Geothermal Heat Pump Systems Part I – Are They Right for Your Project?

You may have heard about geothermal, or ground-coupled, water source heat pump systems as an alternative to oil and electric heat, but you may be wondering if it is the right type of HVAC system for your project.

We have created a four part e-Engineer series dedicated to helping you identify ways to determine if a geothermal heat pump system is right for you; provide suggestions on how to get started with design and construction of these systems and let you know what to expect once the system is fully operational.

There are several questions that new and existing facility owners should consider before making the decision to install any HVAC system. The following questions are especially important to ask when considering a geothermal system.

  • What is your building occupancy?   Is your building occupied year round? What is the density of occupancy? With energy-efficient systems, the higher a system’s runtime the faster the payback will be when compared against a less efficient system.
  • Where will your building be located? Will it be located in a rural area or an urban area?       You should evaluate the effect your building will have on the environment and surrounding neighbors from a space planning, noise and aesthetic standpoint. Geothermal systems require a larger amount of space on the site for the bore field than other systems; however, these systems do not create the noise commonly associated with air cooled direct expansion refrigeration equipment.
  • What is your building configuration/orientation? Will your facility be multi-story, a block configuration or finger configuration? If you have a strong east-west orientation or a core-perimeter layout, there may be opportunities to share energy within the building with a water source heat pump system.
  • What is your construction budget? The initial costs for geothermal systems have historically been higher than other more common types of HVAC systems because they require a ground coupled heat exchanger. However, geothermal systems may result in significantly lower annual energy costs. Additionally, grants and other subsidies may be available to offset the higher initial investment.

For information on how to get started with design and construction of a geothermal system, look out for part II of our series next month. In the meantime, if you have any questions about geothermal systems, please feel free to contact Michael Rader, PE at 717-845-7654 or msr@ba-inc.com.

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