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Geothermal an Earth-friendly way to heat and cool your home

| April 22, 2010 9:00 PM

Northwest Geothermal owner Jason Bartel knows geothermal systems.

He began fusing geothermal pipe when he was 13 for his father, who had a geothermal company in Montana. At 19, he took at job for Loopmaster, the biggest loop installer in the United States for commercial geothermal systems.

The day before he turned 23 he was running his first job - a $2.2 million project in Grand Rapids, Mich.

He ended up working for a North Idaho heating and cooling company after marrying in 2006, and began his own company after the Energy Relief Act passed at the beginning of 2009.

"I had as much experience in geothermal, if not more, than anyone I knew in Coeur d'Alene, and the federal government had just started a 30 percent off sale on Geothermal systems. I cashed out my 401(k) and started a business," he said.

Bartel now works out of his Hayden home, and though he specializes in geothermal heating and cooling, his company has a mechanical contractors license that allows him to work on any aspect of a heating and cooling system.

Geothermal is the most efficient way to condition your home, however, Bartel said.

The system is typical in the sense that you still need duct work and a furnace. The main difference is how the system acquires the energy to condition the home. There are no fossil fuels to burn. Instead, geothermal systems using water circulating at 2 feet per second through a length of pipe. The system uses the ambient temperature of the earth - 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit at a 5-foot depth to cool or heat the water.

Those BTUs are then placed into the home for heating, and in AC mode, the heat pump pulls the heat out of the house. Some of the energy being pulled out of the home is used to make domestic hot water.

Most people ask how you can heat a house off 50 degree water. The answer is refrigerant, R-410A to be specific. When the entering water runs through the heat pump, it travels through a heat exchanger - a pipe inside a pipe. The heat energy from the water is transferred to the refrigerant and flashes from a liquid to a gas. This gas is then run through a compressor.

What happens when you increase pressure on a gas? That's right, the temperature goes up. The high-temperature Freon is run over the heat exchanger and you now have warm air conditioning your home.

The heat pump works just like your refrigerator in AC mode. Heat is pulled out of the space an sent somewhere else. In this case, it goes to making hot water.

What a novel idea, take heat where you don't want it and put it where you do! Geothermal is so efficient because of this basic thinking.

Air-to-air heat pumps work down to 25 degrees and then you need some sort of auxiliary heat to keep up to the heating demand of the home. When it drops below 32 degrees with a geothermal system, guess what? The earth is still 45 degrees at the 5-foot depth and you are still heating your home without burning expensive fossil fuels. No matter what the air temperature is the ground remains a constant. So now you know a little about geothermal and the basic function of a system.

If you have any questions, please contact Jason Bartel at (208) 819-1413 or Jason@greenNWgeothermal.com, and check out www.greennwgeothermal.com.

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