GA Engineers Designs Geothermal Systems

by Talk Business & Politics ([email protected]) 68 views 

As utility costs rise, more people are looking for ways to save money.
Greg Anderson, president of GA Engineers Inc., said more people are turning to geothermal systems to heat and cool their homes and offices.
Geothermal systems use the earth as a heating and cooling source. They tap into this source through 4-inch holes dug 300 feet deep. A pump sends water through closed loops of high-density polyethylene tubing fed through the hole. Anderson said each well translates into about 1.5 tons of heating and cooling.
In the winter, the subterranean temperature is warmer than on the surface. The pump pulls heat from the earth, where the temperature is 50 degrees to 65 degrees, and uses it to heat the building. It works just the opposite in the summer.
He said residential units may cost as little as $3,000, but people can expect to pay about 50 percent more for a geothermal system than traditional HVAC systems. The upside is that owners only need to wait two years to eight years to see returns on their investments.
Anderson installs geothermal systems in about five homes per year, although he said they’re usually high-end homes.
GA Engineers also has been installing geothermal systems in Springdale schools. He has completed three, and two more new schools will rely on geothermal energy beginning this fall.
Anderson said Springdale expressed interest about four years ago in geothermal heat pumps. Anderson decided to study geothermal systems already in place at public schools. He visited about 40 schools, talking with officials about their systems.
“What I found was about half of the schools loved them and about half hated them,” he said.
It was discouraging initially, but looking beneath the surface, Anderson found it was a function of proper design and installation.
“The biggest challenge is finding a good contractor,” he said.
Keith Kaderly, manager of marketing and energy services at Ozarks Electric Coop Corp., said the company opted for geothermal when it expanded its offices.
“We wanted to do it before we ever started on the building,” he said. “We’re big proponents of geothermal, especially on a commercial site. If you’re looking at the difference between it and boilers and chillers — it’s almost a no-brainer.”
Ozarks Electric doubled its building to 26,000 SF but still uses about the same amount of electricity, Kaderly said.
Anderson said Northwest Arkansas is a suitable place for geothermal systems. At 12 feet to 20 feet below the surface is a layer of solid limestone. The limestone efficiently holds temperatures more constant than the clay some other regions rest on.
Going geothermal isn’t always the best route. Depending on factors such as square footage and external exposure, other HVAC systems may be more efficient. To determine what is best for the owner, Anderson uses computer software that simulates the heating and cooling needs of a structure for one year.