Geothermal Heat Pump Installation Options

The ground heat exchanger in a GHP system is made up of a closed or open loop pipe system. Most common is the closed loop, in which high density polyethylene pipe is buried horizontally at 4-6 feet deep or vertically at 100 to 400 feet deep. These pipes are filled with an environmentally friendly antifreeze/water solution that acts as a heat exchanger.

There are four basic types of ground loop systems. Three of these — horizontal, vertical, and pond/lake — are closed-loop systems. The fourth type of system is the open-loop option. Which one of these is best depends on the climate, soil conditions, available land, and local installation costs at the site. All of these approaches can be used for residential and commercial building applications.

The installation of a GHP system is not for the do-it-yourselfer. Contact local utilities for references on licensed and experienced installers. In addition, many states have Heat Pump Councils which may provide additional referrals.

GHP Open-Loop Systems

GHP geothermal heat pump Open-Loop System

This type of GHPS uses well(s) or surface body water as the heat exchange fluid that circulates directly through the Geothermal heat pump system (GHP). 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.

Vertical Closed-Loop Installation

geothermal heat pump Vertical Closed-Loop GHP

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 to 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.

Horizontal closed-loop type of installation

Horizontal closed-loop system GHP

Horizontal closed-loop 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. Or, the Slinky method (shown) 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.

Pond/Lake ground loop systems

Geothermal Heat Pump Pond/Lake ground loop system ,

If the site has an adequate water body, this may be the lowest cost option. Asupply 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.

Heat pump glossary

Heat pump glossary of Terms
Since the following pages will be devoted to the understanding of heat pumps and their applications it will be helpful to become familiar with the following terms:

Heat Pump--A heat pump is any device that moves heat from one place toanother.
Heat Source--The area where heat is taken from. (Water, air, etc.)
Heat Sink--The area where heat is deposited. (Inside a home, etc.)
Evaporator--The heat absorbing mechanism in a heat pump.
Condenser--The heat rejecting mechanism in a heat pump.
COP--The coefficient of performance of a heating system is a ratio of the heat we get out divided by the heat we put in electrically.
SCOP--The SEASONAL COEFFICIENT OF PERFORMANCE is the average COP over the entire heating season.
EER -- The ENERGY EFFICIENCY RATIO is the ratio of Btu's of cooling dividedby total watts used.
SEER -- Average EER over entire cooling season.
Degree day--the number of degrees that the mean temperature for that day is below 65° F. (eg. mean temp. of 40 for the day--65-40=25 degree days)
CFM--Cubic feet per minute of air flow.
KWH--Kilowatt hours
BTU--British thermal units (method of measuring a quantity of heat). The amount of heat required to raise one pound of water 1° F.
BTU-- WATTS * 3.413
1 WATT = 3.413 BTU'S

Considering a HEAT PUMP?

Basic physics for those considering a heat pump

Most people are familiar with heat pumps, and know that they can provide both heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. They also know that heat pumps are considered to be a very efficient way of heating a structure, since they draw heat from the outside air. But many people also wonder how a heat pump works to draw out that heat, and how low the outside temperatures can be and still have the heat pump work.

First, you need to know a couple of basic principles of physics. One is that heat will always move from a warm surface to a colder one. Another is that liquids absorb heat as they boil, and give heat off as they condense. A third is that when a liquid or a vapor is compressed, its temperature rises, and when that pressure is released, its temperature falls. Heat pumps, like refrigerators and air conditioners, utilize all of these basic principles to move heat from one location to another.

A heat pump has two primary components: an outdoor unit, which contains a compressor, an expansion valve, a reversing valve, a fan and a series of coils called an evaporator; and an indoor unit, which contains a fan and a series of coils called a condenser. Connecting the two units are a pair of tubes which contain a refrigerant that circulates inside the tubes in a closed loop. A refrigerant is a type of fluid that has the special property of boiling at temperatures well below 0 degrees F.

The refrigerant enters the outdoor unit as a liquid, which is colder than the outside air. Latent heat in the outside air is drawn to the cold refrigerant, and this heat causes the refrigerant to boil and turn to a vapor. This process occurs inside the evaporator.

The vapor moves next into the compressor, which compresses the vapor and causes its temperature to rise to about 100 degrees. The hot refrigerant vapor moves into the indoor unit and through a series of tubes, where a fan blowing across the tubes causes the heat in vapor to be given off to the air inside your house.

As the heat is given off, the cooling vapor condenses back into a liquid, a process which occurs in the condenser. This liquid then moves back to the outdoor unit and enters an expansion valve. Inside the expansion valve, the pressure on the liquid is released, and the liquid’s temperature drops back down to below 0 degrees. This cold liquid moves back into the coils of the outdoor unit, absorbs more heat from the outside air, and the cycle begins again.

An important part of the outdoor unit is the reversing valve, which allows the refrigerant to move in the opposite direction: the evaporator in the outside unit and the condenser in the inside unit exchange functions and the heat pump now acts as an air conditioner, absorbing heat from the inside air and releasing it to the outside air.

Air at any temperature down to absolute zero (approximately -460 degrees F) contains some amount of latent heat that can be given off to the heat pump. In a practical sense, however, heat pumps operate most efficiently down to an outside temperature of about 25 to 35 degrees, known as the balance point. Below the balance point, the amount of extracted heat is insufficient for heating a house by itself, and electric strip heaters inside the indoor unit begin to come on. These heaters, called supplemental heaters, come on one at a time -- there are typically three or four strips -- to make up the amount of heat necessary to keep the indoor temperature at the desired level.

When the supplemental heating strips are not on, the heat pump is at its most efficient, since it is using electricity only to move heat, not to create it. In areas where the winter outdoor temperatures rarely reach below 25 degrees, a heat pump is an excellent way to keep utility costs down. In much colder areas where the temperatures are often below the balance point, some or all of the supplemental heat strips are almost always on, causing the heat pump to lose energy efficiency.

Another thing to be aware of when considering a heat pump is that the temperature of the air being delivered to the house is typically between 80 and 100 degrees, as contrasted with a standard gas or electric furnace which delivers heated air at 130 to 140 degrees. This air may feel relatively cool to people used to conventional forced air furnaces, and is a common complaint when switching to a heat pump.

Because of this lower air temperature, a greater volume of air needs to be provided to the house in order to maintain the desired indoor temperature. This increased air volume requires larger ducts for delivery. In new construction, installing ducts of the proper size is no problem, but when converting from a standard forced air furnace to a heat pump, you may find that your existing duct system is undersized.

Heat pumps present an excellent value in some areas, while their higher cost may not be justified in others. When considering a heat pump versus a standard forced air furnace, consult with a qualified heating contractor to discuss your options and decide which is best for your particular location.