Geothermal Heating and Cooling: Ideal for New Commercial Construction or Retrofits
One of the more important elements of new commercial construction or renovation is the building’s heating and cooling system. Geothermal heating and cooling is appropriate for almost any commercial construction or retrofit application and should be given careful consideration for your project.
Why geothermal heating and cooling?
Geothermal heating and cooling systems are extremely efficient and cost-effective. Instead of burning fossil fuels or using electricity to produce heating and cooling, they rely on a heat pump system to move heat to and from your building. In a ground-source system, heat’s captured and released in a series of pipes, called a ground loop, buried in the ground at a depth where the temperature stays around 50 degrees all year long. During cooling operations, the heat pump removes heat from your home and disperses it via the ground loop. In the heating season, the system pulls heat from the ground and brings it into your home.
Considerations for installing geothermal heating and cooling systems
There are three major factors to consider when planning a geothermal installation.
- Access to and suitability of site – Geothermal heating and cooling systems are appropriate for almost any size building, but there must be enough space for the installation of the ground loop. The site must also allow access for trenchers, drills, backhoes or other heavy equipment that will prepare the ground for the installation of the loop.
In a horizontal installation, the ground loop’s installed in a series of lengthy trenches dug to the proper depth. This type of installation requires considerable horizontal ground area both for the trenches themselves and for access to the site.
Since commercial construction sites often have limited ground space available for extra features, a vertical installation of the loop system may be the better option. In this case, the pipes of the outdoor loop are buried in a series of deep holes drilled vertically into the ground.
- Adequacy of existing electrical system and ductwork – Geothermal heating and cooling systems don’t require excessive amounts of electricity to operate, so it’s possible that the existing electrical system at the installation site will be sufficient to power the new system. Otherwise, the electrical system may need to be upgraded as part of the installation process. Ductwork in the new or renovated building is also a significant factor. There must be enough supply ducts to adequately distribute conditioned air to the inside of the building and enough return ducts to bring expended air back to be conditioned again. Ductwork may need to be added, or existing duct networks might have to be reconfigured to provide proper airflow and efficiency for the new geothermal system.
- Effect on landscaping and adjoining buildings – Digging the ground loop may disrupt existing systems or equipment buried in the ground, such as plumbing pipes, electrical cables, sprinkler systems, telephone lines, sewer and septic systems or gas pipes. Before digging, it’s necessary to know if any of these elements are present and where they’re buried. If there are too many of them, other options will need to be considered. The installation of a geothermal system’s outdoor components could also have an effect on landscaping and neighboring buildings. Carefully maintained lawns and gardens may be damaged by the heavy equipment that digs the trenches. Shrubs, flowers, trees or other landscaping elements may have to be removed to allow installation of the ground loop. Care must be taken to ensure that the ground-loop field doesn’t accidentally cross property lines or come too close to nearby buildings, walls, parking facilities or other structures.
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 about the benefits of geothermal heating and cooling in both new commercial construction and retrofits, and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!
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