Geothermal Systems 101: What Are Horizontal and Vertical Loops?

April 21, 2015
Ross and Witmer

Charlotte area homeowners are increasingly turning to heat pumps to control the temperature in their homes. Traditional heat pumps move heat through the air, but geothermal heat pump systems are different in that they use groundwater to heat and cool the home.

Geothermal Systems

Despite changing temperatures in the air, the ground temperature remains relatively the same. In cold weather, the ground temperature is warmer than the air temperature, and in hot weather, the ground temperature is cooler than the air temperature. Geothermal systems use this constant temperature in groundwater to exchange heat and bring homes to comfortable levels.

Types of Geothermal Systems

Two of the most common configurations for geothermal heat pumps are horizontal and vertical loops. Both of these configurations are closed loop, meaning that antifreeze moves continually through the system’s pipes without exiting the system. The heat pump transfers heat between that loop and the heat pump to provide a comfortable temperature. In order to exchange heat properly, these pipes must be installed below ground.


Horizontal installations are typically used in residential areas, particularly in areas of new construction where there’s enough land to support the installation. A trench measuring approximately four feet deep is used to hold the pipes where the heat exchange will take place in the ground. Pipes can either lay side by side or at different depths in order to create the closed loop system.


Typically used with larger buildings, vertical systems use pipes that are installed standing up as opposed to lying flat. This installation method is typically used when a horizontal installation isn’t practical due to the amount space that would be required.

Learn more about Ross & Witmer’s services for geothermal systems, or call 704-392-6188 to schedule an appointment for your home heating and cooling needs!

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