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Directory:Home Generation:Ground Source Heat Pump

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Ground Source Heat Pumps

Methods for extracting stored solar energy from the ground to run a home's central heating, or to cool the home in the summer.

Ground source heat pumps (aka Geothermal Heat Pumps) "extract stored solar energy from the ground to run a home's central heating, and can cost as little as an oil-fired boiler to install. Widely used in the rural US, they produce three or four units of heat for every unit of electricity they use, and can be reversed to provide cooling." (BBC Sept. 14, 2004)

A Geothermal Heat Pump is a very efficient method of heating and cooling a home. Using up to 75% less energy than traditional oil/gas heat and electric air conditioning methods. If combined with super energy efficiency lighting technology, a geothermal heat pump could allow one to potentially heat/cool and light their home by renewable means such as home-based solar.

The Earth acts as a huge thermal store and absorbs the sun’s energy. Heat pumps extract this solar energy from various sources such as the ground, water or even the air. Although heat pumps need electricity to drive the pumps and compressors they can reclaim more energy than they use and can be integrated with other technologies to make it completely renewable.

Heat pumps work most efficiently with low temperature heating distribution systems such as underfloor heating. The lower the outlet temperature from the heat pump the more efficient the unit is. At a temperature of 35°C, for every one unit of electricity used in a ground source heat pump 4 units of heat energy will be produced i.e. 400% efficient.

As heat pumps use renewable energy they also have low CO2 emissions compared to traditional heating systems and can cut emission rates by up to 50%.

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Contents

Overviews

  • Geothermal Heating & Cooling Information - Website is dedicated to providing information about geothermal heating and cooling systems that use the natural constant ambient temperature of the earth to heat in the winter and cool in the summer. This is accomplished with a compressor or heat pump unit, the liquid heat exchanger medium, and the air delivery system.

Geothermal Heat Pump Cost Comparison

Prices/Disadvantages

The one drawback is geothermal heat pump technology is on the expensive side. For an average home it would cost around $20,000 for a sufficient 3 Ton geothermal heat pump system. I looked into these figures a few months back and confirmed them with local installers. My state offers a rebate of $750/ton for geothermal heat pump systems. But, that's only $2,250 off the $20,000 price tag, so still well outside most people's budgets.

Geothermal heat pump installers claim these prices will come down as the technology is more widely adopted. But, they need to get it down to the $10,000 range to make it really competitive with traditional heating/cooling methods. I read an article that many new homes in Sweden now come with a geothermal heat pump system.

Cost Savings/Advantages

Assuming an average $200 per month heating/cooling bill in America (minus other electrical uses such as lighting), and a heat pump that saves 50% on fuel costs (just being conservative, as often expected savings such as 75% don't pan out in the real world), bringing monthly heating/cooling costs down to $100 per month.

Saving $100 per month would require 200 months or 16.6 years to pay back the cost of a $20,000 geothermal heat pump system. If they could get the cost down to $10,000, then you're talking about a more realistic 8 year payback. This is where government could play an important role. A 50% rebate on geothermal heat pump system installation costs would bring it down to $10,000 and make it economically feasible for many more consumers.

Of course, the payback time could be faster for those who have higher heating/cooling costs, as they'd save more by installing this technology, but the heat pump might also have to be bigger for those more energy demanding consumers.

Future

It's hard to say what sort of future geothermal heat pumps have. They are being adopted fairly widely in Europe, especially cold countries in Scandanavia. They are starting to become more widely known in North America. The high cost is a big factor blocking their implementation at the moment. Also, natural gas/oil and electric are still relatively cheap. As with most emerging technologies, heat pump's fortunes will be dependent on the price of its competitors such as natural gas/oil and electric in coming years. Since all these energy commodities appear to be heading higher in coming years as supllies dwindle in face of increasing demand, heat pumps might carve out a niche. The government could certainly help heat pumps gain market share and acceptance by offering hefty incentives.

Reports

  • Ground heat pump brings home savings - Bruce Stenswick from Minnesota reports the energy savings he logged over the past winter. Heating bill cut in half; emissions load cut by nearly 1/3. (Alt-Energy-Blog; June 24, 2005)
  • Passive Annual Heat Storage Improves Earth Sheltered Homes - Use your home itself to collect free solar heat all summer. Cool your home passively, while heating the earth around your home, without machinery or commercial energy. Keep your home cozy all winter by retrieving heat from the soil.

Heat Pump Sites

  • EarthLinked Technologies - Company has been in the business of installing Ground Source Heat Pumps for nearly two decades. The residential and commercial systems save energy in the winter and summer, drawing from the thermal mass of the earth with their direct geo-exchange technology. ROI is just a few years. (PESWiki; July 18, 2008)
  • ClimateMaster.com: Geothermal Heat Pump Systems - U.S. company offers residential and commercial solutions to enable you to cut your heating and cooling costs by as much as 80%. You can safe an additional 30% with federal tax credits with Climate Master's Tranquility Series geothermal heat pumps.
  • Water+ - Uses the city water supply to provide low-cost ground source heating and cooling with savings up to 70%. It transports the thermal energy stored in the earth to homes and buildings via a water utility main to provide benefits to the customers, utilities, developers and taxpayers.
  • Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium, Inc. - Thorough coverage on why & how, including video presentations. One of the most professional and helpful sites on any energy subject on the entire internet.
  • Kensa Heat Pumps - "The only UK manufacturer of ground source heat pumps. Contact Kensa for a free GSHP proposal."
  • GeoEnergy - GeoColumn Hybrid Ground Loop requires less land area and installation cost, while providing higher operating efficiencies for geothermal HVAC. It is installed within a self contained well about 2 feet in diameter and between 15 to 20 feet in depth that can be easily augured using utility pole equipment. This small footprint is ideal for limited ground areas, such as the suburbs.
  • EarthLinked Technologies - Company has been in the business of installing Ground Source Heat Pumps for nearly two decades. The residential and commercial systems saving energy in the winter and summer, drawing from the thermal mass of the earth with their direct geo-exchange technology.
  • Kelix Heat Transfer Systems - The Spiralex system is 30% more efficient than conventional U-tube loop ground heat exchangers. Material cost is reduced and drilling cost is cut to one third of conventional, while providing a more efficient system.
  • Geothermal-heat-pumps.com - A great site designed to give you the scoop on geothermal heat pumps and other energy efficient home appliances and renovations.
  • Geothermal heat pumps - Use the natural heat storage capacity of the earth or ground water to provide energy efficient heating and cooling. How-to synopsis by Toolbase.org
  • WaterFurnace is a pioneer and industry leader in the development and manufacture of geothermal heating and cooling systems.
  • The Natural Home - Earthtubing utilizes conventional, thin wall, plastic pipe to pre-heat your home's air intake. Fresh air enters a system of these pipes which are laid around the exterior and interior of your home's foundation. You can let the air draft naturally through your earth tubes for a truly sustainable, non-electric, passive geothermal system or add fans and filters to supplement the home's back-up heating and cooling system.
  • Hydron Module - Highly efficient ground source heat pump for heating or cooling your home or business, with some of the highest heating out-puts.
  • Sunteq/Enviroteq Geothermal Heat Pumps - Comprehensive mini-course on geothermal heating technology and up-to-date information about state-of-the-art products, methods, equipment, and services available in the geothermal energy industry today.
  • ClimateMaster - Geothermal systems from ClimateMaster offer the most cost efficient heating, cooling, and water heating systems available on the market today.
  • NextEnergy - Offers a complete range of geothermal heating and cooling systems for home and business applications.

In the News

  • High-Efficiency Heat Pump: Clean, Geothermal Power - Hydro Delta's Mega-Tek, a high-efficiency geothermal heat pump, shoots coolant into a system of backyard pipes installed underground. The coolant flows back into the home at a steady temperature, reducing the energy required to heat or cool it by 50%. (Popular Mechanics; March 2007)

Related Technology

  • Hallowell International - Air source All Climate Heat Pump has similar efficiency to a geothermal heat pump but at a fraction of the installed cost, cutting heating and cooling costs up to 60%. It uses a booster compressor and refrigerant subcooling to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures at outdoor temperatures well below zero, without back-up supplemental heat.
  • Citrus in the Snow -- Geo-Air energy systems - Russ Finch has been testing various geothermal heating/cooling systems in his home for 35 years. He has documented that air is 50% cheaper than liquid; is highly efficient, and has virtually no maintenance costs. His report "will allow anyone to easily build a "geo air" system, either professionally or as a DIY consumer." (CitrusintheSnow)

See also

GEOTHERMAL

TYPES OF GEOTHERMAL

GEOTHERMAL-RELATED

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