As we wrote in last week’s blog post, everyone at Carney Plumbing, Heating & Cooling is really excited about geothermal energy systems. But…geothermal only works well when it’s installed correctly. If it’s not, then the geothermal system you install could wind up being nothing more than expensive waste of money – and you might even end up using more energy than you did before, not less.
In this blog post, we’ll explain how we make sure that we install geothermal systems properly so that our customers enjoy maximum comfort and savings.
To explain the secret to a successful geothermal installation, first we should explain how geothermal systems work.
Although the temperature above the ground can vary widely from summer to winter, the temperature underneath the ground stays fairly constant all year round, thanks to the hot molten rock that underlies the earth’s surface. Depending on latitude, the level of volcanic activity in the area, and the depth at which the geothermal system is installed, the underground temperature can range from 45 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Geothermal systems use underground pipes, called a loop, that circulate fluid in a loop into your house and back under the ground. In the winter, the loop brings heat up from the ground into your house, where it is distributed throughout your house via ductwork. In the summer, the loop pulls the hot air out of your house and discharges it underground.
So, what’s the secret to a successful geothermal installation? The most important thing is to correctly calculate the load (i.e. the number of BTUs the system has to generate to keep the house comfortable). This will ensure that the geothermal loop, and the equipment that keeps the fluid moving in the loop, are properly sized. If a contractor has cut corners by making the loop and the circulation equipment too small, the system will not keep your home comfortable.
At Carney, we receive a couple of calls every month from worried homeowners who are not comfortable with the geothermal systems they’ve had installed by other companies. When a Carney technician goes to check it out, we almost always find that the loop and the equipment are not big enough to properly regulate the temperature of the home. Although the smaller loop may reduce the cost of the initial installation, this is a false savings. A homeowner will have to supplement an improperly functioning geothermal system with other means, or sacrifice comfort – and the home’s overall energy consumption might even go up, not down, as a result! At Carney, we call this “getting geothermal in name only”, and we’re always upset when we see homeowners who’ve had this happen to them.
So how do we make sure this never happens to our customers? We start by making sure that all our technicians are fully trained. In addition to mandatory training, we encourage our technicians to sign up for whatever additional training they want – on us.
We also take great care when we design our geothermal systems – in fact, we probably spend more time on design than we do on actual installation. We do all our load calculations by computer and by hand so that we are sure of our results. And we get as many different minds working on the design as possible – for example, we ask drillers to provide their own independent assessments to make sure they tally with ours.
Our philosophy when it comes to geothermal is, “You cannot cut any corners.” We make sure we don’t – we pay attention to all the details so that when your geothermal system is done, all you have to do is relax and enjoy it!