Can Ground-Source Heat Pumps Be Installed in High-Rise Building? | Ecoforest
Can ground-source heat pumps be installed in high-rise buildings? Ecoforest

Can Ground-Source Heat Pumps Be Installed in High-Rise Building?

In a world increasingly concerned about environmental impact and the need to find renewable energy sources, geothermal energy has gained popularity as a promising option. While it is common to associate geothermal energy with heating single-family homes, many people question whether it is possible to install geothermal energy in a building. In today’s post, we explore that option and discuss the benefits of this green energy source.

What is ground-source energy

Ground-source energy or geothermal energy comes from the combination of the Greek words “geo” (meaning “Earth”) and “thermos” (meaning “heat”). This combination gives us a basic understanding of how it works: geothermal energy is a renewable energy source that harnesses the Earth’s internal heat to generate electricity and heat through the use of heat pumps.

From a depth of approximately 15 metres underground, the subsoil maintains a constant temperature, regardless of the season or outside weather conditions. This characteristic of the subsoil to accumulate and retain heat in a stable manner allows it to be efficiently utilised.

The thermal stability of the subsoil provides a solid basis for the implementation of geothermal systems in buildings, as the constant and available heat can be used continuously to meet energy needs.

In the specific case of Spain, thermal stability is in the range of approximately 15 to 18 degrees Celsius throughout the year, at a depth of 15 to 20 metres. These geothermal characteristics offer an ideal opportunity to sustainably use the natural heat of the subsoil for heating, cooling and power generation.

Ground-source heat pumps (GSHPs)

Ground-source heat pumps or water-to-water heat pumps play a key role in geothermal systems for buildings. These pumps use the principle of heat transfer to harness heat from the ground and transfer it to the building’s heating or cooling system.

There are different types of ground-source heat pumps, but in general, they all work by circulating a refrigerant that absorbs or releases heat as it passes through a thermodynamic cycle. The refrigerant is used to extract heat from the geothermal fluid or groundwater and is then compressed to increase its temperature before releasing the heat to the building’s heating or cooling system.

These geothermal heat pumps are highly efficient, as they harness the constant and stable heat from underground rather than relying on external heat sources such as ambient air. This means that they can provide efficient heating during the winter, effective cooling during the summer and domestic hot water (DHW) all year round. All with reduced energy consumption and reduced environmental impact.

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Feasibility of geothermal energy in buildings

The feasibility of installing a geothermal system or open loop collection system in a building depends on several factors. Firstly, it is essential to carry out a geotechnical study to assess the subsurface conditions and determine the feasibility of efficiently extracting heat.

In addition, it is important to consider the size and availability of space on the building site for the installation of ground heat exchangers, either through closed loop or open loop systems. In some cases, the availability of groundwater may influence the choice of the most suitable type of geothermal system.

Local regulations and permits must also be taken into account, as there are specific regulations for installing geothermal in buildings.

In addition, in cases where drilling a geothermal well is not feasible, water-to-water heat pumps can be combined with air units to extract energy from the air. High power air units can be installed on terraces or in common areas and can be combined with common or individual heat pumps for each appartment.

Once these checks have been carried out and it has been ensured that installation is feasible, geothermal can be a viable and cost-effective option for heating and cooling buildings, especially those with significant energy demand. In addition to reducing dependence on fossil fuels, installing geothermal offers benefits such as energy efficiency, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and long-term savings in energy costs.

Taking all this into account, we can say that installing geothermal systems in buildings is indeed a feasible and sustainable option. But before making the decision, a detailed analysis of the local conditions and compliance with regulatory requirements should not be forgotten, so that everything runs smoothly.

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