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Geothermal heat pump systems are probably the most important renewable heating and cooling technology for businesses in NY. Geothermal heat pump systems function by using the constant temperature of soil below the frost line to provide heating in the winter or as a sink for cooling in the summer. NY has an excellent geothermal resource, and like solar, this resource is widely distributed.
The heat pump is familiar refrigeration technology, and it uses one unit of electricity to extract 3-5 units of heat from the ground. This ability gives these systems an effective efficiency of 300-500%, which is also referred to as a Coefficient of Performance (COP). For reference, this would be compared to a high-efficiency condensing boiler's efficiency of 96%. Geothermal systems can typically meet 70-100% of client's current building heating, cooling, and domestic hot water (DHW) needs.
Contact us today to get more information about how a geothermal system might work for your business, university, non-profit, or municipality. We provide estimates in Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca, Elmira, Webster, Auburn, Fairport, Pittsford, Cortland, Canandaigua, and nearby areas!
Businesses in NY vary significantly in their heating loads, depending on their type, size, and scope of activity. Usage can range from 150,000/day for a well-insulated small office to millions of BTU/day for a large facility. If you can provide our staff with the last month to year of your heating bills (depending on your situation) and some preliminary details on your heating system, we can assist you in determining your average current usage. Once this usage is known, possible system sizes can be determined that would meet 50-100% of your heating, cooling, and DHW needs, depending on available space, budget, and preference. If your business's usage is in the upper end of the NY range for its type, we always recommend efficiency measures simultaneous to system design and installation.
Specifically, as buildings in New York are often inadequately air-sealed and poorly insulated, undergoing a building energy audit and making improvements to the building envelope is often important before installing any geothermal heating system. For more information on this process, visit the Halco Commercial Energy Services page. These improvements are an important first step because efficiency (i.e. improving building envelope and reducing heat loads and fuel usage) is almost always a more economic first step than building additional generation. Once heating loads are known and in a reasonable range, geothermal heating systems can be designed for your building.
The types of geothermal heat pump systems differ by their earth loop type and/or medium of heat exchange. Presently, the most common forms of earth loops are horizontal, vertical, or diagonal, and the two primary mediums of exchange are water-based and direct exchange systems.
Have the advantage of ease and simplicity of installation. Because these loops are typically placed at 6-8' below grade, however, they are more subject to the temperature fluctuations the earth experiences at its surface. This variation in temperature causes a reduction in COP over the winter season. Also, because these loops are shallow, there length requires and disturbs more land, and thus requires a property with space for this excavation.
More compact in their footprint then horizontal loops and because of their depth (typically 150' to 400' depending on the project), they do not experience a significant COP fluctuation over the heating season. These systems, however, require more skill to install and also require larger equipment, which depending on the geology can slightly increase the costs of installation.
Are typically at a 30 degree angle from the horizontal and are 65-75 ft in depth. These loops have the advantages of vertical loops, but are particularly used for urban and some suburban installations, where space is at a premium for excavation and bringing in large equipment is more difficult. The one restriction on diagonal loops is that they are less suitable for very wet soil with bedrock at a significant distance below grade because the casing of the boreholes is more difficult at an angle than it is vertically.
Use water and a non-toxic antifreeze in special plastic tubing as the heat transfer medium for the earth loops. These earth loops then bring the heat into the heat pump, where it is transferred to the refrigerant loop and extracted. This design is resilient and well-tested, but it also loses efficiency because the heat must be transferred to two mediums before it is extracted. More heat transfer medium is also typically required, which translates into additional ft of earth loops and more energy required for loop pumping.
Eliminate the water intermediary, and use the refrigerant directly in the earth loops. This significantly increases system efficiency, meaning a higher COP is usually attained and the loop size required is reduced.
Geothermal systems can heat to 120 degrees, and thus these systems can work well with both forced air and hydronic heating distribution systems.
Generally, for new construction or significant renovation, we recommend hydronic systems because they require less energy to move the heat, and they are also generally more comfortable. This is especially true of radiant floor systems.
Please note that when using a baseboard or radiant floor system with a geothermal system, the baseboard or radiant floors must be designed to operate with water between 90 and 120 degrees. Most radiant floors are designed this way, but much existing conventional baseboard is sized often for water temperatures near 180 degrees.
Geothermal systems can also cool buildings effectively, and this is possible through hydronic chilled beam or forced air distribution systems. Forced air systems, however, are much more common in the US at this time. If a building already has central air conditioning (AC), the existing compressor unit can be removed, and the existing air handler and ductwork can simply be connected to the heat pump system.
As we discussed briefly above, land is required for the installation of the earth loops. Specifically, the exact amount of space will be determined by the system loop type and size being supported, but it typically ranges from 400 ft2 to 8000 ft2. This area must be relatively free of septic, well, gas, and electric systems etc, although obviously some of these can be identified easily and worked around.
At Halco, every geothermal system we do is monitored, and energy production and COP are guaranteed. We also conduct soil samples prior to earth loop installation, do soil thermal conductivity analysis, and data log the pressurization of the system to guarantee a successful earth loop installation. We pay a high degree of attention to system quality assurance and system production, because that's not always done in the industry and we think it essential for guaranteeing and demonstrating system performance.
For most clients proceeding or considering a geothermal heat pump system, the first step is for us to review the last year of heating bills. We then usually arrange a site visit to review the building and discuss the options in person. The next important initial part of the process is usually the commercial building energy audit. For most clients considering geothermal systems, an energy audit will determine the actual current conductive and convective losses of the building, and will allow us to both properly size a system and recommend energy efficiency and envelope improvements that are cost effective and often significantly lower the overall heat load requirements of the building.
Geothermal systems have a life expectancy of 50 years plus for the earth loop field, and twenty years for the heat pump unit. The warranties on these two primary components are usually 25 years and 10 years, respectively.
We are members of the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA), and presently have one IGSHPA Certified Designer/Installer and one IGSHPA Certified Vertical Earth Loop Installer/Driller. Several other staff members have participated in other professional trainings, and several will also be IGSHPA certified Designer/Installers in the coming months.
Get your estimate for a geothermal system! We are your trusted geothermal contractor with years of experience. We install systems in Ithaca, Rochester, Syracuse, Fairport, Auburn, Elmira, Webster, Pittsford, Canandaigua, Cortland, Penfield, Geneva, Brockport,Spencerport, Hilton, and more.
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