The Fundamental 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 almost no moving parts. There’s just that much less that can get screwed up– that much less to need maintenance. And that in itself plays a huge role in lowering the overall energy costs of Knoxville homeowners who’ve gone geothermal.


That said, the system isn’t totally devoid of moving parts. the bulk of them are found in its most conspicuous component, too: the geothermal heat pump.

This is the engine that drives the system. Its role is to transfer heat. And it transfers heat either from the ground into your house or from your house into the ground, depending on the climate30. That being the case, it’s a furnace and an air conditioner united in one unobtrusive package.

What, then, does a heat pump use to transfer heat? Water! Well, that or a solution incorporating antifreeze. This liquid flows through pipe loops planted underground and attached to the heat pump, which is positioned above ground. During heating season the liquid draws heat from the ground, the heat pump draws the warm liquid up into refrigerant coils, and from there the heat is distributed throughout a home by either a forced air or a hydronic system. During cooling season it runs the other way ’round: the pump draws heat from your home and transfers it to the ground via those same buried loops. Oh, and somewhere along the way, more than a few geothermal systems also produce domestic hot water.

The basic distinction between a geothermal heat pump and a typical furnace is that a heat pump doesn’t set fuel burning to generate heat. Instead it takes heat that already exists and just moves it around. That naturally makes it a much more efficient heating and cooling system. Recognize this, too: underground temperatures typically remain at around 50º F year round. And that means? A geothermal heating and cooling system requires substantially less energy to cool your home than traditional air conditioners.

So … is a geothermal system best for your Knoxville home? See this area’s geothermal pros, the helpful gang at Pioneer Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc..