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"Geothermal" Systems

Updated on January 29, 2014

Heat Pumps Require Attention

There is heat at a very shallow depth below the surface of the earth on which we all exist. This is because the earth is very hot at its core. You don't have to live near a volcanic area in order to use a heat pump to extract heat from below the ground. Generally, in most parts of the world where people live in moderate climates, a temperature of fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit is found at a fairly accessible depth of ten to fifteen feet, which is almost guaranteed any time of year, even in freezing cold winter temperatures.

Geothermal heating requires a heat pump and other equipment to be installed to make use of this natural heat. But without maintenance, the system will not work properly. Here are some of the maintenance and care issues that often come up, and some practical advice from people in the field of geothermal heating equipment installation and repair.

If the efficiency of your heat pump isn't what it ought to be, your contractor may want to test the system to make sure there is the proper amount of refrigerant charging your unit. Your contractor may have to add or subtract some refrigerant from your unit in order to make it work right.

A contractor will also want to test for proper air flow. A heat pump that is covered up during cold winter days will not work correctly. It should be left uncovered.
If your house has trouble with humidity levels, bacteria, or mold, your contractor will check the condensate drain of your unit to see whether it's clogged.

Proper maintenance of your equipment requires inspecting, cleaning, and changing its filter. Some filters are inside the unit; others are in the ducts.
Of course some of the more obvious things might be a blown fuse, tripped circuit breaker, or thermostat set to the wrong temperature.

If you are used to a furnace, you should have patience with a heat pump, which does not put out heat as quickly. Heat pumps that are not installed correctly often do not work well in freezing temperatures when drainage freezes on the coils. A supplementary indoor unit is necessary to keep your home warm on such days, and should have been installed along with the outdoor unit.

The coils on the outdoor condensing unit also must be kept clean and free of debris such as leaves and paper. Meanwhile, other types of clutter may block vents indoors, such as clothing or toys.

In some cases the unit's blower won't be working properly, which is a situation requiring the assistance of a technician, unless you see that the thermostat's been turned to Fan instead of Auto, causing continuous blowing.

Otherwise, a technician may have to adjust the Limit Switch on your unit to the proper lower and upper temperature range for automatic blower shut-off.
Bad noises coming from the heat pump may indicate the need to replace its bearings. Of course a licensed technician will be needed for that job as well.

It may take a lot of money to get a geothermal system in your home, but after it's installed the upkeep is fairly low. The savings in electricity and gas would be significant.

But if there's a poor installation job done, or the system has another defect such as an inadequately designed component, there can be a lot of trouble and regret in installing a geothermal system.

Installation costs can range up to twelve to fourteen thousand dollars, minus any government incentives offered. But modern times have brought improvements in new geothermal systems, which now avoid many of the problems encountered in the past.

In the United States, many people who spent the money for a geothermal system have found themselves pleased with their investment. But it takes time to reach the point where savings in utility bills will offset the cost of installation. Usually, customers after about seven years start to feel they've broken even or even advanced their home economy.

It is estimated that geothermal systems actually will last longer than traditional systems. This is another advantage for avoiding total replacement of the heating and cooling system in a home. Geothermal systems could last for one hundred years or more.

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