4 Options For Geothermal Ground Loops
There's no question that geothermal is the most efficient option for heating the home; this technology offers three to four times the efficiency of any other heating system, which means it actually produces much more energy than it consumes. This high level of efficiency is due to the fact that geothermal systems extract heat from underground rather than generating heat by burning fuel. To extract this heat energy, the system must use a network of piping, typically referred to as a ground loop. These loops come in many different configurations and designs to suit the need of different properties, homeowners, and environments.
The most common, and the most affordable traditional ground loop configuration is a horizontal layout. In this design, several hundred feet of pipe are buried just a few feet below the ground. This option is ideal for new construction, or for properties where plenty of land is open and free for digging. Horizontal loops are so cheap because they require only basic trenching, with no need to dig hundreds of feet down. They come in two varieties, including versions that use straight pipe and other, more efficient versions that use stacked rows of coiled pipe. Typically, horizontal loops are best in moderate climate zones, and may not be able to keep the house warm enough in an extreme climate zone like the far north.
Vertical loops are the most common type of ground loop in retrofit applications, or on properties with limited acreage. They also work well in rocky soil, where it may be difficult or impossible to trench hundreds of feet across the surface of the ground. In this system, installers drive pipe to a depth of around 150 feet per ton of heating capacity, so that the pipes run perpendicular to the ground. They are more expensive to install than horizontal loops due to the digging involved but are also a better choice in areas with extreme temperatures, like the far north or south.
If you have access to relatively deep open water on your property, such as a large pond or small lake, you may be able to use a pond loop. These loops require minimal digging and instead rely on pipes that run along the bottom of the pond. They are relatively cheap and provide easy access to the pipes for repairs and modifications. Pond loops, like vertical or horizontal loops, are closed systems, which means that there is little risk that the body of water will be contaminated by refrigerant or other fluids.
Open loops represent one of the cheapest and simplest type of geothermal ground loop, but they are rarely used due to environmental restrictions. These systems eliminate the hundreds of feet of pipe used in standard systems, and instead rely on a supply of constant fresh water to provide heat energy for the system. You may be able to use this technology if you have a second well or a pond on your property, but you'll have to check environmental restrictions in your area first. Many areas reject open geothermal loops because of concern that the circulated water will contribute to pollution in ground water supplies or other local waterways.
For further assistance, contact a local provider, such as SouthEast Geothermal.