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Open-looped And Closed-loop Geothermal Systems
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There are two types of loop systems to consider when installing a geothermal heating system. You can either install a closed-looped or open-looped geothermal system. The two systems follow the same concept for geothermal heating and cooling by extracting energy stored in liquids beneath the ground surface, but the two different loop systems achieve this process differently.

Open-Looped Geothermal Systems are cheaper to install and have a better ability to heat a living space. Open-looped systems usually use well water stored under the ground which has a better ability of matching the temperature of the earth underground than a closed-loop geothermal system can achieve. It might seem like your obvious choice would be to choose an open-looped geothermal system because it would save you money and be more efficient. Unfortunately, open-looped systems can cost you more money in the long run.

The most common way to build an open-looped geothermal system is to drill a well or to tap into existing wells. Water is pumped from the well, the energy is extracted by the heat pump system, and the water is ejected through a pipe back into the well or sometimes into a second well. In order for this to work in a typical home, a geothermal heat pump system would have to pump 10-15 gallons of well water per minute to make the open-loop system feasible. Some land owners are not able to access this amount of ground water.

Open-Looped Geothermal Systems can be expensive to maintain. A number of problems can result as a result of using well water. With open-loop systems, a separate submersible water pump must be installed. Water deposits wear down and clog up the machinery over time which will need cleaned out or replaced. If you are going to use an open-loop geothermal system, test your well water to make sure iron, pollution, and acid levels are in check. If you have a good water supply, you might give an open-loop system consideration; otherwise you might run into unexpected and costly repair bills.

There are other sources for water in an Open-Loop Geothermal System. Some people are fortunate enough to own property by a pond or lake. Water at the bottom of a deep pond or lake share the same kind of geothermal advantages of water stored underground in that it always stays at a relatively constant temperature throughout the year. A property owner can take advantage by using these natural resources.

Closed-Looped Geothermal Systems are a relatively new practice in geothermal heating and cooling. Instead of using ground water to extract heat, a closed-loop system uses a circuit of piping that contains a mixture of environmentally-safe antifreeze and water. The antifreeze never leaves the system of piping and never gets contaminated with elements of the ground.

A closed-loop system requires several feet of narrow piping to be installed beneath the ground. One of the newer ways to cover more area in less space is to install piping that loops around several times like a flattened slinky. With a closed-loop system, the real drawback is that the refrigerant is only heated or cooled a few degrees. The more piping installed, the greater the influence the temperature beneath ground has on the liquid inside the piping.

Closed-Looped Geothermal Systems are cheaper to maintain over time. There is less likelihood of malfunction because the flow of liquid is free of underground contaminants. If you are looking for a reliable system with low maintenance costs, the closed-looped geothermal system might be the best choice for you even though it costs more money to install.

As you can see, open-looped Geothermal Systems cost less to install and have some advantages in efficiency but can end up being more expensive in the long run with unpredictable repairs. A closed-loop system is less able to heat and cool a refrigerant underground, but can be more reliable due to the fact that refrigerant always remains in a controlled environment. When deciding on which geothermal heat pump system to install, many home and business owners opt for the closed-loop geothermal system even if they have access to ground water because of the reliability of a closed-loop system. They also don’t have to worry about having a constant supply of ground water required to pump through an open-loop system.


Street Talk

That makes complete sense and reminds me of chiller units I've cleaned on apartment buildings. I've also cleaned the same system that was buried in an old farm pond. They both achieved the same result, but were located in completely different environments. I can see how the environment would determine the efficiency of either, closed or open method. Thank you for an informative description!

Reply
  about 6 years ago
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