Geothermal (Ground-Source) Heat Pumps (GHPs) make use of a completely different set of principles than the kind of geothermal we commonly discuss. Where the latter relies on the transfer of thermal energy from one fluid to another, like an egg placed in boiling water, the former relies on the principles of refrigeration, i.e., the evaporation and condensation of a substance in an enclosed space.
But considering that many people are unaware of this, how large an effect does public ignorance have? It’s huge, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, which dubs this effect a GHP “energy crisis” in their recent report:
The basics of GHP technology have changed very little over the decades but a geothermal identity crisis has been detrimental to fostering awareness, understanding, and acceptance of the technology. Depending on the perspective, GHPs have been cast as an energy source by many names (renewable, geothermal, solar, earth, alternative, recycled), as energy efficiency or energy conservation, or as an option within a broader category such as utility demand-side management.
There’s plenty to get excited about in GHPs, whose basic concept is that even very cold water or cold air contains an appreciable amount of energy that be extracted and moved very inexpensively.
In the coming month or two, I hope to corral GHP expert and professional consultant Mark Metzner for a webinar on the subject. I’m sure listeners will be surprised and delighted to learn how simple, inexpensive and ridiculously underused this technology is. More soon.