Improving Ground Source Heat Pump Efficiency

ground source heat pump efficiency
Geothermal energy is already among the most efficient ways to heat and cool your home. But what if you wanted to take it further, to make your energy dollars stretch even more? Is there a way to boost ground source heat pump efficiency? Yes, there are some simple things you can do to improve the efficiency of your geothermal system. Let’s kick-off.

Get the Installation Right

So, you’ve picked an installer, and they’ve drawn up the plans for your new system and factored everything in. Nothing has been left to chance. And you've talked about how to maximize ground source heat pump efficiency, right?

Ground Loops

The ground loops are how your heat pump collects heat from the ground. It is the energy supply source. Your installer will have given you the best system for the budget and often will try to limit the size of the ground loops to save on your costs. Saving money up front is a good thing, but not necessarily the only thing. A geothermal system is an investment in your future energy needs, and while the temptation is there to make savings, you also want the most efficient system you can get. Maybe, it’s time to think big and increase the size of your ground loops to maximize the capacity of your ground loop system. After all, a more significant ground loop will maintain a higher temperature, which means your heat pump will have less work to do. The less demand on the heat pump equals a more efficient system. It may be that you have restrictions with available space outside, but if you have the capacity, spending a little more money on the ground loops gets you a more efficient system that will save you money in the long run. Geothermal Ground Loops

Choose an Open Water Well Loop

Sticking with the theme of installation, if it is possible, laying an open water well system is more efficient than ground loops. You could only do this if you had enough flow and your property is suitable for an open-loop system. Open water well systems maintain a higher temperature than ground loop systems. They are the ultimate tool to get the most ground source heat pump efficiency possible. If you have a property with a well, this will work efficiently, provided your installer understands the effects that a submersible pump could have on the efficiency of your heat pump. If the well or source of the well is known and easy to find, give it serious consideration. However, if you have to search for a natural well and require geological surveys and specialist boring equipment, the added costs might scare you away.

Simple and Affordable Ground Source Heat Pump Efficiency Tips

Geothermal Efficiency Tips

Keep the Heat Exchanger Clean

You cannot put a price on proper maintenance practices. Open loop systems utilize water from a well or pond. That water harbors contaminants that can build up a coating of scale on your heat exchanger. Think of it a bit like limescale coating the inside of an electric kettle. Once this starts to happen, the heat transfer from your heat exchanger drops, which affects the efficiency of the heat pump. Occasional cleaning ensures you tackle the issue before it starts to affect how your system functions.

Change the Air Filters

Air filters perform the primary task of trapping pollutants and airborne particles, storing them within the fabric of the filter. By definition, air filters are there to get very dirty. However, if you neglect to clean your air filters, they become clogged, which restricts the airflow within the system. As you can probably guess, limited airflow decreases the efficiency of your geothermal heat pump and increases the chances of you suffering a malfunction. And we haven’t even mentioned the higher levels of contaminants floating around your inside space. You should check the filters every 6 months at a minimum. You should check them much more frequently if you have pets or live in an area with significant air pollution. Remember, maintenance is important!

Place the Thermostat Correctly

It is advisable to place a thermostat away from direct sunlight. Preferably, you want it on an inside wall, so that it doesn’t feel the fluctuations of the outdoor temperatures. The second thing to do is to make sure the thermostat is not in a south-facing room, especially if the main living area of the house is north facing. The general rule of thumb is to only place the thermostat in a location that protects it from swings in the temperature, which might trick it into switching your geothermal system on or off unnecessarily. Similarly, if your thermostat triggers auxiliary heat, this could work out more costly because it consumes a higher energy amount than normal heating operations.

Dirt Build-Up in Ducts

Much like the air filters, if you allow dirt and debris to settle in your ductwork, over time, you might find that it starts to coat the inside of your ductwork and release contaminants into the air. It also puts a higher strain on the filters as well as valves and dampers that could become clogged. Get the ducts cleaned as part of the annual inspection. Likewise, if you can’t remember the last time they were checked, it’s probably a good idea to get it done soon.

Program Your Thermostat and Stick With It

Setting schedules where the thermostat has to cope with constant changes could considerably increase the amount of energy you use. Think of it like a car; if you cruise at a continuous, steady speed, not only will your journey be smoother, you will also save fuel costs. If you were to complete that same journey by accelerating and slowing down continuously, you would burn more fuel and put additional strain on your car’s components. Geothermal systems will wear out faster with the more punishment they get. Try and find an average temperature that keeps your home environment comfortable without having to rely on the thermostat to keep raising and lowering the settings.

Seal the Windows and Doors

What do window and doors have to do with ground source heat pump efficiency? If you are spending upwards of $20,000 on installing a geothermal system, you should first examine the insulation in your home. To put it bluntly, what is the point of an eco-friendly heat pump if all you do is let all those efficiency savings leak out of your doors, windows, and roof. Before you think of installing geothermal heating and cooling, survey your home and identify those areas where heat loss occurs. Let’s start with the windows. If they are single glazed, think about upgrading to double-pane windows. If the budget doesn’t stretch that far, try installing secondary glazing to seal any drafts. Fit draft excluders on doors and make sure that the attic has enough insulation to prevent any heat loss. This last one is important given that heat rises. If you have south-facing rooms, consider applying a reflective film to the windows to deflect the sun’s heat. If you have north-facing rooms, install heavy-duty drapes that keep out the drafts. Correct Geothermal Installation

Final Thoughts on Ground Source Heat Pump Efficiency

Where should you get started? Our advice is to do the small things first before you tackle the ground source heat pump efficiency at the unit itself. Should you have any questions, just leave them in the comment below.
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alice perry
Dan Danowski
It could potentially be used for a vertical loop installation.
joe nehrbauer
have geo system - while I'm always improving the insulation of my vintage 1800's home (real thick walls). .... I found that having a way to supplement the system's heating capability with a pellet stove was very worth while. Put room suction duct close to heat output from pellet stove - this helps preheat air before going into geothermal system. This increases the exit temperature from heat pump and keeps electric boost heaters from coming on. Electric boost heaters coming on is really bad for energy bill. Pellet stove good addition!
I am designing an extremely efficient home in Steamboat Springs Colorado (Read: ICF R 48 walls, high-performance triple pane windows, unobstructed solar gain, radiant in-floor etc.). I am also keen on designing the most efficient closed loop system possible. Our frost line is 48". I am getting mixed messages as to which depth we should place the loops below the frost line. This home will sit on 35 acres so area for the systems in of no concern. Thoughts?
Dan Danowski
I would recommend you give us a call at 270-575-9595 and use x103 to speak with Jacob. He's our in-house geothermal heat pump expert. He can help you figure out exactly what you need.
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