Geothermal Heating

We are all looking for the cheapest electricity and natural gas prices, after all the less we spend on our fuel bills the more we have left over for the pleasures in life. So how attractive would it be to heat your home for free? It is possible by using geothermal energy.

The Queen of England is planning to cut energy bills at Buckingham Palace for centuries to come by creating an underground network to extract heat from the earth’s natural warmth. The pipes containing water and a refrigerant chemical will run from the palace to the 4 acre lake in the grounds. As the water runs through the coiled loops of pipe placed on the bed of the lake it is warmed to a temperature of around 55F/12C. When the water arrives back at the palace it will go through a compressor which raises the temperature to around 140F/60C, and then through a heat exchanger (metal plates) which warms the water used in taps and the heating system in the palace. There is of course considerable capital expenditure required to get the system up and running, but it is estimated that this will be recouped in 3 years by savings on the heating bills.

The liquid in the pipes can also be decompressed so that instead of generating heat, it can cool air for an air-conditioning system. This system was used in a small trial at the palace in 2002 when the Queen’s staff drilled 400 feet into the chalk aquifer under the palace grounds to run an air-conditioning system in a new art gallery. The results of this trial were reportedly so impressive that work on planning the larger scheme began soon after.

Other high net-worth people like the singer Elton John with large estates in the UK have installed a similar system. But can the ordinary householder tap into geothermal energy and save money on heating and electricity bills? Yes, for the price of a small car it is possible to drill hundreds of feet into the ground and you can not only reduce heating and electricity costs by around 70% but you can also benefit from a free supply of pure water.