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The Different Types of Geothermal Systems Explained

When it comes to heating and cooling, people always want to know how they can increase their efficiency to cut down on their monthly energy costs. Small changes may not always affect your efficiency as drastically as you want. Many people who are truly looking to improve efficiency look to geothermal systems to harness the power of the Earth’s energy. But what is geothermal energy? How do you get it, and does it actually improve your energy efficiency? At Bassett Services, we have the answers you seek. Read on for more details about geothermal systems that how they may benefit you!

How Does it Work?

When we think of heating and cooling systems, usually we’re thinking of a central air conditioner or furnace unit – these are the two most common types of systems. With traditional heating and cooling systems, air is used as the primary medium through which homes are cooled. With geothermal systems, the soil or even water is used for its constant temperature. The secret is under your feet. While the temperature above ground fluctuates drastically depending on the seasons, the temperature below ground is constant, meaning you save on the energy needed to heat and cool your home.

In geothermal systems, coils are buried beneath the ground, where the heat is absorbed and transferred to the water that runs through those coils. Then, an electric heat pump acts as your furnace and your air conditioner to deliver hot and cold air throughout the home. Keep reading for more details about each type of system or contact our team at Bassett Services with any questions.

Open-Loop System

This type of system uses groundwater or surface water as the heat exchange fluid that circulates directly through the GHP system. After circulating through the system, water is returned to the ground via the well, a recharge well, or surface discharge. Obviously, this option is only viable when a sufficient quantity of relatively clean water is available and all local codes and regulations regarding groundwater discharge are met. To find out if this geothermal option is right for your property, reach out to our team at Bassett Services today. When it comes to geothermal systems, you have more options than you may think.

Horizontal Loop System

Horizontal systems use coils that are laid in wide trenches that are dug in the yard. The trenches are usually at least six feet wide. These systems need a lot of room for installation.

This type of installation is typically the most cost-effective for residential installations, especially when sufficient land is available for new construction. It requires at least four-foot-deep trenches. Common layouts consist of either two pipes placed side by side at five feet in the ground in a two-foot-wide trench, or two pipes, one buried at six feet and the other at four feet. The method of looping pipe allows for more pipe in a shorter trench, which reduces installation costs and enables horizontal installation in areas where conventional horizontal applications would not be possible. For more information on this type of geothermal installation, or any others, consult with our team of experts at Bassett Services in Plainfield, IN.

Vertical Loop System

With this type of system, the loops are buried vertically in the ground. First, holes are dug to the correct depth and coils are inserted into them and connected at the bottom.

Large commercial structures and schools frequently employ vertical systems because the required land area for horizontal loops is prohibitive. Vertical loops are also utilized in areas where the soil is too shallow for trenching, and they cause minimal disruption to the existing landscape. Holes (approximately four inches in diameter) are drilled approximately 20 feet apart and 100 to 400 feet deep for a vertical system. To improve performance, two pipes connected at the bottom with a U-bend to form a loop are inserted into the hole and grouted. The vertical loops are connected with a horizontal pipe (a manifold), placed in trenches, and linked to the building’s heat pump.

Closed-Loop Systems

The majority of closed-loop geothermal heat pumps circulate an antifreeze solution through a buried or submerged closed loop made of high-density plastic tubing. Heat is transferred between the heat pump’s refrigerant and the antifreeze solution via a heat exchanger.

One type of closed-loop system, referred to as direct exchange, does not use a heat exchanger and instead pumps the refrigerant through horizontal or vertically buried copper tubing. Direct exchange systems require a larger compressor and function best in moist soils (occasionally requiring additional irrigation to keep the soil moist), but you should avoid installing them in corrosive soils. Due to the fact that these systems circulate refrigerant through the ground, local environmental regulations may prohibit their use in certain areas.

Pond/Lake System

This system is unique in that the coils are buried in water. Homes must have legal access to a pond or lake to make this system work. If the site contains a sufficient body of water, this may be the least expensive option. From the building to the water source, an underground supply line pipe is coiled at least eight feet below the surface to prevent freezing. The coils should only be placed in water sources that meet minimum requirements for volume, depth, and quality.

Hybrid Systems

Hybrid systems employing multiple geothermal resources or a combination of a geothermal resource with outdoor air (i.e., a cooling tower) are an additional technological option. Where cooling needs significantly outweigh heating needs, hybrid approaches are particularly effective. Where geology allows, the “standing column well” is an alternative. One or more deep vertical wells are drilled in this variation of an open-loop system. Water is extracted from the base of a vertical column and returned to its apex. During periods of peak heating and cooling, the system can bleed a portion of the return water instead of reinjecting it all, resulting in water inflow from the surrounding aquifer into the column. The bleed cycle reduces the required bore depth and cools the column during heat rejection and heat extraction, respectively.

Ready to switch to geothermal? Contact Bassett Services in Plainfield, IN, for the knowledge you need to get started! Call (317) 360-0054 now!

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