fraction of the price with more safety than a traditional pool heater.

Economics:+ How much will a GHEX system cost to install?

The cost varies on each project because each home varies in things like amount of insulation, available land, or orientation to the sun. Most homes will have a payback of 4 to 10 years with larger projects like schools having the quickest payback.

+ What is meant by "payback"?

Payback is calculated in many different ways depending on the person or organization. We first calculate how much more the geothermal system was when compared to the cost of installing a traditional heating and cooling furnace and air conditioner. For most cases this extra money is spent on the ground loop because the interior components are comparable in price for both systems. A calculation is then done to provide the amount of time it will take for the system to payoff this extra money with the monthly savings over a traditional system. For every 100,000 geothermal systems installed, it will save consumers about $750 million dollars over a 20 year period.

+ Where can I obtain financing for a GHEX system?

There are several options where a utility, the state, or federal government will give you money for installing a Go Geo system.

Why should I choose Go Geo to install my geothermal heating and cooling system?

1. Our installers are internationally certified and go beyond training by constantly updating their knowledge to use the most modern techniques available to provide you with all of the benefits geothermal heating and cooling is known for.

2. We are a geothermal heating and cooling company first and foremost. We don't try to adapt traditional heating and cooling techniques, design, and products for use in a geothermal system. Everything we do is specifically used for geothermal heating and cooling from initial design to how our loops are installed.

3. Many heating and cooling companies' prices are extremely high due to their lack of experience and the fact they prefer installing traditional systems. Much of the work is sub-contracted which means higher prices for the consumer. Go Geo handles almost every aspect of the installation which results in a more efficient construction process as well as a cost reduction for the consumer.

4. Our design is also done in house. Our design team is second to none with our engineer having unparalleled training and over 20 years experience in alternative energies.

5. We acknowledge that the future of heating and cooling will be geothermal based. For this to happen we know customers being satisfied with their Go Geo System is the highest priority. This satisfaction eventually leads an acceptance of geothermal heating and cooling as the preferred way to heat and cool a building.