Geothermal Heating System Services in DC Metro Area
Geothermal Heat Pumps: Why You Need a Geothermal Heating and Cooling System
Iceland is a country known for its smart use of renewable resources. In 2014 approximately 85 percent of Iceland’s energy use came from renewable resources. Of that 85 percent, 66 percent of the energy came from geothermal sources.
Once a poor country that relied on fisheries for its economic growth, Iceland has tapped into its natural reserves of heat energy and is now has a thriving economy that depends heavily on tourism. Geothermal heat has much to do with this growth and catapult into the twenty-first century.
When you use geothermal heat pumps, you help save the planet, save yourself money, and harness a renewable energy resource.
What is Geothermal Heating and Cooling and How Does It Work?
The moving air above the earth’s surface constantly changes temperature. You can experience the extremes of both heat and cold even in a single environment. The temperature a few feet below this surface, though, stays steady.
Once you get twelve feet underground, the temperature remains the same regardless of the air temperature above it. Geothermal heating and cooling units take advantage of this constant temperature by harnessing the heat and then either transferring it to a home to heat it or creating a heat sink so the home cools.
Average geothermal heat pump systems have a ground loop system with a heat exchanger, water solution, and ductwork that leads to the building. In the winter, the water solution absorbs the heat from the ground, and as it travels through the pipes underground. The pipes take this warmed water into a home where the heat pump converts the heat from the water into the air that it then pumps throughout the home to heat it.
In the summertime, the system works in reverse. It pulls heat from the home and then either pump it back into the ground or redirects it to a hot water system to heat water in the home. Because geothermal heat is growing in popularity, systems will vary. But the concepts explained above are standard among all heat pumps.
The Different Types of Geothermal Systems
The most common type of geothermal system is a ground source heat pump. A ground source heat pump works in the typical fashion, transferring heat from the ground and pumping it into a home or working in reverse to pump the heat from the home back into the ground.
Geothermal heat pumps still require energy to run. However, they’re more efficient than an electrical system. Experts claim you can expect a 20 to 50 percent reduction in energy usage with a ground source heat pump. Thus, while a ground-source pump may not necessarily be completely fossil-fuel free, it uses far less energy than other heat sources.
How Does a Ground Source Heat Pump Work?
Geothermal installation is simpler than one might think. It begins with the pipes. A contractor buries a series of pipes or a series of ground loops. The heat pump above the ground pumps water or a different fluid through these pipes. This fluid passes through the pipes and gradually absorbs the heat from the underground soil, groundwater, or rock surrounding the pipes.
Once the fluid has passed through these pipes, it’s warmer compared to its beginning temperature because it absorbed the heat surrounding the pipes. It travels back to the building where the system distributes it for heating purposes. It can heat both space and water. If the system uses the heated fluid for space heat, a heat exchanger transfers the heat from the fluid into an existing air distribution or ventilation system. If you have a desuperheater, the heat can also heat the water in the home.
Once the system has removed heat from the water, the water heads back through the pipes underground to absorb more heat, and the process starts over. The water continues to recirculate.
A system such as this one requires little energy to run. Your system is grabbing the heat that is already there and bringing it into your home. The biggest expense lies in installing the ground loops or underground pipes. Thus, geothermal systems look expensive from the outset. Ground loop systems come in two varieties: open-loop and closed-loop. Of the closed-loop systems, you can have horizontal, vertical, and pond/lake systems.
A closed-loop system typically uses an antifreeze solution and not water in a closed-loop. The loop consists of plastic tubing buried underground. Sometimes you will find the loop submerged in water. The closed-loop system will have a heat exchanger that transfers heat from the heat pump’s refrigerant and the antifreeze solution. You can find vertical, horizontal, and pond/lake configurations in the loops.
You can also find a direct exchange. This means the system does not use a heat exchanger. Instead, the system has copper tubing through which the system pumps refrigerant. For a direct exchange to work, you have to have moist soil and a larger compressor. You need the right ground conditions that will not corrode the copper if you want the geo thermal installation to take.
If you’re building a new home, a horizontal geothermal heating installation might be your best bet. You’ll need some real estate to work with because horizontal configuration takes some room. You will need trenches dug at least four feet deep.
Then technicians place the pipes of various depths in the trenches. Sometimes a technician will go as deep as six feet and other times they may place one pipe at four feet and another at six feet. Sometimes a technician will use a slinky method, which means they will loop the pipe in a shorter trench.
Big buildings like schools and commercial buildings will use vertical geothermal heat pumps installation. They do not typically have the land you need for horizontal loops.
Vertical systems require a technician to drill deep holes about 20 feet apart and 100 to 400 feet in depth. Technicians will connect two pipes with a U-bend at the bottom and thus create a loop. They then insert those pipes into these deep holes and connect them to the heat pump.
A pond or lake configuration is the least expensive option for geothermal heat pumps. If you have a pond or a lake nearby, the technician can run a supply line pipe under the ground from your building to the water supply. They can coil that pipe eight feet deep under the dirt to keep it from freezing. You can use a pond or lake if it meets the minimum depth, volume, and quality requirements.
Open-loop systems do not use an antifreeze solution as closed-loop systems do. Instead, they use a well or surface body water as the fluid in the heat exchange system. This water moves directly through a geothermal heat pump system.
This system works well when you have a sufficient amount of clean water. You’ll need to make sure you follow all local regulations and codes with groundwater discharge.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Geothermal System?
When you begin to investigate geothermal systems, you immediately recognize the cost of a geothermal heat pump compared to a traditional electric furnace or HVAC unit. They cost more. However, they have immense benefits worth recognizing.
For one, geothermal heat pumps run quietly. You no longer have to sit in bed, wondering when the furnace will kick in. You don’t have to wait for its whine or loud hum to fall asleep because the geothermal system runs quietly.
Geothermal systems need little maintenance. They do not freeze up or overheat because of ambient air temperature. They run even when the outside air is extremely cold or warm.
Geothermal systems also last longer. On average, the components of the geothermal heat pump lasts 25 years. The coils do not need maintenance or repair for up to 50 years. Geothermal systems do cost several times what an air-source system might cost. However, experts say you can recoup the cost of the geothermal system in as little as four years, depending on the cost of your utilities.
How to Select a Geothermal System
As you consider a geothermal system for either your business or your home, begin by evaluating your site. Because shallow ground temperatures remain relatively consistent throughout the country, you can use geothermal heat pumps just about anywhere.
However, you need to consider the amount of space you have along with the geology of your land. If you do not have much real estate to work with, for example, you will want vertical loops. If you have a big building to heat, vertical loops make the most sense also.
If you have a home and have some significant land around you, you can use horizontal loops. If you’re building near a pond or a lake, then a pond loop system would work. Consult our geothermal technicians to help you figure out which system would work best for you.
What Is the Installation Process Like and What Factors Determine Cost?
Geothermal systems take more than just basic knowledge for proper installation. Do not attempt to tackle this project on your own. Rather, look for a qualified geothermal technician. Several factors affect the cost of your system. The quality of your ground and the size of wells needed will affect the cost. The size of your home and the space needed to heat also factor into the equation.
Installation begins with digging. Your contractor and technician will work together to dig the necessary trenches for the open or closed-loop systems. Contractors need specialized equipment and technical knowledge to install the pipes in your geothermal heating system.
The air delivery ductwork distributes the heated or cooled air through the house’s ductwork, just like conventional systems. The box that contains the indoor coil and fan is sometimes called the air handler because it moves house air through the heat pump for heating or cooling. The air handler contains a large blower and a filter just like conventional air conditioners.
When you install a new heating system, make sure your homeowner’s insurance policy covers it. Most will cover geothermal heat pumps, but call them just to make sure. Then begin the search for a reliable, experienced company that can install your geothermal heat pump.
How Do Geothermal Systems Save Money?
Geothermal systems are some of the most efficient systems on the market today. Yes, they cost a lot to buy and install. However, once you’ve had them properly installed, they put out more energy per unit consumed than your average air-source system.
Plus, many geothermal heat pumps come with a desuperheater. This little device also heats your household water. In the summertime, the pump will suck the heat out of your home and then use that same heat to heat your water, thus reducing the need to rely on a traditional water heater.
You can expect your water heating costs to go down significantly when you have a geothermal heat pump.
When you’re building a new home, you may be tempted to try to cut corners wherever possible. Furnaces are one way to take a big chunk out of the contractor’s costs. However, if a geothermal heat pump tacks $30 a month unto your mortgage, you need to remember you can easily save that much in energy cost each month with this system.
If you have an existing furnace that has petered out on you, you will also experience much lower utility bills if you retrofit a heat pump to your home. You might even be able to buy a geothermal heat system with an energy-efficient mortgage.
This program allows you to extend your mortgage to include the energy-efficient technology you’re using, like a geothermal heat pump. You can also find federal, state, and local incentives not to mention incentives from power companies that will help you purchase a geothermal heat pump. The utilities and powers-that-be want you to save money and energy as well.
Win With Geothermal Heat Pumps
You cannot lose with geothermal heat pumps. They work in cold and warm climates alike. They lower your energy consumption and your utility costs.
For the best technicians in the area, contact us. We’d love to hook you up to a geothermal system. We believe so strongly in our ability to install the best system, we even have a referral program where we reward you for telling people about us!