4 Exciting Developments in Geothermal Technology

4 Exciting Developments in Geothermal Technology

Geothermal energy is the heat inside the earth. Geothermal HVAC systems use fields of pipes buried in the ground to harness this renewable energy source. Water passing through the fields collect and return heat to a geothermal pump to warm your home. For cooling, pipes collect heat from the home and return the energy to the ground.

While a geothermal system’s building costs are usually higher than that of a traditional HVAC unit, over time it will deliver significant cost-savings. Consumer demand for increased efficiency from alternative energy sources continues to fuel new developments in geothermal technology, including the following.

High-Efficiency Heat Exchangers

Geothermal energy creates very few emissions and can reduce the country’s dependence on its limited fossil fuel supply. The earth’s heat provides an inexhaustible energy source. You can bring this technology into your home by having a professional install a residential geothermal HVAC system

Consider the latest options when choosing a new system for your home. Innovations in geothermal solutions include high-efficiency closed-loop ground-coupled heat exchangers (GCHEs). Closed-loop systems feature pipes configured in a complete circuit for water to travel through the ground and heat pump. 

High-efficiency loops utilize both horizontal and vertical closed loops to collect more thermal energy than traditional GCHEs. High-efficiency setups can lower installation costs and require shallower pipe fields.

Advanced Drilling Systems

Geothermal HVAC installation requires drilling into the ground to position the pipes, which can be the most time-consuming part of the job. This process is also challenging due to the extreme heat and pressure below the earth’s surface. Advanced drilling techniques developed by Baker Hughes extend the drilling time while allowing the drill to operate in extreme temperatures.

The company’s engineers combined a high-temperature lubricant and specialized metal-to-metal motor. Successful tests include drilling in temperatures of about 300 degrees Celsius (572 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to 270 consecutive hours. 

Drilling Alternatives

Geothermal company Dandelion, a Google Alphabet startup, is also focused on upgrading geothermal options and lowering installation costs. Recent tests include using alternative drilling tools. Dandelion engineers tried using liquid nitrogen and high-pressure water jets.

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The company moved forward with an innovative slender drill. This updated tool allowed Dandelion to build HVAC solutions with fewer holes in the ground that take up less space. The smaller setup makes geothermal energy sources available to more homeowners.

Affordable Equipment

Another of Dandelion’s goals is to make more affordable geothermal HVAC systems. The company recently launched the Dandelion Home Geothermal System. Powered by the Dandelion Air exchanger, this solution costs around $20,000, which is half the cost of installing a traditional geothermal or solar heating and cooling system. The lower price makes geothermal energy accessible to more people.

Geothermal HVAC suppliers are responding to the needs and demands of consumers who want a renewable energy source that provides increased efficiency. Established and startup companies offer exciting developments, including more affordable options that can work in smaller spaces. Innovations in tools and techniques are also shortening installation times and making work safer for contractors dealing with geothermal pipe fields.

Image via Flickr by Kecko

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