Geothermal Earth Loops for Central Virginia

In part three of our Introduction to Geothermal series, we are going to talk about geothermal loop systems and how each type works.

A geothermal loop is the series of underground pipes used to transfer heat to and from the earth. These pipes are formed out of high-density polyethylene to create a durable, long-lasting system. They are joined together by the process of thermal fusion which will produce a bond that is far stronger than the original pipe itself. In fact, a properly installed loop can last up to 200 years.
 
There are two leading types of geothermal loop systems that are almost always used in today's installations: open loop systems and closed loop systems. Both systems have unique pros and cons for your heating or cooling solution. We at Scott Horseman Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. have the training and expertise on both types, and we will guide you step by step in the process of selecting the best option for your geothermal installation.

Open loop geothermal solutions are designed to utilize the natural groundwater from underneath your home. Using a well, water is from an existing aquifer and delivered to the geothermal heat pump where its heat is extracted and the water is pumped back into the ground or to a designated runoff. Since the water that you are using is not being treated in any way, the only thing that is being returned to the ground is water that is just a little warmer or cooler (depending whether you're in heating or cooling mode).

One thing to watch out for with an open loop system is water quality. Mineral build-up can arise from poor quality water. This can be kept under control with an occasional cleaning. If the water in the ground has higher iron content, you will need to make sure that the discharge water is prevented from coming in contact with air before it is returned to prevent clogs.
 
Closed loops are precisely as they sound. Instead of pumping water from a well and depositing it elsewhere, water is circulated in a entirely sealed circuit with a small amount of environmentally-friendly antifreeze.
 
There are two main types of closed loop installations: horizontal and vertical. Putting in the system horizontally requires a good chunk of land. The piping is buried in trenches between 4 and 6 feet deep and can be up to 400 feet long. If you live on a smaller lot, the loops can be installed vertically by boring straight down using drilling equipment. This type of installation can be installed in as little as a 10ft by 10ft  area.
 
In either case, the bigger the building, the bigger the geothermal heat pump and loop needs to be. A good ball park figure is that for every ton of system capacity, you will need 500 to 600 feet of pipe.
 
Contact Scott Horseman Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. today to learn more about what system options are available to you here in Central Virginia.