What is Geothermal?

Did you know that there are heating and cooling systems available that heat and cool your space using energy from the earth? Literally translating to “earth heat”, geothermal heat pumps move heat back and forth between your home and the ground, depending on whether it is being used to heat or cool. Below the ground, near the frost line, the earth maintains a mild, near constant temperature. In the cold months of the year, this air is warmer than the air above ground, and during the warm months of the year, this air is cooler than that above ground.

To heat, the pump removes cool air from the space, sending it below ground though the heat exchanger where it is warmed and returned to the space. To cool, the pump pushes warm air into the ground, cools it, and recirculates it back into the space. There are two main types of geothermal heat pumps, which are determined by the type of heat exchanger that the system uses, also known as a loop. The loop is either open or closed, with multiple variations of the closed loop, as detailed below.


Closed Loop

With a closed loop system, a series of liquid-filled pipes are buried underground. The liquid is heated or cooled by the earth and is used to provide warm or cool air to the home. There are three options for closed loop systems:

  • Horizontal : If you have a sufficient amount of land available in close proximity to your home or business, the heat exchanger loops will be buried underground, horizontally. This type of system is often most cost effective, as the trenches do not need to be very deep.
  • Vertical : If you do not have a large amount of land to use for horizontal loops, you can dig deeper into the earth, allowing for vertical loops. While horizontal trenches are merely multiple feet deep, vertical trenches tend to be hundreds of feet deep. This type of system is often used in commercial settings, as a lack of land for trenching is common.
  • Pond/Lake : If your home or business is situated near a pond or lake, you may be able to take advantage of this lower cost option. A pipe runs from the heat pump to a circle of loops which are placed under the surface of the water.

Open Loop

Is your home or business located near a well with a sufficient water supply? Open loop systems use this source as the heat exchanger, pumping the water back and forth without necessitating an additional pump to perform this function. As a result, these systems may have a lower installation price.


It is important to understand that geothermal systems can be used for both residential and commercial application. No matter which system type you choose, the energy savings you see should be roughly the same. Depending on the size of your space, additional heating/cooling equipment may be required. While these systems may be costly to install, the main benefit to users is reduced energy costs.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy states that geothermal systems use 25-50% less electricity to operate as compared to standard heating and cooling equipment. Many users see a return on their installation costs in a few short years as a result of reduced utility expenses. Call Simanton Mechanical today to speak with a specialist regarding geothermal system installation.