Tests show geothermal could cut costs up to 44%
As the debate over the energy efficiency of heating and cooling systems continues, new research shows that geothermal heat pumps may be the most efficient choice. Conducting experiments at the ASHRAE International Headquarters in Atlanta, the Geothermal Exchange Organization worked with a research team from Oklahoma State University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to assess the relative performance of GHP and VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow) systems within the commercial building.
The research was conducted by placing a variable refrigerant flow system on the building’s first floor and a geothermal heat pump system on the second floor. Collecting data from 1,600 sensors placed throughout the renovation project, the researchers found that though the raw data indicated that the VRF system used twice as much energy as geothermal, when differences in heating and cooling loads were normalized, the GHP system averaged 44% less energy use than VRF.
“Though the control strategy for the VRF system resulted in longer runtimes compared to the geothermal system, it is clear that the ground loop water supply temperatures were more favorable than ambient air temperatures for heat pump operation. This allows the geothermal equipment to operate at higher efficiencies,” says Jeff Spitler, regents professor of mechanical engineering at Oklahoma State University and one of the researchers on the project.
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