Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. Thermal energy is the energy that determines the temperature of matter. The geothermal energy of the Earth's crust originates from the original formation of the planet and from radioactive decay of materials (in currently uncertain but possibly roughly equal proportions). The geothermal gradient, which is the difference in temperature between the core of the planet and its surface, drives a continuous conduction of thermal energy in the form of heat from the core to the surface. The adjective geothermal originates from the Greek roots γη (ge), meaning earth, and θερμος (thermos), meaning hot.

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Energy 101: Geothermal Heat Pumps

An energy-efficient heating and cooling alternative, the geothermal heat pump system moves heat from the ground to a building (or from a building to the ground) through a series of flexible pipe "loops" containing water. This edition of Energy 101 explores the benefits Geothermal and the science behind how it all comes together.

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When selecting and installing a geothermal heat pump, consider the heating and cooling efficiency, the economics of the system, and your site's characteristics. Be sure to find a qualified installer.

The heating efficiency of ground-source and water-source heat pumps is indicated by their coefficient of performance (COP), which is the ratio of heat provided in Btu per Btu of energy input. Their cooling efficiency is indicated by the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER), which is the ratio of the heat removed (in Btu per hour) to the electricity required (in watts) to run the unit.

Look for the ENERGY STAR® label, which indicates that the unit meets ENERGY STAR criteria. Manufacturers of high-efficiency geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) voluntarily use the EPA ENERGY STAR label on qualifying equipment and related product literature. Many GHPs carry the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ENERGY STAR label.

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Geothermal heating and cooling technologies

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Federal Tax Credits: Geothermal Heat Pumps

Geothermal heat pumps are similar to ordinary heat pumps, but use the ground instead of outside air to provide heating, air conditioning and, in most cases, hot water. Because they use the earth's natural heat, they are among the most efficient and comfortable heating and cooling technologies currently available.


Must meet the requirements of the ENERGY STAR program which are in effect at the time of the expenditure. Tax credits includes installation costs.

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