Tag Archives: geothermal

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.

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

NexGen Energy Introduces Revolutionary Loop Installation

On The Leading Edge

Whether its wanting to go “Green” or simply lower the cost of those monthly utility bills, many of us are looking for an answer that won’t break the bank and have a quick return on investment.  Many people don’t even want to consider geothermal as a cost saving option because of the high price contractors are putting on the energy source.  That’s where NexGen Energy comes in.   NexGen Energy is a new company in the geothermal industry that is unlike any other.  With the main focus to lower installation costs, NexGen is working towards making the most efficient source of energy on earth the most commonly used source of energy.

Traditional

One of the biggest drawbacks to geothermal energy is the expensive installation cost of the ground loops used to exchange heat between the home and the earth.  This is usually the most expensive part of geothermal.  Current technology requires contractors to drive large equipment on your yard to drill your loops or even bigger excavators to rip up your lawn and bury the loops.  This also limits installations to bigger properties and during warmer times of the year.  NexGen wanted to improve this process and bring geothermal back in the spotlight.

HorizontalField-2

Innovation

NexGen Energy designed and constructed a machine focused on geothermal installations.  Using an 1 ¼” line, they created a tool inside the pipe that drives itself down into the ground.  Once the pipe has reached the desired depth, the internal components can be extracted from the back end of the pipe, leaving an empty pipe in the ground.  Since this is done all with a the 1 ¼” pipe, installation can be done inside the house through a 12” hole in the concrete floor.  This allows NexGen to install loops in tight residential areas because the loops are installed directly under the house.  This also allows them to install year round since they never deal with frozen ground.  A coaxial type loop is made by inserting a smaller line inside of the 1 ¼” line.  The fluid then can be pumped down the inside tube and back up around the bigger line to create a closed loop system.

LoopInstaller

Creating a Standard

Choosing a geothermal contractor can quickly become stressful experience.  One contractor says you need size “A” geothermal system while another contractor strongly urges you to go with size “B” that is bigger and is more “worry-free”, but costing you thousands more.  NexGen Energy is solving this problem by giving the customer the system THEY need to see cost savings.  Not necessarily what the contractor wants installed in order to cover their butt.  A bigger system is not a more efficient system.  NexGen looks at each home differently; even two houses that are exactly the same size.  NexGen actually “listens” to what the house is saying.  Instead of using complicated formulas and measurements of your house to figure the “right” size geothermal system is, NexGen can calculate the right size system by watching how often your current system has to run to maintain a desired temperature in your home.  This allows them to get an exact loan analysis of the home without guessing how good your windows are or how much insulation you really have up in your attic.

FloorOpening

Vision

NexGen Energy will change the market’s perception of geothermal.  With the quick and clean loop field installation, geothermal systems can now be priced at a competitive level that is intriguing to consumers.  NexGen Energy is taking the lead in geothermal energy and to create a place where the most abundant energy source on the planet is the standard source of heating and cooling in today’s homes.