DIY Geothermal Cooling System

A Daylight Basement

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Another alternative energy you can use in cooling your home is geothermal energy. You can use the energy found in your own backyard by utilizing geothermal heat pumps. You can save up to 70% on cooling bills.

The bad news is that professionally installed geothermal systems are too expensive. The good news is that there are ways in which you can harness geothermal energy, to partially cool your house, without shelling out a fortune for it.

You might already be utilizing geothermal energy without realizing it. Northern state homeowners often use this renewable energy without their direct knowledge.

This article will teach you how to maximize the cool air that’s stored within your basement.

You need to have a basement, or at least some crawl space beneath your house, for this cooling method to work. You must be able to access the space from within the confines of your house. If the space has a small window or vent, then it will help with the air flow. You’ll also need a small portable fan for this one.

The principle of geothermal cooling works this way. During hot summer days the basement is cooler than most parts of the house. The basement’s exterior walls are controlled by the constant heat trapped a few feet underground, right next to the house’s foundation. The temperature penetrates the basement walls and cools the air trapped inside. You must then distribute the cool from this musty and damp air, throughout the rest of home.

The most efficient way of doing so is to cover your windows with shades or curtains during sunrise to minimize the natural heating by the sun. During nighttime when the outside temperature goes below 75 degrees, open your upstairs windows while leaving your fan on to suck in the cool air.

But ,once the temperature get higher than 75 degrees, you can turn on your geothermal cooling system by opening one of the windows in the basement. You don’t need to fully open it. A small opening is enough just to let some air through. Be sure to close all other windows in your house except for one. That way air flows through the open windows. The open window should be the highest one in your house. This will vent out the most hot air.

Your small fan should be turned on pointing towards the window. This should make the air from the basement go up to the open window and let the hot air go out. It usually takes between thirty minutes to one hour to circulate the cool air from the basement to the rest of the house.

This method of utilizing geothermal energy might seem to involve lots of work, but your family will benefit from it in the long run. You’ll see your dependency on your air conditioner decrease, resulting in lower energy bills.

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11 Responses to “DIY Geothermal Cooling System”

  1. Bruce Barney June 29, 2009 at 9:31 pm #

    Hi, I’m just about to shell out at least $25000 for a large capacity geothermal system for my house, but, costs apart, I’ve always wondered if there isn’t any other way that might minimize on the equipment and ground moving that’s involved in setting up such a system, all of which are not exactly green. Since I have a full basement that’s at least 7 ft below ground level and quite cool all summer, it would make a great deal of sense to circulate the air from down there through the rest of the house. So, I’m glad to have come across your article. One detail that I don’t fully understand is: when you say, point the small fan toward the window, do you mean the fan in the basement should be turned toward the basement window (it couldn’t possibly be turned toward the second floor window or the attic window), and if so, how does that aid circulating the air from the basement up the house toward the second floor window or the attic window? My second–or I guess third question–is, would it make sense to fit a piping system attached to a suction fan in the basement (which I can rig) and have the piping open to the first and second floors while leaving a second floor window or the attic window open (my house has open door access to the walk-through attic)? Thanks, Anna.

  2. Anthony June 30, 2009 at 12:36 pm #

    Hi Bruce,

    The fan that’s being talked about would be set up in the attic and pointed towards the open attic window. All this is trying to accomplish is to facilitate the airflow through your house. By forcing some air out at the highest (and hottest) part of your house, the cooler air from the basement will move up to replace the “lost” air. Of course there is more than one way of doing this, one could as you say put a suction fan in the basement, but it is generally more effective to have an extraction fan at the highest part of your house. Also keep in mind that this system does not necessarily replace a professional air conditioning solution, but it can be surprising how much difference these little things make sometimes. Whether you have a fan or not, the main thing you are trying to accomplish is to create an airflow, from the cooler air in your basement, to the rest of your house. So any system that accomplishes this will be of benefit. Just having a basement window open, and an attic window open will create this effect. Extraction fans or suction fans can increase the airflow.

    As a final point, if you have large windows or skylights, you should know that every square yard of window, will produce the same amount of heat as a small space heater on a sunny day. So just keeping these covered or curtains drawn will actually drastically decrease the amount of heat entering a house.

  3. Alex July 19, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    Hi, its 103 at the moment in Riverside Ca. I’ve been thinking about geothermal cooling. I don’t have long spaces for trenches, nor do I have a basement. However, I was thinking of using some kind of pipe (4″ pvc”) and making a corkscrew type structure (to increase volume in a small space) or perhaps I could do something similar in an accordion like design. Anyway, I’ve heard of systems where a 30″ diameter pipe was buried 10 down and ran 75′ to the structure. I don’t really have access to that size pipe, nor do I have an extra 75′. I could dig a pit, maybe 15′ deep, 10′ long, and 5′ wide. 10, 4″ by 10′ pvc pipes could be placed making an accordion or serpentine pattern and placed in the bottom 5′ of the hole, with 10′ of earth on top. A vent stack, with rain cap and screen. would be outside, perhaps in a shrub. the other end could come up through the foundation. I suppose I could dig through the floor of the closet to install an entry point. I would also install a whole house fan and an attic fan. I actually already have a couple of gable fans, but the prices on solar attic fans are down to about $200 at Lowe’s. I would probably add some kind of drainage point at the bottom of the hole. the volume of the pipe would be circumf x length or ~12 x 1200″ = 14400 Cubic inches or something like 8.73 cubic feet of cooled air. I think my calcs are correct. I don’t know if that is enough volume to make a difference. I wonder if using a bunch of 100′ garden hoses would work? they’d be easier to coil and bury? You could bury the coil on its side like a cork screw with some dirt in between, but all would be below 10′. Pipe insulation could be used to minimize compromising the foundation-(I don’t care about the work, but rather my wife when she sees the hole in her floor!). Hmm. . . . 3.14 x (1/2″) squared x 500′ (x 12″) =4710 cubic inches. Doesn’t sound nearly enough, but it seems like a good idea. The chimney idea, as opposed to a fan, seems good also. I saw an 8’x8′ x 30′ one at the ranger station in Zion national park. It worked really well.

  4. Alex July 19, 2009 at 6:56 pm #

    Ok, let’s try this again. I still think a coiled pipe would work. Lowe’s sells 100′ coil of 4″ perforated pipe with a nylon sock for around $60. One gentleman on another side (sadly, I can’t remember where) had success with a system that had 75′ of 30″ pipe 8′ below ground. this is somewhere around 64000 cubic inches. using the lowe’s coil: 3.14 x (2)squared x (variable)=64000. Wow, we’d need about 5100′ of pipe or 51 coils to equal this volume. I guess the real question is: how much volume do you need to cool a house? My house is, like 1200 square feet.

    • Anna July 20, 2009 at 10:33 pm #

      @ Alex – sorry I have not gotten back with you sooner. I am checking with someone who can probably answer your questions better than I can, and I will let you know!

  5. Brian@garage door repair July 20, 2009 at 10:22 pm #

    Would this work in multi-level homes? For example I have a three level home whereby you enter in on the second floor. A small stairway goes down to the bottom level, and a smal stariway goes up to the second floor, where the living area and kitchen are. And the bedrooms are up another small flight of stairs. With this awkward layout would the airflow be impeded?

  6. Anna July 21, 2009 at 4:17 am #

    @Brian – very good question. My first thought would be to experiment a bit. Possibly with more than one fan and a controlled airflow. It does sound like the airflow might be impeded, but perhaps directing the direction of the flow would be a possibility.

    As Anthony says above

    “All this is trying to accomplish is to facilitate the airflow through your house. By forcing some air out at the highest (and hottest) part of your house, the cooler air from the basement will move up to replace the “lost” air. Of course there is more than one way of doing this, one could as you say put a suction fan in the basement, but it is generally more effective to have an extraction fan at the highest part of your house. Also keep in mind that this system does not necessarily replace a professional air conditioning solution, but it can be surprising how much difference these little things make sometimes …

    “Whether you have a fan or not, the main thing you are trying to accomplish is to create an airflow, from the cooler air in your basement, to the rest of your house. So any system that accomplishes this will be of benefit. Just having a basement window open, and an attic window open will create this effect. Extraction fans or suction fans can increase the airflow.”

    I think this applies to your situation as well – I hope it helps, and thanks for posting your question.

  7. Anna October 12, 2009 at 6:56 pm #

    @Small Air Conditioner – please go ahead and contact me through email me if you would like to publish it, and we can make arrangements. You can email me through this page:

    http://findportablesolarpower.com/contact.html

  8. David@Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner November 9, 2009 at 3:49 am #

    Great tip, but it does seem like a lot of work. I have seen some people with geothermal systems for their homes, but they are very expensive.

  9. Rich April 15, 2010 at 10:20 am #

    I’d never try geothermal cooling system for my home and I am always afraid to do something I don’t know. However, upon reading your post I learned a lot of stuff and I could do your few tips and advices. They’re really useful and helpful. 😉

  10. Air Condition San Antonio February 17, 2011 at 1:10 am #

    Really an awesome post from you. I think in this way we can save a lot of energy and money. Also we can play our role in making our planet greener and more sustainable. Thanks for posting and sharing this.

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