Geothermal Heat - a viable alternative
Just what is Geothermal heating? Geothermal heating simply takes heat from the earth and makes it available for our use. Several variations exist. In some areas, particularly near areas of volcanic activity, ground water is naturally heated and spews to the surface in geysers or hot springs. You may have luxuriated in natural hot springs. Even where there is not naturally heated underground water, the earth itself maintains a temperature of approximately 12.8 C (55 F) at a depth of about 3 meters (10 feet). The absorption by the ground of solar heat and heat given off from radioactive decay result in this storehouse of heat.
Various methods of extracting and using geothermal heat exist. Hot water or steam from underground hot water is piped directly into radiators or may be used to generate electricity. The resulting heat may be used in spas, greenhouses, industries or homes. To access ground heat, air or water is circulated through plastic pipes buried underground. The ground heat transfers to the water or air and is then conducted to a home where it is extracted. In summer, the ground surface temperature is warmer than the earth deeper down, and air or water that circulates in the pipes is cooled and provides air conditioning to the home.
How does Geothermal heating compare as an economical alternative to other types of heating? The initial cost is high when compared with traditional air conditioning, but is offset by rebates by manufacturers, and/or federal or provincial agencies. Over several years, savings of 20% to 70% in utility costs are recouped, making this a very economical source of heat. Also, geothermal units require minimal maintenance. Besides the financial savings, owners can be confident that they are not creating greenhouse gases or depleting natural, non-renewable resources. Soil contamination is a non-issue.
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