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September 12, 2010 9:00 AM CDT

Save Electricity and Enhance Air Quality With Geothermal Heat Pumps

Retired Oklahoma University researcher reveals benefits of geothermal heat pumps


Did you know Gerald McClain, after several decades working with geothermal energy leader James Bose at Oklahoma State University, has developed an innovative home geothermal heating and cooling model?

Heat pumps work like a refrigerator in reverse, they use electrical energy to transfer heat from one place to one other instead of generating heat directly.

Therefore, they can be 2 to 3 times more energy-efficient than typical electric heating units.

A geothermal heat pump is a central heating and/or cooling system that pumps heat to/or from the ground. It uses the ground as a heat source (in the winter months) or a heat sink (in the summer).

The geothermal pump systems are between the most energy efficient systems for providing HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning) and water heating.

The start-up rates are higher than normal systems (approximately $45,000 lowered by a 30 per cent with federal tax credit), but the difference is typically returned in energy savings in three to 10 years.

The Gerald McClain's geothermal system is based on:

  • Six one inch diameter pipes sunk 300 feet into the soft red clay below his home

  • A water antifreeze mix in the pipes that picks up the ground's constant 62 degree F. temperature

  • 3 heat pumps in the attic that use a small electric powered compressor to heat or cool the home
The power for the pumps costs approximately $100 per month, much less than the normal heating and cooling monthly bill in the area.

A well preserved heat pump unit not only will help save energy, but will also blow dust into the house, improving in house air quality.

Indoor dust can pose health hazards, specially to young children. New facts (As published in the site in September last year) reveals that indoor dust is highly polluted by persistent and endocrine disrupting chemical substances (such as poly-chlorinated biphenyls).

Heat pumps achieve energy efficiency by transferring heat around as opposed to liberating it. This is not to say there is no air movement with a heat pump, but the heat move reduces that process. So does the lack of a cold-cycle as it exists in many standard furnaces, which also acts to blow dust through the house.

About the Author

Lorie Wampler writes for the heat pumps reviews blog, a non-profit website targeted on her personal knowledge with air conditioning to lower energy usage and improve indoor air quality. With this she would like to increase the awareness on eco-friendly tips for the home and change the public perception of energy efficiency.


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