Slowdown Prompts Omaha Contractor To Explore Geothermal

March 2011, Vol. 66 No. 3

Ground source heat pumps
Ground source heat pumping is a process by which heat is moved into and out of the earth for the purpose of heating and cooling a building or dwelling, as well as providing hot water.

A typical ground source heat pump system features a heat pump, air distribution system (ducts), a hot water system and a series of long plastic pipes (loops) buried underground either vertically or horizontally. The heating and cooling needs of the structure dictate the cumulative amount of loop in the ground. The loops are filled with environmentally safe antifreeze and connected to the heat pump located inside the structure.

During the heating cycle, the system automatically pulls heat from the ground via the fluid in the loops and circulates it through the heat pump, which concentrates the heat and distributes it throughout the structure via duct work. At the same time, the antifreeze continuously cycles back through the loops, where it reheats, and the process repeats itself.

In hot weather when air conditioning is needed, the system reverses itself. Heat is extracted from the structure and is directed to the water heater or back into the ground where it can be stored for reuse during cold-weather months.

Simply put, in the winter months, the ground source heat pump moves heat from the ground into the building. During the summer months, the system moves heat from the building to either the water heater or back into the ground. The system uses renewable energy because the earth becomes a natural sink for storing heat to be used by the geothermal system. It is up to five times more efficient to move heat than it is to create it with a conventional system that uses fossil fuels.

Investing in the right equipment
After completing all the research, educating his staff and getting drill operators proper training and certification, Schmitt turned to Vermeer for help with identifying equipment that would be best suited for the types of ground source heat pump geothermal installations NEBCON intended to pursue. Initially Schmitt felt most confident focusing on residential systems -- both horizontal and vertical type installations -- and his Vermeer dealer had an answer.