Installing a ground source heat pump? Here are some considerations
Ground source heating/cooling is an area that requires specialized knowledge and equipment. As a result, the contractors that design and install these systems tend to specialize in geothermal installations.
In Canada, residential and commercial systems must be sized and installed according to minimum standards as set out in the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) C448 Standard for the Installation of Earth Energy Systems.
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One of the most critical steps in installing a ground source system is to size and install the “ground loop” – piping in the ground. There are basically three types of piping systems which are commonly used: an open system, loop system and direct expansion (DX) geothermal system. An open system operates by drawing water into the heat pump from a body of water and then returning it to that body of water. Such systems are typically used when lakes, rivers or even wells are nearby.
More common is the closed loop system in which the heat pump circulates the heating/cooling fluid –usually an antifreeze mixture – through a continuous loop of piping buried in the ground. Heat is drawn from the ground and transferred to the heat pump through the heating/cooling fluid.
The length of the underground loop along with the ground conditions determines the heating and cooling capacity of the system.
In new construction, the loop often runs horizontally below the frost line. In retrofits to existing homes, geothermal loops are more often installed vertically to minimize damage to landscaping and/or driveways. For a single-family home, installations have been done even in city neighbourhoods by drilling four holes up to 100 metres deep.
Getting the loop length correct is critical; if the loop is undersized it will not be able to produce as much heat as required which will result in the system operating on backup heat more often than it should.
The third type of system, which is becoming much more common, is the direct expansion geothermal system whereby refrigerant is circulated through the ground loop.
Learn more and locate a qualified contractor to service your air conditioners by going to the Heating, Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) Contractor Locator page, or calling 1-877-467-HRAI (4724). All HRAI member contractors have been pre-screened and have the required trade licences, technical certifications and insurance coverage to service on your system.
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