How to Choose and Install a Geothermal Heat Pump System

Posted By Posted by Tom's Mechanical || 18-Aug-2014

How to Choose and Install a Geothermal Heat Pump System

Posted by Tom's Mechanical

When it comes to efficiency, it doesn't get much better than a geothermal heat pump (GHP). We've already discussed the efficiency benefits of heat pumps in a previous post, as well as the added benefits of geothermal systems.

If you're interested in installing a geothermal heat pump on your property, read on for a step-by-step guide to the process.

Geothermal Heat Pump Basics

In case you're unfamiliar with the basic tenants of geothermal heating and cooling, here is a quick explanation of how it all works.

Shallow ground temperatures are more or less consistent throughout the Continental United States, and geothermal heat pumps can utilize those constant temperatures to regular the climate of your home.

The benefits of this type of system are enormous. Although there is a higher cost of installation relative to other methods of heating and cooling, geothermal systems can save 40 to 80% in long-term energy costs.

Check out this video from the U.S. Department of Energy to learn even more about geothermal heat pump systems.

Assessing Your Property

Before you dive into the buying process, it's important to evaluate your property to be sure it can accommodate a geothermal system.

Have your local specialist investigate the geology and hydrology of your property to determine what type of geothermal system, if any at all, is suitable.

Choosing a System

geothermal_heat_pump_types

Although geothermal heat pumps make up a very specific niche in the HVAC industry, there are still plenty of choices. However, your decision will be dependent on your property.

The three major types of geothermal systems are outlined below. For more information on each type of system, visit energy.gov.

Closed-loop systems
Closed-loop systems utiliz a length of tubing, usually plastic, which is circulated with antifreeze and coiled deep underground. A special device called a heat exchanger conducts the heat derived from the loop to the refrigerant in the above-ground unit, which then regulates the temperature of your home.

Closed-loop systems can be installed in several configurations – horizontal, vertical, or in a pond or lake.

Open-loop systems
Open-loop systems utilize surface body or well water to regulate temperature rather than antifreeze. The water is circulated through the system, run through an exchanger the same as in a closed-loop system, and then discharged in a separate well.

Hybrid systems
Hybrid systems that utilize a combination of geothermal resources are also available. Since these systems vary from installation to installation, there is no standardized description.

SEER, EER, and COP Ratings

While shopping for a geothermal unit, you're likely to see several efficiency ratings that aren't familiar to the average joe – SEER, EER, and COP. Thankfully, these ratings are pretty simple to understand once you learn the basics.

The SEER rating (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) represents the ratio of a unit's cooling power to the amount of electricity it burns through. In simple terms, the higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the unit.

During your shopping experience, you'll probably see units that are rated with EER and COP instead of a single SEER rating. Don't let those measurements scare you! Although the details of how EER and COP are calculated are beyond the scope of this article (Don't worry. You won't need to calculate those ratings on your own. The manufacturer will always provide them), you can easily use them to figure out the SEER of any given unit.

If all you're given is an EER and COP rating, simply divide the EER by the COP to get the SEER.

Installing the System

closed_loop_geothermal_heat_pump

Geothermal heat pump installation is by no means a do-it-yourself project. The advanced knowledge and equipment required to install a geothermal system are far beyond that of even the most avid DIYer.

To find a suitable installer for your system, get in touch with the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association, your local utility provider, or the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium. Any of these three resources will be able to help you find the perfect people for the job.

Use this guide in conjunction with the assistance of your local geothermal specialist to find the perfect system for your home.

Photo credits:

1. Photos via Energy.gov

2. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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