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Geothermal FAQs

What is the technical geothermal heat pump process?

The heat pump moves heat from a low temperature source to a high temperature source. The process of elevating low temperature heat to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and transferring it indoors involves a cycle of evaporation, compression, condensation and expansion. A refrigerant is used as the heat transfer medium, which circulates within the heat pump. The cycle starts as the cold liquid refrigerant passes through a heat exchanger (evaporator) and absorbs heat from the low temperature source (liquid from the ground loop). The refrigerant evaporates into a gas as heat is absorbed. The gaseous refrigerant then passes through a compressor where the refrigerant is pressurized, raising its temperature to over 160 F. The hot gas then circulates through a refrigerant-to-air heat exchanger where heat is removed and pumped into the home at about 100 F. The refrigerant changes back to a liquid when it uses its heat. The liquid is cooled as it passes through an expansion valve and begins the process again. To air condition, the flow is reversed.

How efficient is a geothermal heat pump?

If I said up to 500 percent efficient, would you believe me? Yes, that’s right, 500%!

Depending on individual circumstances, savings can be that high. On average, operating costs with HydronModule heat pumps sold by SB Mechanical and Geothermal, Inc. are about 75 percent less than electric heating devices and 50 percent less than air source heat pumps. Cooling costs are 25 percent – 50 percent lower when compared to conventional air conditioners. In addition, overall savings are even higher when hot water is supplied by the heat pump.

What about comfort?

One of the best things about having a ground source heat pump installed by SB Mechanical and Geothermal Inc. is that once you set the temperature, it is designed to stay within 1 degree of that temperature, so the variations that most of us have gotten used to from a conventional system are gone!

Are customers satisfied?

Increased comfort and lower energy and maintenance costs result in high customer satisfaction.  Many people have referred SB Mechanical and Geothermal, Inc. to their friends and family.

If a customer isn’t satisfied, we do everything we can to make it right.

We know a geothermal heat pump can heat, but can it cool my home?

Yes. One of the reasons a heat pump is so versatile and efficient is its ability to heat and cool as one system. With a flick of a switch on your indoor thermostat the geothermal heat pump changes from heating to cooling.

Can a heat pump provide 100 percent of my heating and cooling needs?

Heat pumps can provide 100 percent of your heating and cooling requirements. SB Mechanical and Geothermal Inc. designs systems for a 100% heat load, unless requested otherwise.  All heat pumps will show significantly improved energy efficiency over conventional heating systems. However, some are designed for higher heating loads while others are biased towards higher cooling loads in their overall efficiency. The heat pumps installed by SBMG are as balanced as possible to give the best efficiency whether heating or cooling.

I have a very large house. Can a unit heat my home?

Yes. Whatever the size home or building, SB Mechanical and Geothermal, Inc. can design a system to heat and cool it. As homes and buildings get larger, more units are installed. Comfort is maximized, installation is simplified and the same great ground source heat pump benefits are realized by installing multiple units if necessary. Many schools, churches, commercial buildings, governmental buildings are heated and cooled using ground source heat pumps. The bigger the building, the more you save!

Can a geothermal heat pump melt snow?

Yes. Snow melting on sidewalks and driveways is becoming more fashionable and can be incorporated into the overall geothermal system design.

Can I heat my pool?

Yes. Indoor and outdoor pools are easily and inexpensively heated with geothermal heat pumps.

Will this system add value to my home?

Yes. Home appraisers and real-estate agents are educated and acknowledge a geothermal system as a renewable energy source with great value.

What type of geothermal heat pumps are available?

SB Mechanical and Geothermal Inc. offers HydronModule systems that are the most efficient, comfortable, reliable, and quiet heat pumps available today, for both forced air and hydronic systems.  Other brands that can be installed include Bosch, Northern Heat Pump, and Climate Master.  HydronModule is the brand SB Mechanical and Geothermal Inc. chooses to install the majority of the time because of the reliability of the equipment, and the industry leading warranty.  HydronModule has options available for different situations.  Contact us to determine which model would work best in your home or business!

How do I operate a geothermal heat pump?

Just like any other heating and cooling appliance, set the thermostat where you want and let it operate.  Change or wash the air filter monthly, and you should have no problems.

Do I need to increase the size of my electric service?

Most homes already have adequate electrical service. SB Mechanical and Geothermal Inc. sells systems with low energy requirements that are ideal for new construction as well as retrofit installations.

Where is this heat pump installed?

Heat pumps are typically installed indoors, either next to or in the place of a conventional furnace. This is very appealing for many reasons. Indoor installation frees outdoor space allowing better architectural design and yard usage. Noise normally associated with outdoor condensers is eliminated. Electrical controls and heat exchanger coils are protected from the elements increasing system reliability.  HydronModule does offer an outdoor model.

What kind of maintenance can I expect?

A properly installed closed-loop heat pump by SB Mechanical and Geothermal Inc. requires very little maintenance aside from regularly changing air filters and cleaning the air blower assembly. Water coil maintenance is recommended on open-loop installations as water quality can greatly affect the heat exchanger efficiency.

What is the life of a system?

Experts believe 25 – 35 years of serviceable life is expected from ground source heat pumps. This is nearly double that of conventional systems. Like any system, periodic maintenance and repairs will be required to maximize the product’s life.

Is there improved indoor air quality with this system?

Yes. An all-electric heat pump system produces no combustion products and no indoor air pollutants are generated. Conventional gas and propane systems require chimneys to vent away harmful carbon monoxide and other dangerous gases.

Is it true that geothermal heat pump systems have the lowest impact on the environment?

Yes. Heat pumps have a very low impact on the environment. Heat pumps only move heat from one place to another and consume only a small fraction of energy that is generated.

How long will the pipe last?

A high-density polyethylene pipe is used in a closed loop system and has a 50-year warranty. Independent tests show a useful life span of over 200 years.

How are the pipe sections of the loop joined?

Thermal fusion and stab fittings are the only acceptable method used to connect pipe sections. Thermal fusion connections are either socket or butt fused together to form a joint stronger than the original pipe. Stab fittings are fairly new and are proving to be reliable. Using barbed fittings, clamps and glued joints are unacceptable and will eventually cause the loop to leak and fail.

SB Mechanical and Geothermal Inc. only uses the tried and true method of thermal fusion for joining sections of pipe.

What is the fluid used in the pipes?

There are two types of antifreeze solutions that are used: food grade propylene glycol and methanol.  These heat transferring solutions are mixed with water to form a solution for your specific climate and ground conditions.

How do open-loop systems work?

An open-loop system is used less frequently, but may be cost-effective if ground water is plentiful. Open-loop systems are the simplest to install and have been used successfully for decades in areas where local codes permit. This type of system uses ground water from an aquifer and is piped directly from the well to the building, where it transfers its heat to a heat pump. After it leaves the building, the water is disposed of by one of three methods.

  1. Surface drainage – to a low area such as a pond, river, lake or stream, etc. In the summer, this water can be used to irrigate lawns, crops and the like.
  2. Sub surface – to a dedicated drain-field sized to the required volume of water of the heat pump.
  3. Re-injection or discharge well – water is pumped back into the same aquifer through a separate discharge well. In many areas this is not allowed.

In properly operating systems, the water leaving the heat pump is of the same quality as it enters. Local codes require that it not be used as “potable” water.

How much groundwater does an open-loop system need?

An open loop system does not actually “use” any water since it does not consume the water and the water returns to the environment. Combustion appliances that “use” gas or oil actually consume the fuel, never to be available again.

Geothermal heat pumps used in open-loop systems need differing amounts of water depending on the size of the unit and the manufacturer’s specifications. The water requirement of a specific model is usually expressed in gallons per minute (g.p.m.) and is listed in the specifications for that unit. Your water well and heat pump combination should be large enough to supply the water needed by the heat pump in addition to your domestic water requirements.

What problems can be caused by poor water quality?

Poor water quality will cause serious problems in open-loop applications. Your water should be tested for hardness, acidity and iron content before the heat pump is installed. Poor water quality can cause mineral deposits to build up inside the heat exchanger and periodic cleaning will be required. Water from flowing springs, ponds, lakes or river sources are not recommended for heat pump use, unless proven to be free of excessive particulate and organic matter. These sediments will contaminate the heat exchanger in the heat pump system and make it inoperable.

Does an open-loop system cause environmental damage?

No, the heat pump only moves heat from one source to another therefore no pollution is generated. The only change in the water is a slight increase or decrease in temperature. In properly operating systems, the water leaving the heat pump is of the same quality as it enters.

Are there any laws that apply to open-loop installation?

In some localities, all or parts of the installation may be subject to local ordinances, codes, covenants or licensing requirements. Check with local authorities to determine if any restrictions apply in your area.

What is the warranty on systems installed by SB Mechanical and Geothermal, Inc.?

SB Mechanical and Geothermal, Inc. primarily installs HydronModule brand heat pumps.  The warranty on all HydronModule units is one of the best in the industry.  It includes a 10 year parts, labor allowance, refrigeration components and a limited lifetime warranty for Microchannel Air Coil and Compressor.  See the manufacturer’s site for more information and to register your warranty.

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