Frequently Asked Questions
1) What is the difference between ground source energy and geothermal systems?
There is a lot of confusion around what ground source energy systems and geothermal systems are because the terms are often used interchangeably. Typically, the word “geothermal” has been used to refer to both since each system exchanges energy below the earth’s surface. Learn about the differences on the Ground Source Energy vs. Geothermal page.
2) How long does it take to install a ground source energy system?
There are a number of variables to consider. The length of time to install a ground source energy system is dependent upon the overall system – size, the geology of the area, and whether it’s a new or retro-fitted installation. New buildings require our team to be involved from the beginning of construction planning and design.
3) What is the overall up-front cost of designing and installing a ground source energy system?
The overall cost of each project is dependent upon a number of different factors assessed during the Feasibility stage. Learn more about what’s involved in Feasibility.
4) What is the average pay back period of a ground source energy system?
Once you have installed a ground source energy system, your only additional power requirements will be electricity to run the heat pump and distribution fans. You will no longer require gas, heating oil, firewood or additional electricity to heat your building. The payback period is based upon the energy cost savings you’ll have– which is dependent on how you were heating/cooling your building prior to using ground source energy and the cost of the fuel you were using.
It is estimated that your monthly energy costs would be reduced by an average of 80%.
The average pay back period on a residential ground source energy system is anywhere from 5 to 15 years.
Check out the following article about how going “geothermal” pays off.
5) What are the long-term savings of a ground source energy system?
Once the system is paid for, the long-term savings begin. These savings are the difference between the energy costs of your old system and your new system.
6) Are there any public or private incentive programs available for installing ground source energy “geothermal” systems?
Many local governments provide tax credits or incentives to individuals/businesses that choose to go “geothermal” as they recognize the overall benefits of such a system.
Certain utility companies such as Manitoba Hydro have programs which will allow you to finance your installation on your monthly utility bill. A good thing about this program is that the cost of installation will stay with the home should you decide to sell while the system is still being paid for.
7) Why would I need my ground source energy system monitored?
Monitoring a ground source energy system is most important when it has recently been installed – especially for a system with multiple purposes. Monitoring provides comfort in knowing that everything is in working order. It also helps to prevent energy loss/extra costs in the unlikely event that a problem does occur.
Typically monitoring only takes place for a commercial system or very large home – especially in the first few years. Monitoring helps ensure the following:
- The controls system is working properly.
- The ground-coupled heat exchanger has been properly sized and working efficiently (a GHX that’s too small, or a poor understanding of the geology, could lead to overheating of the system)
- Occupant comfort and the detection of any inefficiencies.
You may also decide to have your system monitored if the operations within the building are different from what was expected when the building was originally designed.
8) What are the main differences between new and retro-fitted installations?
New installations start from scratch – from when a new building is being designed. Retro-fitted installations are different since each system needs to take into account what’s currently involved in the heating/cooling of the existing building. If the building residence has baseboard heat, there may be duct work needed. If the building currently has electricity, forced-air heat, or oil heating, it may need ducts replaced to accommodate the increased air flow these systems require. Contact us to do a feasibility study on your building.
9) Is geothermal available in Manitoba, Canada and across North America?
Yes and no. Technically, geothermal is not available in Manitoba and is rare in Canada due to the geology of the country and the fact that geothermal systems require heat from the earth’s core, through hot springs. However, ground source energy systems can be used in Manitoba and throughout Canada, North America, and other parts of the world. These systems are a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable alternative, using closed loop or open loop piping systems underground to transfer and store energy. Learn more about the differences between geothermal and ground source energy systems.
10) Is installing a ground source energy system worth it for my home?
Long-term cost savings and environmental sustainability are two of the key benefits of having a ground source energy system. There are many factors which effect the feasibility of installing a ground source energy system (the environment, size of home, age of home, geology and space around the home, etc). Please contact us to conduct a feasibility study.
11) Why should I work with Geo-Xergy?
Ground source energy systems can be quite complex. Our experts make sure that your system is balanced, set-up properly and working in the most efficient way possible. The design of a properly sized ground-coupled heat exchanger is also important in minimizing costs. If it is built too large, it can cause more up-front costs or if it is built too small, it can cause problems later if the system cannot balance the heating/cooling capacity.
When we introduce our systems to an area, the ground temperature varies. If you have a hot summer and a lot of heat is released into the ground, the temperature around the ground loop will start to rise. Heat and cold then radiate outwards from the ground loop, but at a slow pace. If that continues year after year, the system would become inefficient. The same is true for heating in the winter. If we kept pulling heat from the ground and not replenishing enough in the summer, the earth around the ground heat exchanger would start to get colder and colder; eventually freezing. This would cause major problems.
12) Do ground source energy systems emit green house gases into the environment?
No, green house gases are not emitted using this type of system. However, electricity is still required to run the heat pump and the distribution fan. Green house gas emissions, therefore, depend upon how that electricity is generated.
13) Are ground-coupled heat pumps safe?
Yes, ground-coupled heat pumps are extremely safe. Since there is no combustion of fossil fuels, (as is the case with natural gas, firewood, or heating oil) there is no threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Furthermore, the heat pump unit operates using a benign refrigerant that is exactly the same and carries the same nominal risks as a typical home air conditioner.
14) What is the fluid that runs through the underground piping? Is it safe?
The design of a sealed, ground loop often requires fluid to fall to temperatures below 0°C, so adequate freezing protection is required to ensure systems continue to operate. There are various antifreeze fluids that are used to transfer heat to and from the ground-coupled heat exchanger, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Common choices Geo-Xergy uses are propylene glycol and methanol.
In closed loops, the antifreeze used is dependent upon the design of the system and the client’s preference.
- A concentration of 15% methanol is typically used in our systems and provides easy flowing and pumping of the system, lower cost and lower flammability.
- Propylene glycol is an environmentally friendly mixture of water and alcohol – a food grade antifreeze which is completely safe for humans. This higher-cost option requires more energy to pump the lower viscosity fluid through the system.
In open loops, the fluid circulating through the heat pump system is the water found in the pond, lake, or well/aquifer it is drawing from. Design consideration needs to be taken into account in order to prevent any freezing during the cold temperature seasons.
Regardless of which antifreeze is chosen, we ensure that the sealed ground pipes keep the liquid contained.
15) How long will my system operate before it needs to be replaced?
A reasonable assumption is that a heat pump is like any other conventional heating and cooling system which will have a finite mechanical lifespan. For most heat pumps, the expected lifespan is 25 years whereas for conventional systems, they have a range of 15 to 20 years. Note: one heat pump does both heating and cooling; therefore, there is no need for a furnace in the building and a noisy air conditioner on the outside.
As for the ground loop (ground-coupled heat exchanger), the use of high-density polyethylene piping should result in operation without degradation for 50 plus years at a minimum.
16) Does a ground source energy system enhance the value of my home or building?
Yes! If you are selling your home, it is important that you (or the real estate agent) point out the features of the home and exactly what savings the “geothermal system” (ground source energy system, in this case) has for the potential owner ie.: no fuel costs. Too many times, houses are sold on their aesthetic features and the mechanical systems are not fully understood or pointed out, but statistics show that ground source energy systems add value.
17) How else does a ground source energy system benefit me?
Ground source energy systems can be used for various features within and around a building or house, such as:
- Radiant heat flooring – provides comfort in areas such as basements, the bathroom or tiled floor areas.
- Snow Melt – can be added under driveways, sidewalks, or loading bays to remove snow before it builds up to icy conditions.
- Domestic hot water storage – can be created for low-cost water heating.
- Refrigeration for large coolers or ice rinks – help the system store more heat.
- Heating of hot tubs and swimming pools.
With any of these feature systems, the size of the ground-coupled heat exchanger must be altered in order to accommodate the heating and cooling requirements these features bring.