Many of us old-timers can remember when the public school curriculum began metric system instruction. In 1970, I was a student at Skyline Elementary in Barstow, Calif. I distinctly remember Mrs. Sims sharing the Metric System with us in 1st grade, stating that by the time we were in high school, the Imperial measurements of miles, pounds, and pints would be all but history. I also remember the promise of electric cars, on-line shopping (they called it “TV shopping” back then) and solar energy; the whole world would be powered with free electricity from the sun within the next decade.
Things haven’t moved along as fast as we might have expected (it’s 46 years later…), but things are moving along, and for that I am grateful. However, I don’t hold out much hope for the Metric System catching on in the U.S. anytime soon. However, if I have to give anything up, I guess it would be the Metric System. After all, the Old-English, or Imperial System of measurement doesn’t create any greenhouse gases (GHG), or use any more energy than the Metric System (as far as I know). So there you go.
One of the forms of renewable energy that is enjoying widespread acceptance is geothermal heating and cooling; so much so that we are having remarkable interest at elementary and upper-grade level studies. I get increasing numbers of requests from kids all over the country and the world for information that they can use in reports and essays on geothermal heat pump (GHP) technologies. That’s great news.
Even George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch in Northern California is cooled and heated with geothermal, nearly 800 tons of it.
GHPs have a central role in the reduction of GHG emissions. GHPs can effectively eliminate on-site GHG emissions from buildings, and that’s a big deal. With few exceptions, the only reasonable way to provide a heat source for a building without combustion of fuels on site is by utilizing geothermal technologies. Geothermal is an all-electric powered technology, returning up to 5 kWh of heat energy for each kWh of electricity consumed. Magic? Not really; just science.
GHPs pump available heat from the shallow earth. They take a lower temperature source, and pump it up to a higher temperature. The heat can then be used for building heat and domestic hot water needs, and many other heating needs. Can we over pump the heat from the earth? That’s not likely; it’s renewed by solar energy.
The earth is the world’s largest solar collector (kind of obvious), but it’s also the world’s biggest solar thermal battery. Even if you live in a snow covered area, the summertime solar gains of the earth are stored all winter, just waiting to be utilized. As such, we just need a machine to pump it out of the earth, and that’s the geothermal heat pump’s job. Voila!
Geothermal heating and cooling systems seem to fly under the radar. Once they’re installed, there is not much to see. But they work well with solar systems, making the NetZero Energy efforts easier by reducing energy consumptions and peak demand. In short, it takes fewer solar panels to power a GHP than a standard air conditioner or heat pump; a win-win.
To help you find a local geothermal designer or contractor, just Google the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA). They’ve been around almost since I was in grade school, and they have an impressive list of professionals to help you out.