Geothermal Infrastructure; Pay Your Heating Bill to the Water Company?

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Geothermal Infrastructure; Pay Your Heating Bill to the Water Company?

The day is coming in which cities will no longer allow combustion heating (NYC 80X50; #ONENYC). Cities and governments throughout the world have already, and continue to make similar commitments.
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Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 9:30am

Electrical resistance heating is most easily identified as the same technology that produces warm forced air in a common hair blow-dryer, or the red-hot elements in a toaster. When electrical elements are placed in a heating appliance (such as a water-heater) or ductwork, then we have an electrical resistance heater. The coefficient of performance (COP) for electrical resistance heating is 1.0 COP.  That is the same as saying that electrical resistance is 100% efficient. All of the energy consumed by the heater goes into the space.  This probably sounds pretty good; 100% efficiency is nothing to sneeze at. 

A heat pump uses electricity to power a pump (also called a “compressor”) instead of heat strips. This pump (compressor) takes the available heat outside of the space, and concentrates it to a higher temperature so that it can be used to heat the structure.  Usually, when the air outside the space drops to below 25F, the process of pumping heat out of the air is greatly diminished.  The number of hours in which heating is needed while the temperature outside is below 25F is high, making it necessary for typical “air-sourced” heat pumps to require "back-up" or "emergency-heating". This can cause high energy use during cold weather.  That’s when ‘Geothermal Heat Pumps” (GHPs) become the reasonable answer.

GHPs use the warmer temperature of the earth (45F to 75F in most of the US) as a source temperature for the heat pump. Geothermal heat pumps work effectively with these temperatures, providing a COP of 4.0 to 6.0.  Efficiency ratings of 400% to 600% (4.0 to 6.0 COP) mean that for each unit of electricity, between 4 and 6 units of heat are delivered to the building space. 

GHPs are clearly the answer to heating and cooling our buildings. There is no question of whether GHPs will be the main source of heating and cooling in the world; the only question is, “how soon”? One challenge remains, and that is placing the loops into the earth.  There are situations, especially in concentrated urban areas where it is impractical to place loops adjacent to each building.


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