Geothermal Heat Pumps a Boon in Large- and Medium-Sized Buildings
For owners and managers of medium- to large-sized commercial buildings, controlling energy costs while maintaining adequate indoor temperatures can be a challenge. As an alternative to standard furnaces, air conditioners or boilers, many businesses are installing geothermal heat pumps. These heating and cooling systems combine outstanding performance with extremely high levels of efficiency, providing plenty of heating and cooling at a lower cost and with less stress on the local environment.
Geothermal Heat Pump Function
Like air-source heat pumps, geothermal units work by absorbing heat and moving it from place to place. Instead of using heat contained in the air around the unit, however, geothermal heat pumps capture heat from either the ground or a body of water. At a certain distance below the surface of the ground or a lake, the temperature stays consistent throughout the year. No matter how cold or hot it gets on the surface, at six to 10 feet underground, the soil will stay within a range of about 45 to 70 degrees.
This provides an ideal environment for heat capture and release. A series of pipes called the loop is placed in the ground or water at the appropriate depth. In most systems, a water/antifreeze solution circulates through the pipes, traveling from the loop to the interior unit and back again. In the winter, the liquid captures heat from the ground or water and takes it into your building for heating. A heat exchanger in the building, the actual heat pump unit, extracts the heat from the solution and the circulation process continues. In the summer, the loop removes heat from inside your facility and expends it into the ground or water.
How Geothermal Heat Pumps Benefit Larger Buildings
Geothermal heat pumps offer multiple benefits that standard furnaces or air conditioners cannot match. In a large or medium-sized commercial facility, these benefits can provide a proportionally larger reduction in energy consumption and ongoing costs.
- Efficiency: Geothermal systems can attain extremely high levels of efficiency, sometimes as high as 400 to 600 percent during heating season. This is possible because they do not produce heat, but instead capture and move existing heat.
- Cost savings: Geothermal users typically see a substantial reduction in monthly heating and cooling costs, often 25 to 50 percent.
- Zoning: Indoor geothermal units can be arranged to provide zoned heating and cooling in larger buildings. Indoor equipment can be placed where heating and cooling is most often needed, allowing greater flexibility and control of indoor comfort levels.
- Redundancy of systems: In a large building with multiple indoor units, problems can be easily identified and isolated. At the same time, the units that are still functioning can provide additional heating and cooling as needed until the malfunctioning equipment is repaired.
- Space considerations: A building using multiple indoor geothermal units reduces the need for large mechanical rooms or equipment areas where furnaces, air conditioners or boilers are housed. The smaller ductwork of a geothermal system also takes up less space and allows better use of available area throughout the facility.
- Environmental benefit: Geothermal heat pumps operate on electricity, so no fossil fuels are burned at your facility to produce heat in a geothermal system. This cuts down on the use of natural resources. Geothermal systems also do not produce greenhouse gases, other exhaust gases or emissions that have been shown to be harmful to the ozone layer or the overall environment.
- Water heating: Excess heat from geothermal functions can be diverted to provide water heating for the entire building. Water heating with gas or electricity can account for a significant portion of monthly energy expenditures, but the use of geothermal heat can substantially reduce those costs.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial and Residential settings. For more information on geothermal heat pumps and their many benefits to large- and medium-sized commercial buildings, and to view projects we’ve worked on, call Sobieski.