All posts by chris.woodard@nexgenenergy.net

GeothermalGenius Features NexGen Energy System

See the original post on GeothermalGenius

Geothermal heating and cooling is the most energy efficient way to both heat and cool your home on the planet.  Homeowners who want to take advantage of this awesome energy source under their feet have to accept some level of disruption in their landscaping… or do they?

NexGen Energy located in Central Minnesota has a different method for installing geothermal loops, which are simply the underground pipe that exchanges the heat with the ground.  Homeowners can now have geothermal loops installed right from their basement rather than tearing up their yard with boreholes and trenches.  According to Jackson Motzko, Design Engineer NexGen Energy, “This is the cleanest installation on the market and it is also more cost effective”.

Traditionally loop fields average $2200/ton in MN, and there are usually other fees, such as cleanup.  The NexGen Energy loop fields average $1700 per ton.

On top of the cost, there is one other inherent benefit to installing your system in your basement: manifold access.  Traditional loop fields bring all of the loops together at a manifold that is buried underground so they only need to bring two pipes through your basement wall into your home.  The NexGen Energy loops are terminated at a manifold right when the loops come out of the ground.  This means that you have year-round access to the loops for maintenance or expansion purposes.  If you do choose to expand the size of your system in the future (new addition, heating the garage, adding hot water, etc.), all you need to do in install another loop and add it to the manifold.  Other systems would require digging up the manifold again, which is typically just as costly as installing the initial system.

If you are a homeowner that would like to install a geothermal system using the NexGen Energy loop installation system or a contractor and you would like to learn how you can start installing this new style of loop field for your customers, please contact NexGen through http://nexgenenergy.net/

Please note that the NexGen Process is exclusive to Minnesota at this point in time so most homeowners hoping to have this type of install will need to stick to the traditional loop field installations.

Please visit www.geothermalgenius.org for other great resources!

 

NexGen Energy Introduces Detachable Loop Hammer

Our revolutionary loop installation system that can fit down your stairs and into your basement just got better!  Our engineers took to the drawing board and designed a fitting that would allow us to remove the hammer from the rest of the loop.

There are two main benefits to this design change.

First, the loop assembly can now be handled by one person.  The original system included a loop of HDPE pipe on a large reel that was attached to the loop hammer (jackhammer in a tube).  The whole assembly was easy to maneuver for two people, but the goal was to make it easy enough for one person to manage.  The wait is over.  The entire system can fit in the bed of a pickup truck and carried safely into the home by a single installer.  The hammer is the heaviest piece of system and removing it from the loop allows for safe transport and handling.

Detachable Loop Installation Hammer

The second advantage is that we can now offer different types of hammers depending on the job site.  We are currently testing a second hammer design that has not made its public yet, and the first to know will be our newsletter subscribers (sign up here)!  Advancements like this are great news for both homeowners and contractors.

Our vision is to equip contractors with this technology and the ability to separate the hammer and the loop is a big step toward that vision.


 


If you are an HVAC professional that would like more information about the NexGen Energy geothermal loop installation system, here are a few ways to get in touch with us:

Contractor Contact Page

info@nexgenenergy.net

612-424-2382

NexGen Energy vs. Drilling: What’s the Difference?

There are two ways to install a “vertical” loop field.  You can use heavy drilling equipment (horizontal or vertical), or you can use the NexGen Energy loop installation system.  The NexGen system is installed a in a “radial” pattern looks like the frame of a tepee under your basement (see more here), so it isn’t actually a “vertical” system per say.

New:
The primary difference between traditional drilling methods and the NexGen system lies in how the bore hole is formed. Traditionally drilling methods use their drill rig to bore a hole into the ground. The drill is then removed from the hole being held open with drill mud. Then when a drill bore hole is used for a geothermal system, the installer will insert a U-shaped loop into the hole. Since the loop is smaller than the bore hole, the driller will use grout to fill in and seal any gaps.

The NexGen loop installation system is installed with a proprietary air-powered jackhammer in a tube.  The hammer pulls the pipe deep into the ground as it displaces the soil.  Since the hammer is the same width as the pipe that it is pulling, there is no gap to fill in!  This close contact directly with the soil also allows for maximum heat transfer.  Once the hammer has reached the desired depth, a smaller tube is inserted inside the larger tube to create a loop for fluid to flow through.

No matter how the loop field is installed, the loops will connect to a central manifold that a geothermal heat pump will use to cycle fluid through the loops and extract the heat from the ground.  NexGen energy believes that this simplified loop installation method will help make geothermal a more feasible solution for homeowners and expand the reach of the entire industry.

 


For more information on NexGen Energy, visit our home page at www.nexgenenergy.net or check out our YouTube channel!

Replacing an Existing Ground Source Loop Field

A ground source heat pump is a fantastic option for both heating and cooling your home.  That being said, there are plenty of horror stories in blogs and forums about systems that have failed.  Replacing the heat pump itself is bad enough, but many homeowners ditch the entire system if they have a failing loop field.  We’re not going to dive into the finger-pointing match of who caused the failure or why it happened, but we’ll start with two assumptions:

1. The problem is underground

2. You have no idea where it is

There are many other blog posts that talk about methods for troubleshooting and diagnosing a leak in loop field.  There are mixed reviews on the Fix-A-Leak product, but that is one solution.  The other avenue involves digging up your manifold , which is typically underground like the example pictured below.  From there, you can test each individual loop and repair the leak or disconnect that portion of the loop field.  If the leak cannot be repaired and you are forced to abandon a portion of your loop field, it can leave the field undersized for your heat pump.

UGManifold

Before You Give Up

There is another option!  You can add loop field capacity to replace what you capped off or even the entire field.  By inserting a self-driving loop near your heat pump, you can add the needed capacity to keep your system operating properly.  This is a more cost-effective alternative to replacing part or all of your trenched or drilled loop field.  It may even be less expensive than having a leak-detection specialist on site to troubleshoot your field (which would still need to be fixed).

 

Planning for Flexibility 

The NexGen Energy system is designed to be flexible and scalable. NGManifold2 By inserting our self-driving loops through a small hole in the concrete slab, it allows us to place our manifold in an accessible location.  The central manifold is where each individual ground source loop comes together before circulating through the heat pump.  This is also valuable if you choose to expand your geothermal system in the future.  Many homeowners look for other applications that they did not initially consider, such as radiant in-floor heat and hot water heating, when the first installed the system.  The ability to add capacity down the road can help you feel confident in your current decision to install a geothermal system as well.

Whether you are just exploring this awesome technology for the first time, or you are frustrated with a leak in your loop field, we are here to help!

 


 

NexGen Energy’s self-driving loop technology is allowing ground-source heating applications to be installed almost anywhere!  Please visit our website or join the discussion on Facebook.  You can also leave a comment on this post if you have any thoughts or questions.

Geothermal Heat Pumps 101

What’s the big deal?

We’re constantly talking about how NexGen Energy is changing the face of the geothermal game with our revolutionary loop installations, but sometimes we forget to make sure everyone knows why we exist.  First, geothermal is the  most energy efficient source of heating and cooling on the planet.  Second, the required loop field could only be installed in limited locations – until now.  This begs the question, how in the world does a geothermal system actually work?

The Basics

Heat pumps are nothing new.  Do you have a refrigerator?  A refrigerator changes the pressure of a liquid, called Freon, to make it hot or cold.  Under high pressure, the Freon becomes very warm and transfers that heat to the room our the back of the fridge.  When the Freon is depressurized it gets very cold, which allows it to remove heat from the inside of the fridge. By changing the pressure of the Freon and circulating it through this closed system, heat is removed from the inside of the fridge (leaving it cold) to the outside.

In cooling mode, a geothermal heat pump uses the same idea, but on a much larger scale, and with much less waste.  Instead of throwing away the extracted heat, it circulates a liquid through a “loop” of underground pipe.  When a warm liquid is pumped into the ground, the ground absorbs heat from the liquid and it comes back up colder.  The heat is stored in the soil, and reused in the winter when the system switches to heating mode.  In heating mode, the system works in reverse.  Cold liquid is sent into the loop field where it absorbs heat from the warmer ground and comes back to the heat pump a little warmer.  The Freon is then pressurized by the heat pump and becomes very warm, and this heat is circulated around your home through your forced air duct system.

Credit cchrc.org, finehomebuilding.com
Credit cchrc.org, finehomebuilding.com

 

Super Efficiency!

The best fossil-fuel heating systems achieve in the mid-90’s for efficiency percentage.  Modern heat pumps can achieve 400-600% efficient.  I know what you’re thinking – 400%, impossible, someone is cheating.  Yes it’s true, we are cheating.  By using a heat pump, we are able to store and reuse the heat from the summer.  Although a heat pump does not create heat, it can move heat from one place to another very efficiently.  With a fossil-fuel system, you are paying to create the heat and run the system whereas you only pay to operate the heat pump and the heat is essentially free.  This is how such high efficiency is realized.

What About These Loops?

NexGen Energy saw a big problem with modern loop installations.  Drillers and excavators were the big players and they installed the loop fields by digging up your yard or drilling several wells connected by trenches.  NexGen Energy wants everyone to be able to take advantage of the free heat under their feet, and these loop fields were a big problem.  Our self-driving loops could be installed on small lots, directly from the basement, which allows almost anyone to capture geothermal energy!

 

 


NexGen Energy’s self-driving loop technology is allowing ground-source heating applications to be installed almost anywhere!  Please visit our website or join the discussion on Facebook.  You can also leave a comment on this post if you have any thoughts or questions.

Renewable Energy ROI

Evaluate Your Options

Renewable energy is now a commonplace term in 2015 and there are a myriad of options when it comes to choosing a renewable investment.  The most popular options today are solar, wind, and geothermal.   Depending on where you live, some options are more feasible than other.  For example, if you live in the deserts of Southern Arizona, you have more sun than most places on the Earth and tapping into the energy stored in the ground is much more costly.  In this discussion, we will focus on the Midwest where we have plenty of wind, cold winters, moderate sunlight, and good soil.  All comparisons in this article use pricing that does not account for a 30% tax credit, which applies to any of the renewable options.

Harnessing the Power of the Wind

Wind energy has been used as a source of power since man took to the waters and threw up sails to help propel their boats.  Modern wind generators are solely focused on generating electricity, and the generators have become much for effective and cost-efficient in the last decade.  The only inherent issue with wind energy is that it requires wind, which is not always a consistent resource.  Storing electricity is incredibly expensive, which means that it needs to be used immediately after it is created.  What if you need electricity when it is not windy?  What if it’s windy and you’re not using electricity?  These are the macro-level issues that electric utilities are facing right now with more large-scale wind farms providing a larger portion of our electricity.

On a residential scale, the Wind Energy Foundation says you can expect to spend $10,000 – $70,000 depending on your electric needs.   They expect to see a 5 kW turbine, which would be sized for an average home, to produce about 8,000 kWh per year.  A 5 kW system will likely run you over $20,000 and even at $0.10/kWh, the annual savings is $800.  It will take 25 years to recoup a $20,000 investment, and the turbine is expected to last about that long.

Solar

The United States is divided into zones by how much sun they get each day (Wholesale Solar has a good depiction of this map).  In the Midwest, we average about 4.5 hours of direct sunlight per day.  Wholesale Solar estimates that a nominal system will cost $4/watt and take 15 years to pay back with an electric rate of $0.20/kWh.  The rates in the Midwest actually average less than $0.10/kWh, which effectively doubles the payback period.

Solar technology has come a long way and is making great strides in residential markets, but the long winters and low electric rates in the Midwest make it a challenge to pay off the system during the expected lifespan of the system.  Manufacturers are working hard to create more robust systems, and Energy Informative is optimistic that modern panels could last over 30 years, which is a big improvement over the current estimates of 20 years.

Geothermal

Modern ground-source heat pumps trace their birth back to the 1940’s when heat was being thrown away as a byproduct of refrigeration.  Capturing the heat of this compression cycle allows a heat pump to warm the air or water surrounding a coil, which in turn cools down the liquid in the coil.  A ground-source heat pump sends this cooled liquid into the ground, where it is warmed by the heat in the soil and then returns to the heat pump, which repeats the cycle.  If you have done any research on this topic, you will see claims of over 300% efficiency, which sounds crazy, right?  The secret is that the heat is being stored in the ground, and we are simply using a pump to collect that heat and transfer it from the ground to our home.  This heat is naturally occurring since the ground captures the vast majority of the energy from the sun in the form of heat.  We are simply moving the heat from one location to another, which costs very little energy or money.

A ground-source heat pump is certainly not a small investment, but many homeowners are already comfortable buying a fossil-fuel burning furnace and air conditioning unit.  A ground-source heat pump will cost about $20,000 to $30,000 to install, but that does offset the need for other heating and cooling systems, which saves around $10,000 up-front.  Users switching from a propane system can expect to save up to $2500 per year and natural gas users can save about $1000 per year in heating and cooling costs.  The more you use your heat, the more you will save since the calculated savings are dependent on the number of heating-degree-days in your area.  At this rate, propane replacement systems have a pay off of under 10 years and some are even around 5 years.  Switching from, or avoiding, natural gas will more likely be 10-15 years.  This is great news since a geothermal loop field is built to last over 50 years!

Geothermal expert, Jay Egg, estimates that the return on a geothermal system is even better when you take into account the lower maintenance costs and volatile fossil fuel markets.  For more information on how you can make the most of your renewable energy dollar, visit us at www.nexgenenergy.net or email us at info@nexgenenergy.net

 

Other Great Resources

http://www.egggeo.com/

http://www.geothermalgenius.org/

 


NexGen Energy’s self-driving loop technology is allowing ground-source heating applications to be installed almost anywhere!  Please visit our website or join the discussion on Facebook.  You can also leave a comment on this post if you have any thoughts or questions.

Geothermal Installations on Small Lots

No Land, No Problem!

Traditional geothermal systems that use a horizontal loop field require a large amount of open land that can be excavated or trenched in order to lay out the geothermal loops.  This has been a severely limiting factor in helping geothermal growth in urban environments.  Well drillers have solved some of these issues and have allowed installations in tighter spaces by using vertical wells.  This is a great advancement for the industry and helps make geothermal a viable option for even more people.

NexGen Energy is focused on pushing this envelope even further.  By starting the install through the concrete slab in the basement, or lowest level of the home, the land requirements nearly disappear.  As long as you own the property, the loops can be distributed throughout the lot.  Even a small residential lot can accommodate these innovative loops.

radialarray

The loop field uses a radial-array pattern that starts in a convenient location, which is typically near the existing HVAC system.  For new construction, the process is even easier!  The radial loops allow heat to be transferred from much farther away and reduces the risk of freezing the ground around the loops that many horizontal (slinky) fields are prone to encountering.  Vertical wells must also avoid this problem by drilling the wells far enough apart.  Finding a single location on a small lot might not be a problem, but spreading out four or five wells presents a much larger challenge.

NexGen Energy believes that this self-driving radial array technology will allow geothermal to go where it has never gone before!  Please let us know if you are seeking a more energy-efficient, renewable future within the confines of a city, and we can show you how a geothermal system would work in your home!

 


NexGen Energy’s self-driving loop technology is allowing ground-source heating applications to be installed almost anywhere!  Please visit our website or join the discussion on Facebook.  You can also leave a comment on this post if you have any thoughts or question

Geothermal: A Different Kind of Heat

Heating is heating, right?  Not quite.  Geothermal systems operate differently than fossil fuel-burning systems, and understanding the differences can help you get the most out of your geothermal system.

Fire!

We all learned about heat transfer at a young age when our mother slapped our had when we reached for the stove.  We were scolded, but protected from a very rapid source of heat transfer that would have left us with a nasty burn.  Heating systems that use an open flame are not much different.  The flame is burning the fuel flowing into the system at a regulated rate and creating a large amount of heat.  Most homes in the US have forced air ducts or hot water pipes to then deliver that heat around the home.  The goal of this system is to create as much of the heat from the centralized fossil-fuel burning flame and then transfer that heat to the air around the rest of the home in short bursts;  then shut it off.  When temperature in the home dips down low enough, the furnace kicks back on to heat up the home again.

When consumers want to save energy with this type of system, they can use a programmable thermostat to keep the system off for longer periods of time when they are not home.  This causes the home to cool down to a lower temperature, but then requires the furnace to “catch up” when the homeowner returns and wants the temperature to come back up again.

embers

Slow Burn

Geothermal is more the coals in the fire that stay warm long after the flame has gone out.  The goal of a geothermal system is to maintain a more constant temperature by delivering a lower temperature heat over a longer period of time.  By extracting the heat from the ground more slowly, the soil directly around the loop is warmed up again by heat transfer from the soil farther away from the loop.  We discussed potential problems with freezing in another post, but an over-sized heat pump or under-sized loop field can extract too much heat too quickly a freeze the ground around the loop field.

When the ground has time to recover, the system is able to better utilize the heat stored in the ground in an even fashion.  This is why loop placement and spacing is important.  You would not want to have a loop field where the loops are close to each other or overlapping.  The Geo Guy has  a more detailed article on why horizontal “slinky” loop fields are prone to this issue.

Geothermal is the world’s most efficient heating source and once you understand how the system works, you installation will be much more effective.

 


NexGen Energy’s self-driving loop technology is allowing ground-source heating applications to be installed almost anywhere!  Please visit our website or join the discussion on Facebook.  You can also leave a comment on this post if you have any thoughts or questions.

Dual Fuel: What is it, and do I need it?

Every industry has it’s own inside lingo that can sound Greek to the outside world.  Most, if not all, electric utilities have a special “dual fuel” rate that allows consumers to have a reduced rate for part of their electric load.  What does this actually mean for the average electric user and what are the other alternatives?  I’ll address these questions and shed some light on this from a geothermal perspective.

What is Dual Fuel Anyway?

Dual fuel is rate classification given by electric utilities for customers that primarily use an electric heat source but have the ability to switch to a secondary heat source during times of peak demand.  Most secondary heat sources are fossil-fuel burning sources; there are others, but we’re not heading down that road right now.  The utility is always trying to provide electricity in the most cost-effective manner possible, but when demand peaks beyond what they can normally supply, the price skyrockets.  The utility may have to turn on backup diesel generators or buy energy on the open market, both of which are very costly.  If the utility can reduce their overall load during these times, they can avoid these extra costs.  Dual fuel electric rates are typically much cheaper (per kWh) than retail rates, but usually only apply to your electric heating load.  They are also under the stipulation that the utility can initiate a transfer from your electric heat source to your backup heat source.  This trade off allows the utility to control their peak, and you can save quite a bit on your electric bill.

How Does Geothermal Fit In?

Geothermal systems operate on electricity, and for this reason, they qualify for dual fuel rates.  One of the most common misconceptions with geothermal is that a backup source is required.  This is far from the truth!  Geothermal systems can provide all the heating and cooling you need with no need for a backup heat source.  Often times, dual fuel rates can lead people to believe that geothermal systems need to fall in this category.  The fact is that there are usually completely separate rates for customers that on a purely electric heating system with no fossil-fuel installation.  In our area, Wright-Hennepin offers a controlled and uncontrolled option for ground-source heat pumps.  Xcel Energy does not have an uncontrolled option, but they do offer a substantial rate reduction.  For more information on specific rate reductions and other rebates, visit your local electric utility online, or get in touch with us, and we can help you find the information you need!

 


NexGen Energy’s self-driving loop technology is allowing ground-source heating applications to be installed almost anywhere!  Please visit our website or join the discussion on Facebook.  You can also leave a comment on this post if you have any thoughts or questions.

 

Avoiding Geothermal Problems in Freezing Temperatures

Geothermal doesn’t work in the bitter cold!  False.

It is now January in Minnesota, where we get excited when there is not a minus sign in front of the temperature.  Jackson Motzko, lead design engineer at NexGen Energy, is enjoying the comfort of his nice, warm home that runs purely on his five ton geothermal system and no fossil fuel or electric backup.  Motzko now has been running his system for six Minnesota winters and has faced temperatures as low as -30 F with zero problems.  He encounters people all too often that have not shared his experience or have been misinformed about geothermal systems.  He has offered up some advice for people that  might be facing challenges with their existing geothermal system or help educate those that might be considering a new install.

Storing Heat in the Soil

Ground-source geothermal systems work a little differently than systems that exchange heat with the air.  When discussing the principles of geothermal with Motzko, he looks at the ground as a place to store the summer heat.   “I think the key to getting all the benefits of geothermal is understanding how it works differently than other heating and cooling sources.  The first thing is understanding where the heat comes from.  The heat is stored in the ground during the summer.  So it’s key to be using your cooling cycle all summer long.”

During the summer, the heat pump is running in reverse.  It extracts the heat from the home and pumps it into the ground.  This heats the soil and cools the fluid at the same time.  The cooled fluid is used to cool the air in the home and the cycle is repeated.  The soil is also naturally heated by the sun as well, which makes it a great heat source during the cold months.

Rapid Indoor Temperature Changes

Motzko has also heard of many people complaining about frozen loops and points out another crucial difference with a geothermal heating system.

“The heat must be transferred through the soil.  This means there is not an unlimited supply of heat like a typical fuel system.  The supply available to you is the only what the loop can pull out of the ground and what the ground can pass to the loop.  Ground loops, over the course of a season, will pull heat from several feet away through the ground.  This heat transfer is most efficient if it happens slowly and steadily.  For this reason, it is important to keep the heat load on the system as even as possible.  One common mistake is changing the set temperature in the house using a programmable thermostat.  If too much heat is taken too fast from the soil the ground around the loop can freeze, which limits its ability to transfer heat to the loop.  Frozen ground in your loop field can leave you stuck with a big problem.”

If you want to reduce your usage on a traditional fossil fuel source, the only thing you can do it use it less.  There are plenty of fancy thermostats on the market to help turn off your system when you are not home.  They do this by lowering the set point inside the home, which lowers the duty cycle of the system.  The down side is that when you return and the set point jumps up, the system must catch up by working extra hard until it reaches the warmer set point.  Treating a geothermal system the same way can cause a very uneven demand on your loops and rapidly cool them to the point of freezing.  Maintaining a flattened temperature profile allows the system cycle on and off appropriately.
Confidence in Your System
You should have total confidence that your geothermal system will provide the heat you need throughout the winter.  We would love to hear about your experiences, good or bad, so please leave a comment or join the discussion on Facebook!

A Note to Those Suffering from Freezing Issues

If your system was improperly designed, don’t worry!  NexGen Energy loops  can be installed cleanly  near your existing manifold.  These loops can add the extra capacity you need, or replace the loss of a loop in frozen ground.  Please contact us if you are experiencing these types of problems!

 


 

Jackson Motzko can be reached directly at Jackson.Motzko@nexgenenergy.net