January 13, 2012

In part three of our Introduction to Geothermal series, we are going to discuss geothermal loop systems and how each type works.

A geothermal loop is the series of underground pipes used to move heat to and from the earth. The pipes are made out of high-density polyethylene to secure a durable, long-lasting system. They are adhered together by the process of thermal fusion that will forge a bond that is far stronger than the original pipe itself. In fact, a properly installed loop can last up to 200 years.

There are two main types of geothermal loop systems that are mostly used in today’s installations: open-loop systems and closed-loop systems. Each system has unique pros and cons for your heating or cooling solution. We at Conan Heating & Air Conditioning have the knowledge and expertise on both types, and we will guide you step by step in the process of selecting the right option for your geothermal installation.

Open-loop geothermal solutions are designed to utilize the natural groundwater from under your home. Using a well, water is from an existing aquifer and relocated to the geothermal heat pump where its heat is taken out and the water is pumped back into the ground or to a designated runoff. Since the water that you are using is not being treated in any way, the only thing that is being returned to the earth is water that is a tiny bit warmer or cooler (depending on whether you’re in heating or cooling mode).

One thing to keep an eye on with an open-loop system is water quality. Mineral build-up can arise from poor quality water. This can be remedied with an occasional cleaning. If the water in the ground has greater iron content, you may want to make sure that the discharge water is kept away from air before it is returned to prevent clogs.

Closed loops are exactly as they sound. Rather than pumping water from a well and depositing it elsewhere, water is circulated in a completely sealed circuit with a small amount of eco-friendly antifreeze.

There are two primary types of closed-loop installations: horizontal and vertical. Putting in the system horizontally needs quite a bit of land space. The piping is embedded in trenches between 4 and 6 feet deep and can be up to 400 feet long. If you reside on a smaller lot, the loops can be installed vertically by boring straight down using drilling equipment. This form of installation can be installed in as little as a 10ft by 10ft area.

In either case, the larger the building, the larger the geothermal heat pump and loop needs to be. A good ballpark figure is that for every ton of system capacity, you will need 500 to 600 feet of pipe.

Contact Conan Heating & Air Conditioning today to find out what system options are available to you here in Idaho Falls.

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