The Basic How and Why of a Geothermal Heat Pump

One of the most remarkable things about a geothermal heating and cooling system is that it has so few moving parts. There’s just that much less that can go haywire– that much less to need maintenance. And that in itself goes a long way toward decreasing the overall energy costs of Southwest Michigan homeowners who’ve gone geothermal.


Of course, there are some moving parts in the system. Most of them are found in its most conspicuous component, too: the geothermal heat pump.

This is the engine that drives the system. Its task is to transfer heat. And it transfers heat either from the ground into your house or from your house into the ground, depending on seasonal temperatures. Consequently, it’s a furnace and an air conditioner combined in one compact package.

The medium a heat pump uses to transfer heat is either water or an antifreeze solution. This liquid flows through underground loops of pipe that are attached to the above-ground heat pump. During heating season the liquid draws heat from the ground, the heat pump draws the warm liquid up into refrigerant coils, and the heat is then is circulated throughout a home by means of either a forced air or a hydronic system. During cooling season the exact opposite happens: the pump draws heat from your home and transfers it underground through those same buried loops. Oh, and somewhere in the process, various geothermal systems also provide domestic hot water.

The crucial difference between a geothermal heat pump and a ordinary furnace is that a heat pump doesn’t ignite fuel to generate heat. Rather, it takes heat that’s already there and just moves it around. That naturally makes it a much more efficient heating and cooling system. Understand this, too: underground temperatures most often remain at around 50º F through the year. The upshot? A geothermal heating and cooling system requires considerably less energy to cool your home than traditional air conditioners.

So … is a geothermal system the answer for your Southwest Michigan home? See this area’s geothermal gurus, the helpful folks at WaterFurnace Michiana.