Geothermal Heating and Cooling
No matter what climate you live in, the temperature throughout the year varies. For some climates that means blazing summers that cool to frigid winters. What many people don't realize is that the temperature below ground (regardless of climate or season) stays fairly consistent all year.
The ground is able to maintain a higher rate of temperature consistency because it absorbs 47% of the suns energy (heat) as it hits the Earth's surface. WaterFurnace geothermal systems are able to tap into this free energy with an earth loop. This technology is then used to provide your home or office with central heating and cooling.
During the heating cycle, a WaterFurnace geothermal heat pump uses the earth loop to extract heat from the ground. As the system pulls heat from the loop it distributes it through a conventional duct system as warm air. The same heat energy can also be used for a radiant floor system or domestic hot water heating.
In the cooling mode, the heating process is reversed - creating cool, conditioned air throughout the home. Instead of extracting heat from the ground, heat is extracted from the air in your home and either moved back into the earth loop, or used to preheat the water in your hot water tank.
Geothermal vs. Geoexchange: what's in a name?
Geothermal energy has been used to heat and air condition buildings for several decades, and during that time these geothermal systems have been called many different things. Some of the more popular variations include geo-thermal, geoexchange, ground-water, ground-water assisted, ground-water-source, water-to-water, and even our company name, water furnace heating and cooling.
Types of Geothermal Heat Pump Systems
This type of installation is generally most cost-effective for residential installations, particularly for new construction where sufficient land is available. It requires trenches at least four feet deep. The most common layouts either use two pipes, one buried at six feet, and the other at four feet, or two pipes placed side-by-side at five feet in the ground in a two-foot wide trench. The Slinky™ method of looping pipe allows more pipe in a shorter trench, which cuts down on installation costs and makes horizontal installation possible in areas it would not be with conventional horizontal applications.
Large commercial buildings and schools often use vertical systems because the land area required for horizontal loops would be prohibitive. Vertical loops are also used where the soil is too shallow for trenching, and they minimize the disturbance to existing landscaping. For a vertical system, holes (approximately four inches in diameter) are drilled about 20 feet apart and 100–400 feet deep. Into these holes go two pipes that are connected at the bottom with a U-bend to form a loop. The vertical loops are connected with horizontal pipe (i.e., manifold), placed in trenches, and connected to the heat pump in the building.
If the site has an adequate water body, this may be the lowest cost option. A supply line pipe is run underground from the building to the water and coiled into circles at least eight feet under the surface to prevent freezing. The coils should only be placed in a water source that meets minimum volume, depth, and quality criteria.
This type of system uses well or surface body water as the heat exchange fluid that circulates directly through the GHP system. Once it has circulated through the system, the water returns to the ground through the well, a recharge well, or surface discharge. This option is obviously practical only where there is an adequate supply of relatively clean water, and all local codes and regulations regarding groundwater discharge are met.