Improving geoexchange systems
New guidelines set best practice standard to ensure successful geoexchange projects
Friday, 27 March 2015
by Ruben Arellano, P.Eng
Geoexchange and heat pump technology is long established, with the first systems developed and implemented in the 1950s. With increasing awareness, improved equipment and industry expertise, and the rising cost of energy in recent years, the technology has experienced a resurgence. It is estimated that there are now more than 100,000 geoexchange systems installed in Canada, and in the past 10 years the industry has experienced double-digit growth in most markets across the country.
While deceptively simple, geoexchange technology relies on the integration of mechanical components to adapt to complex site-specific earth and building thermodynamic processes. The system’s long-term viability and performance require a rigorous and thorough design approach based on science and judgment, quality construction by experienced trades, and a complete and detailed system commissioning.
Those working on a geoexchange project for the first time may be unaware of the complexities of geoexchange design and construction. A province like B.C. has an extremely variable geography, climate, and building demographics requiring that each project design is unique and site-specific. Thorough and expert information tailored to each region is needed to ensure that systems meet the needs and expectations of owners and proponents in terms of their specific environmental, social, and financial benefit targets.
A challenge in the current market is a lack of thorough and verifiable data on the performance of operating systems. While plenty of geoexchange systems have operated without trouble for years, an unacceptable number of systems (heard of anecdotally) are underperforming. There are also systems that have had difficulties in the implementation.
The following examples illustrate situations that can arise...
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