Power conservation through geothermal temperature regulation

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.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

7 thoughts on “Power conservation through geothermal temperature regulation”

  1. Um, $20,000 and extensive engineering work?

    Forgive me if I stick with a natural gas furnace.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.”

  5. U of T’s proposed geoexchange project on Front Campus is one of urban Canada’s largest

    With its expansive lawn flanked by heritage buildings like Convocation Hall and University College, Front Campus is the historic centrepiece of the University of Toronto’s St. George campus. Now, the iconic green space is poised to be at the heart of the university’s mission to reduce carbon emissions and meet ambitious climate change commitments.

    A new sustainability project proposed under U of T’s Low Carbon Action Plan aims to make Front Campus the site of a geoexchange system. Boreholes would be drilled deep into the ground to allow for storage of surplus heat, generated by mechanical systems in the summer, for use in the cold winter months.

    In effect, the system would use the Earth as a thermal battery for the storage of so-called reject heat, which is typically discarded into the atmosphere.

    The King’s College Circle Geothermal Project is predicted to yield annual greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions of 15,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by the year 2024, which would make it the single biggest contributor to U of T’s annual emission-reduction target of 44,567 tonnes.

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