Power conservation through geothermal temperature regulation


in Economics, Geek stuff, Science, The environment

For those concerned about climate change or dependency on foreign energy, a home geothermal heating and cooling system may be just the ticket. Such systems take advantage of how the temperature is relatively constant underground, whether it is overly hot at the surface or overly cold. As such, it can be used to heat in the winter and cool in the summer, while using only a minimal amount of energy to carry out the heat exchange. While this is a pretty expensive thing to install in a single existing house after the fact, it seems plausible that it could be scaled in ways that make it economically viable in a good number of environments.

If electricity, oil, and gas really started to get expensive, you would start seeing a lot more such systems. Another example is the pipelines that draw cold water from the bottom of Lake Superior to cool office towers in Toronto during the summer.

Conservation may not be as technologically engrossing as genetically modified biofuels and hydrogen fuel cells, but it is definitely a proven approach.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

DBT August 8, 2006 at 4:50 pm

Um, $20,000 and extensive engineering work?

Forgive me if I stick with a natural gas furnace.

Milan February 17, 2009 at 2:41 pm

It is certainly tougher to build such things into existing buildings than to design them into new ones.

In the right sort of climate, the up-front costs may be more than justified.

Magictofu February 18, 2009 at 7:40 am

I own a geothermal heat pump and yes the upfront costs can be overwhelming. In general, the larger the building you intend to heat, the faster the equipment will repay itself. Smaller houses rarely benefit from such big investments. Most of the extra cost is associated with drilling but people who have access to a private pond or a well might be able to avoid drilling.

I am not yet in a position to calculate how much I am saving per year (It was only installed last summer) but I believe it is well over $2000 a year compared to my previous system and probably over $3000 a year. At that rate it does not take long to get your initial investment back.

. June 22, 2010 at 10:18 pm

New Air Conditioner Process Cuts Energy Use 50-90%

“The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory has announced that it has developed a new method for air conditioning that reduces energy use by 50-90%. The DEVap system (Desiccant-Enhanced eVaporative air conditioner) cools air using evaporative cooling, which is not new, but combines the process with a liquid dessicant for pulling the water vapor out of the cooled air stream. The liquid dessicant, a very strong aqueous solution of lithium chloride or sodium chloride, is separated from the air stream by a permeable hydrophobic membrane. Heat is later used to evaporate water vapor back out — heat that can come from a variety of sources such as solar or natural gas. The dessicants are, compared to typical refrigerants like HCFCs, relatively benign on the environment.”

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