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Geothermal FAQs

At Buschur’s Refrigeration Inc. Heating & Air Conditioning, we understand geothermal heating systems can be confusing. As a result, our experts have complied some of the most commonly asked questions and their answers. Take a look below us. Still confused? Give us a call – we’d be happy to help

What is Geothermal Energy?
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There are two types:

  1. High grade
  2. Low grade

High-grade geothermal energy is the heat of the earth’s pressure that turns water into steam. Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park is an excellent example. Low-grade geothermal energy is the heat within the earth’s crust. This heat is actually stored solar energy. Geothermal taps into this low grade energy and the deeper the ground loop is buried, the bigger the energy savings during heating, cooling and when making hot water.

What is a Geothermal Heat Pump?
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A heat pump is a mechanical device used for heating and cooling which operates on the principle that heat can be moved from a warmer temperature source to a cooler temperature source. A geothermal heat pump uses the earth to warm us in the winter and cool us in the summer. You already have a heat pump in your home – your refrigerator. If you put your hand behind it, you’ll feel the heat that has been removed from the food inside the refrigerator. This is the same principle that geothermal pumps use to heat and cool your home.
We know a geothermal heat pump can heat, but can it also cool my home?
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Yes, one of the reasons a geothermal heat pump is so versatile and efficient is its ability to heat and cool as one system. With a flick of a switch on your indoor thermostat the geothermal heat pump changes from heating to cooling.
How do I get the heat from the ground into my home?
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This process takes place through the ground loop. There are two lines that connect the outside ground loop to the unit inside the home. In one line there is a cold water or refrigerant that flows out into the ground loop and absorbs the heat from the ground. This water or refrigerant then returns back to the unit through the second line in which it enters into the geothermal heating unit, where the heat is extracted from the water or refrigerant and used to heat the home.
What is an open-loop system?
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An open-loop system is used less frequently, but may be employed cost-effectively if ground water is plentiful. Open-loop systems in fact, are the simplest to install and have been used successfully for decades in areas where local codes permit. This type of system uses ground water from an aquifer and is piped directly from the well to the building, where it transfers its heat to a heat pump. After it leaves the building, the water is disposed of by one of three methods.

  1. Surface drainage – to a low area such as a pond, river, lake or stream, etc.
  2. Sub surface – to a dedicated drain field sized to the required volume of water of the heat pump.
  3. Re-injection or discharge well – water is pumped back into the same aquifer through a separate discharge well.

Local environmental officials should be consulted whenever an open-loop system is being considered.

How much groundwater does an open-loop system need?
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Geothermal heat pumps used in open-loop systems need differing amounts of water depending on the size of the unit and the manufacturer’s specifications. The water requirement of a specific model is usually expressed in gallons per minute (g.p.m.) and is listed in the specifications for that unit. Your water well and heat pump combination should be large enough to supply the water needed by the heat pump in addition to your domestic water requirements. Geothermal heat pumps require approximately 2-12 gallons of water per minute.
What problems can be caused by poor water quality?
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Poor water quality will cause serious problems in open-loop applications. Poor water quality can cause mineral deposits to build up inside the heat pump heat exchanger and periodic cleaning will be required. Water from flowing springs, ponds, lakes or river sources are not recommended for heat pump use, unless proven to be free of excessive particulate and organic matter. These sediments will contaminate the heat exchanger heat pump system and make it inoperable.
Does an open-loop system cause environmental damage?
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No, the heat pump only moves heat from one source to another, therefore no pollution is generated. The only change in the water after it’s used by the heat pump is a slight increase or decrease in temperature.
Are there any laws that apply to open-loop installation?
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In some localities, all or parts of the installation may be subject to local ordinances, codes, covenants or licensing requirements. Check with local authorities to determine if any restrictions apply in your area.
What is a closed-loop system?
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A system in which the ground loop uses a continuous loop where a heat transfer fluid is circulated.
There are 6 types of closed loop systems:

  • Horizontal Closed Loop – Waterless Advanced Geothermal
  • Vertical Closed Loop – Waterless Advanced Geothermal
  • Vertical Closed Loop – Water Source Geothermal
  • Horizontal Closed Loop – Water Source Geothermal
  • Horizontal Closed Loop – Waterless Geothermal
  • Pond Closed Loop – Water Source Geothermal
What is the fluid in the loops?
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There are two types of solutions that run through a closed loop geothermal system, one being just a refrigerant (Freon) and the other being a water/anti-freeze solution consisting of propylene glycol and methyl alcohol.
Can a geothermal heat pump heat my hot water for my home?
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Domestic hot water is available with the use of a heat pump for pennies a day or even free. A hot water desuperheater is a heat exchanger built into the heat pump and is designed to remove high temperature heat from the refrigerant gases. A typical hot water desuperheater will generally provide 120° F water and can supply most of the domestic water needs depending on the amount of consumption.
Do I need to increase the size of my electric service?
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Most homes already have adequate electrical service. Check with your contractor to verify that your electrical service is adequate to operate a geothermal system.
Where is this heat pump installed?
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Most geothermal heat pumps are located indoors. This is very appealing for many reasons. Indoor installations free up outdoor space allowing better architectural design and yard usage. Noise normally associated with outdoor condensers is eliminated and because the electrical controls and heat exchanger coils are protected from the outdoor elements this then allows greater system longevity.
I have a very large house; can your unit heat my home?
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Yes, however a Manual J computerized heat load calculation should be completed to insure that the system is designed properly for your home.
How do geothermal heat pumps compare to conventional systems?
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Although geothermal heat pumps normally cost more to install over conventional systems the increased comfort, lower energy and maintenance costs result in high customer satisfaction.
Will this system add value to my home?
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Yes. More and more Home Appraisers and Real-estate Agents are educated and acknowledge a geothermal system as a renewable energy source with greater value.
Is it true that geothermal heat pump systems have the lowest impact on the environment?
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Yes, a conventional fossil fuel furnace generates heat by burning fossil fuels that release pollutants into the environment. Geothermal heat pumps generate heat by simply moving the heat from one place to another. In addition only a fraction of the energy consumed by the heat pump, it therefore has a very low impact on the environment.

Contact Buschur’s Refrigeration Inc. Heating & Air Conditioning today at 419-678-3821 for all of your geothermal heating needs.