December 20, 2016
By Mark Paup

Will Frozen Ground in Winter Affect a Geothermal Heating System?

Updated January 17, 2024

We’re big advocates for using geothermal systems for home comfort. These ground-source heat pumps work at high efficiency, helping to save money month after month, last for decades, and are environmentally friendly.

But people often feel a bit hesitant about going with a geothermal heating and cooling system for their home. This reluctance is often based on misunderstandings about how geothermal systems work. For example, when winter comes, the frozen ground seems like it would be a problem for a geothermal system. How can the refrigerant loops draw any heat from the ground when it’s that cold?

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Don’t Worry: Geothermal Energy Has You Covered

The frozen ground does not affect a geothermal heat pump. Geothermal systems are often recommended to get around the problem of intensely cold weather that places a strain on air-source heat pumps. The ground loops that take care of heat exchange for the geothermal system are usually buried approximately ten feet in the ground. (Vertical loop configurations will be much deeper.) At that point, the loops are well below the frost line and are not affected by the cold of the upper layer of the ground.

The temperature at the level where the loops are buried experienced very little temperature fluctuation. No matter how cold (or hot) the aboveground temperature gets, the loops will have access to around 54°F of heat. That’s more than enough to allow the heat pump to function at high energy efficiency in either heating or cooling mode.

The only real challenge that frozen ground presents to geothermal systems is having them installed. It’s tougher to dig the trenches. That’s why you should move fast if you want a geothermal heating and cooling system installed for this winter. Call us today to find more information.

Golden Rule serves Des Moines, IA with quality heating. “We Obey the Rules to Live By.”

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