Geothermal Design Software Improves Your Sales Pitch

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Experienced geothermal contractors know the importance of building value with their prospective customers. While that value can be demonstrated in many ways, contractors should not overlook the importance of using geothermal design software to help them win the job. When you sell geothermal comfort systems, you need to show your prospects that they can make a seamless transition to the new system and that its higher cost will pay off in the long run.

Geothermal design software can do just that. Homeowners considering a geothermal system to replace an aging HVAC system want it to be easy. Your prospective customers know just enough about the technology to expect a higher level of “engineering” than in a standard HVAC system. They need confirmation that you designed and sized the job correctly without overcharging.

Using geothermal design software can demonstrate to your customers that you’re the expert and that they can trust you to simplify their transition to geothermal heating and cooling. Here are three reasons why.

1 Using Geothermal Design Software Demonstrates and Confirms You Chose the Right Unit

“Old school” or “rules-of-thumb” sizing techniques commonly employed by those without geothermal design software are problematic.

Oversizing a geothermal unit is much more expensive than oversizing a gas furnace. Doing so could price you out of a job.

Undersizing the unit will require excessive backup heat, eliminating energy savings. Your customer doesn’t want the auxiliary heat activated when it’s 35 degrees outside. Sizing a smaller unit than competitors may get you the job, but the homeowner won’t be satisfied with the purchase if energy savings are lacking. That might cost you a referral.

2Using Geothermal Design Software Demonstrates and Confirms You Sized the Loop Correctly

Rules-of-thumb don’t work for sizing loops, either.

Overestimating the loop size raises the price for the homeowner while underestimating it may cause excessive loop temperatures, reducing capacity and efficiency. Excessive loop temperatures may cause unit lock-outs and require emergency heat in the winter, or failure to cool during the summer.

Many geothermal dealers rely on loop contractors to size and build the loop. This can be risky. Even if you sub-contract the loop installation, use geothermal design software for sizing the unit and the loopfield. At the end of the day, it is the HVAC installer not the loop contractor holding the bag if a system fails.

3 Using Geothermal Design Software Demonstrates and Confirms Long Term Value

Homeowners invest in a geothermal system to save money on their utility bills. Geothermal design software demonstrates that savings with head-to-head comparisons of various options for that customer’s home. With local fuel rates and estimated efficiencies, geothermal software will be make running simple payback and 30-year saving analysis quick and easy.


About the Author

Kent Kuffner
Carrier Corp.

Kent Kuffner is the Residential Geothermal Heat Pump Product Manager for Carrier, Bryant and ICP brands. He has been in the geothermal heat pump industry since 1989 in various roles in manufacturing and distribution, and authored the geothermal heat pump chapter in the HVAC Handbook, published in 2004 by McGraw Hill. He is a member of IGSHPA and currently serves as the Chairman of the Marketing Committee.

Geothermal Can Change The World

Friday, October 6, 2017

Geothermal heating and cooling systems are sold to homeowners and building owners with a focus on how their system will improve their lives. The direct benefits and individual case is a critical part of making the sale but its not the only set of benefits you should present.

Don't forget that many consumers interested in geothermal are often just as interested in the big picture truth that geothermal can change the world. Every GSHP system improves our energy future and here are some numbers to help you back that up.

Pure Energy

The United States uses nearly 25% of the world’s energy but only represents about 5% of the world’s population. At the residential level, more than 70% of home energy use is for space conditioning and hot water generation.

A 2010 study from Oak Ridge National laboratories found that if we could convert every single family home in the U.S. to using geothermal for heating, cooling and hot water generation, it would save 4.2 Quadrillion Btus annually (4,200,000,000,000,000 Btu for those who need to see the full number...that’s a lot of commas). This is based on reducing the consumption of all forms of energy for space conditioning and hot water heating (natural gas, propane, oil, electricity, etc.).

That amount of energy is equivalent to 1.2 trillion kWh (1,230,898,494,723 kWh). For perspective, the total residential sales of electricity in the U.S. amounted to 1.4 trillion kWh in 2015. Not a bad start to reducing energy consumption.

Less Gassy

Even compared to homes using electricity for heating/cooling, geothermal emits less upstream greenhouse gases simply because it consumes less energy. Check out the estimated difference below.

Home Heating Fuel GHG Emissions (per Therm)1
Electricity 27 lb
Oil 17 lb
Propane 14 lb
Natural Gas 12.5 lb
GSHP 7 lb
11 therm = 100,000 Btu (Source Dandelion)

According to the EPA, the average house is responsible for twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as the average car. Based just on the pure energy savings GSHPs clearly translate to a massive reduction in greenhouse gases (GHG).

How big?

Oak Ridge National laboratories puts the estimated CO2 reduction at 271.7 million metric tons annually. According to EPA estimates that is equivalent to taking 58 million cars off the road.

What About The Benjamins?

Oak Ridge estimates that at 100% adoption for single family homes, homeowners could save as much as $52.2 Billion dollars per year with geothermal. That is a stack of one hundred dollar bills 35 miles tall. That is A LOT of Benjamins.

Tell Everyone!

If the world really wants to take a bite out of greenhouse gases and get a handle on global energy consumption, geothermal heating and cooling brings us a long way towards that reality. Solar, wind and every other green technology that is kicking the pants off of geothermal in sales falls far short of the impact that can be realized with geothermal alone.

More importantly, geothermal supports all of the other renewable energy technologies. Solar and wind proponents should be screaming from their rooftops for the world to adopt geothermal. Because geothermal automatically drops off the peak summer demand by at least 30% which means a larger percentage of the national baseload can be generated by renewables.

Depending on who you ask, the estimated geothermal market share currently hovers around 1-2%. Imagine if we could bump that to 5% by replacing half of the propane and oil furnaces in the U.S. It would save the homeowners money, save an astronomical amount of energy and reduce GHG significantly more than those same homeowners buying electric cars.

Geothermal is the right technology to reshape our energy future. It’s a shame we have to bury it.

Geothermal Equals Peace of Mind

Monday, October 2, 2017

There are many benefits of ground source heat pump systems (GSHP). They are energy efficient and environmentally friendly. They provide comfort levels that are unmatched by conventional technologies. They are an in-home luxury that can be used for both spacing conditioning and domestic hot water generation.

GSHPs also provide price stability and financial peace mind. Month to month, GSHP heating bills are as reliable and predictable as the systems themselves.

Heating Bill? Well it Depends on the Price.

With a geothermal heat pump system, the amount of energy used to heat and cool a home can be cut by anywhere from 40% to 70%. As great as that sounds, the savings offered by a GSHP may not be enough to offset the upfront cost to install such a system in somes cases.

First cost relative to savings (typically referred to as simple payback) isn’t the only thing to consider. A prospective client should be aware of the fact that fossil fuel prices tend to jump around A LOT more than electricity.

Consider the following graph which shows the historical cost to deliver 100,000 Btu of heat energy to a home (based on the national average for energy prices by year since 2001).

Cost per 100,000 Btu by Heating Fuel and Year1


GSHP Operating Costs are Predictable

The cost to deliver 100,000 Btu with a GSHP has been steady since 2001, even though the average price for electricity has increased by over 40% over that time period. This just reiterates the fact that GSHPs act as a safeguard against inflationary energy prices.

The interesting thing to note is how much the cost to deliver the same amount of heat energy with competing fossil fuels has bounced around over the same time frame. Consider the following table which highlights the year with the highest average price (by fuel type) and the range of monthly average prices within that year:

Price Range by Fuel Type During Peak Year1

Fuel Gas Propane Oil GSHP
Worst Year 2008 2014 2013 2014
Average Cost $1.63 $3.53 $3.55 $0.81
Range $1.42 - $2.43 $2.92 - $4.95 $3.44 - $3.68 $0.78 - $0.86

Budget for the Winter

Assuming an average 2,500 ft2 home in Brookings, SD, this is what the heating bills could look like in January and through the entire heating season given the variability in energy prices during the worst year:

January Heating Bill in Brookings, SD1

Fuel Gas Propane Oil GSHP
Year 2008 2014 2013 2014
January Bill $210 - $360 $435 - $730 $510 - $545 $115 - $130
Annual Bill $1090 - $1860 $2240 - $3790 $2630 - $2820 $600 - $660

Given the amount of variability in price for fossil fuels, homeowners that rely on them for heat really have no way to predict how big their next heating bill might be. Life is full of surprises. The heating bill doesn’t need to be one of them.

Footnotes

  1. Prices based on national averages, EIA

Geothermal Equals Luxury

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Why should people invest in geothermal heat? If sales are slow, adjust your sales pitch to better answer that question.

Compare your sales strategy to that of a car dealership. Other HVAC salesmen are shilling an old pickup with poor gas mileage. You're offering a luxury sports car that happens to get better mileage than anything else on the road. Geothermal is the most advanced AND energy-efficient HVAC system on the market - it has a higher price-tag for good reason (“The Masterpiece of HVAC Technology”).

From Bragging Rights to Public Relations

Homeowners have a budget for nice things. They want them first, and they want other people to know they have them.

Corporations have the same philosophy, and they have an even larger audience to impress. Of course, they want bragging rights among their peers. But they also want to impress the public. Proving that they've "gone green" with geothermal will make their public relations director’s job easy.

Quality is another high priority for either type of customer. Customers don't want to replace their heating systems. They want a system that will last for a long time. Studies have shown consumers believe that quality products aren't cheap.

Your potential customer will pay more for bragging rights and for the best product available. Geothermal offers those bragging rights and it is the best HVAC product available. You just have to prove it.

How Do You Prove It?

Geothermal is state-of-the-art. It's environmentally-friendly. It has a cool factor. Instead of wasting precious fossil fuels, you're using solar energy stored in the earth's crust to heat your home! Include these qualities in your sales pitch.

Unlike solar panels, windmills, or Tesla badges geothermal is an “invisible” green technology. You have to explain the benefits instead of showing them. Provide customers with a list of features proving that they'll be the greenest neighbor in the hood - or business park - when they purchase a geothermal system.

Tell your customers that geothermal heat will allow them to:

  • Remove excessive outdoor equipment, opening up valuable real estate
  • Avoid replacement costs associated with traditional HVAC systems (underground geothermal pipes are not susceptible to outside elements)
  • Eliminate traditional HVAC noise pollution (fans and compressors outside)
  • Eliminate fresh water consumption (from cooling towers; typically on commercial HVAC systems)
  • Eliminate on-site greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by replacing the boiler/furnace
  • Be the coolest neighbor in the hood (using the earth's crust to heat your house)

Start with these qualities and slowly work your way down to less-exciting aspects. Don't start your sales pitch with interminable flow charts and cliche-riddled speeches about how the investment will pay off over X number of years. Be bold. Tell your customers that your product is more expensive because it is better.

Public Validation

Find an expert to further validate the technology you’re selling. Let’s say you want to build a house. You’re looking for a design expert. An architect would probably be your best bet, right?

Well, architects happen to be outspoken about their love for geothermal. They love the peaceful, quiet ambiance, and the elimination of outdoor condensers and cooling towers. These articles in Commercial Architecture and Green Builder Media will help you illustrate these points clearly. Is there a better spokesperson than someone who designs buildings?

Government officials are also hopping on the bandwagon. Your customers should know that geothermal heat may eventually be required. Things are trending this way in the U.S. and abroad:

  • Ontario’s building code will eliminate combustion heating in new homes by 2030
  • Enbridge (North America’s largest natural gas utility) is switching from gas lines to geothermal loops in new developments
  • The state of New York has earmarked billions of dollars for reducing GHG emissions
  • Google spin-off, Dandelion has entered the market

Your Sales Pitch Summary

Geothermal heat is garnering worldwide praise, with advanced technology that justifies its high price. There is your sales pitch.

About the Author

Jay Egg
Egg Geothermal

Jay is a consultant and designer of geothermal HVAC systems, in addition to being author of two books and several articles on the subject. He is the Founder of Egg Systems, and focuses on geothermal consulting, engineering, and contracting technologies.

Jay Egg started Egg Systems in 1990 to provide energy efficient geothermal air conditioning systems to the Florida, and especially the Tampa Bay markets. Jay Conducted his first speech in 1994. Afterwards, Tampa Electric Company (TECO) began to rely on Mr. Egg’s training expertise utilizing him in various forums from conventions to in house educating. Jay co-authored with Brian Howard for McGraw-Hill a professional book on the subject of Geothermal HVAC, Green Heating and Cooling, published in 2010. He also co-authored with Greg Cunniff and Carl Orio a graduate – level textbook for McGraw–Hill, Modern Geothermal HVAC Engineering and Controls Applications which got published in July, 2013. Jay is a featured writer and speaker, most recently having been selected as featured speaker for The Renewable Energy World Conference & Expo North America 2011.

Low Hanging Fruit- Mainstreaming Geothermal with Simpler Pumping

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Connor Donovan from Melink GEO discusses how simplifying commercial pumping with pre-packaged pumping systems can improve individual projects and help to improve the adoption of geothermal throughout the HVAC market.

Duration: 44 minutes

Ask The Presenter

After watching Low Hanging Fruit- Mainstreaming Geothermal with Simpler Pumping, join Connor Donovan for an online Q&A session on July 18th, 2017 at 2pm CDT. Space is limited so reserve your spot today!.

About the Presenter

Connor Donovan
Melink Corporation

Connor Donovan joined Melink in 2016 to help change the world, one building at a time by assisting Melink’s growing number of clients in implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions into their commercial facilities.

At Melink, Connor assists in the project development, design, project management, and commissioning of Geothermal HVAC systems. Connor also has experience in new product development, working on the development of a patented pump station for the geothermal HVAC industry.

Connor holds a B.S. in Nuclear and Radiological Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a minor in Engineering & Business. Connor is also an IGSHPA Accredited Installer and an Engineer in Training (EIT).

Water Quality in GSHP Applications

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Water quality has a huge impact on GSHP service life and efficiency. Unfortunately, most systems are filled with whatever water is available on site with little or no attention to its suitability for use.

In fact, water quality is the root of many issues, including the premature failure of mechanical components. It goes without saying that if you aren’t already paying attention to water quality, it’s time to start.

Water treatment can be divided into two categories: physical and chemical. Physical water treatment consists of the removal of air, dirt and suspended solids from the circulating fluid. Chemical treatment consists of the modification or elimination of substances in the water to make it suitable for contact with the various components in the system.

1 Physical Water Treatment

Every geothermal system will start out with air in it. A new system will also have certain amounts of dirt, oil, pipe shavings, and other debris as a byproduct of manufacturing, transport, and installation.

The majority of air removal is done with power flushing prior to system startup. Dirt removal is done simultaneously with a filter during power flushing1. Geo-Flo recommends filtration to 100 microns during the flushing and purging process. Once air is purged from the system, a finer 1-micron filter will remove sand, silt, and clay from the circulating fluid.

After system startup, additional air and dirt removal is possible with the right mechanical devices:

  • Air removal: high-point vents or central air separators
  • Dirt removal: filters, strainers and particle separators

Failure to remove air and debris from the piping system will cause service-related issues and even shorten the service life of the circulating pumps and other related components. Permanently-installed mechanical devices can provide ongoing levels of physical water treatment, but keep in mind that they will need to be cleaned periodically.

2 Chemical Water Treatment

Although air and dirt removal is essential, physical treatment doesn’t affect water chemistry.

Water is commonly referred to as the ‘universal solvent’. It is always full of dissolved minerals, sediment, dissolved gasses, etc., and the amounts vary from place to place. If left unchecked, poor water chemistry can lead to corrosion, scale, fouling and biological growth, which affects system efficiency and service life and becomes a human health and safety concern. Treatment may include the removal of chemical impurities, pH value adjustment, or the addition of antifreeze, corrosion inhibitors, microbial control products, etc.

There are many different ways to approach water chemistry. Here are a few that are common in GSHP applications:

Internal Cleaning
The process of cleaning an internal piping system is fairly straightforward. Simply circulate a cleaning solution (detergent) through the piping to remove dirt, oils and other impurities. After the process is complete, the system will need to be completely drained and washed with clean water prior to being filled with loop fluid.

By removing impurities from the system on the front end, it will be easier to achieve the desired level of water quality later on. Note that internal cleaning is uncommon in residential applications.

On-Site Water Treatment
One option to address water chemistry is to simply add inhibitors to prevent corrosion, scale, biological growth, etc. The inhibitor manufacturer will provide guidelines to determine proper concentration levels, handling and safety requirements, etc.

For heating dominant systems that use antifreeze, additional inhibitor is typically unnecessary as most antifreeze products are are pre-mixed with the necessary inhibition agents.

Transport
Rather than adding chemicals to available water on-site, another option is to purchase treated water (or a premixed water-antifreeze solution) from a water or chemical treatment company, haul it to the jobsite and completely replace the water in the system with the pre-treated fluid. This is the easiest way to guarantee that water quality will not be an issue, but also the most expensive.

Measures of Water Quality

In general, it is best to refer to the manufacturer of each component in the system to determine water quality requirements (pH level, dissolved solids, turbidity, chloride levels, etc.). If guidelines aren’t readily available, Section 3B in IGSHPAs Design and Installation Standards manual will serve as a great starting point.

The most relevant measure of water quality is dissolved mineral content.2 In general, the use of de-mineralized fill water will alleviate the majority of issues related to scale and corrosion.

Remember to Check In

The circulating fluid should be tested periodically to check pH, turbidity, suspended solids, antifreeze and inhibitor levels, etc. IGSHPA recommends that water quality be checked at least once a year in a commercial system and once every five years in a residential system.

By comparison, GSHP systems are more forgiving than other HVAC system types when it comes to water quality, primarily because most of the piping in the system is the ground loop, which is constructed of inert plastic (polyethylene). But poor water quality will wreak havoc on pumps, heat exchangers, valves, and other mechanical devices in the system. As such, water chemistry always needs to be addressed.

Footnotes:

  1. According to ASHRAE, 2 ft/sec is the recommended velocity to remove air and light debris from a piping system. However, this velocity is not enough to remove large or heavy particles and additional filtration is recommended.
  2. Refer to Idronics #18 for additional information.

Flow Centers: Pressurized vs Non-Pressurized (Part 2)

Monday, June 19, 2017

As described in the first part of this article, flow centers require a certain minimum level of inlet pressure in order for the pumps to function properly. The method of maintaining this pressure is what distinguishes a pressurized flow center from non-pressurized flow center.

In some cases, the choice of which type of flow center to use is based on application constraints. But most of the time, the decision is based on preference. When faced with the decision, consider the pro’s and con’s of each type of system.

Pressurized Flow Centers

Advantages

  • No monitoring and/or maintenance required by the homeowner
  • Smaller size reduces space needed for installation
  • Completely closed and sealed design prevents air and debris from entering the system after installation
  • Typically packaged to include three-way isolation/flush valves
  • Flexible location and orientation installation options
  • Can be installed vertically or horizontally (12-, 3-, 6-, and 9-o’clock positions)
  • Can be plumbed in series or parallel
  • Provides single point isolation location between the ground loop and heat pump
  • Very familiar to plumbers and hydronic technicians

Disadvantages

  • No built-in provision for air elimination
  • Thermal expansion and contraction of loop piping along with insufficient startup pressure may lead to a flat loop1
  • Poor installation practices that result in leaks can cause pumps to air lock, flat loop service calls, etc.
  • Requires a qualified technician for maintenance (fluid levels, antifreeze concentration, etc.)
  • Requires flushing, purging and re-pressurization after servicing

Non-Pressurized Flow Centers

Advantages

  • Water column provides inlet pressure
  • Allows direct measurement of fluid levels, flow rate, and antifreeze concentration, even during operation
  • Fluid reservoir facilitates natural air removal and accommodates loop expansion and contraction
  • Homeowner can perform basic maintenance (such as adding make-up fluid)
  • More forgiving of poor installation practices (incomplete flushing, small leaks in piping, etc.)
  • Pump service does not require the system to be re-flushed
  • With the right manifold, may be able to flush and purge the loopfield without an external flush cart2

Disadvantages

  • May promote poor installation practices due to forgiving nature
  • Direct access to loop fluid opens possibility for contamination
  • Requires more space for installation
  • Limited installation locations and orientations3
  • May require additional field-installed isolation valves for flushing/purging, servicing, etc.
  • Individual flow centers cannot be installed in series or parallel

So, Which Flow Center Is Better?

All differences aside, both types of flow centers will perform well when installed properly. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages to consider. In the end, it is up to the installation contractor, system designer or building owner to decide which system best meets their needs.

Footnotes:

  1. The installation of an expansion tank is recommended to alleviate the concern of a flat loop.
  2. Requires an inside building header with isolation valves placed on each individual loop.
  3. Piping must not be located more than 30 feet (approx.) above the reservoir, which can only be installed vertically.

About the Author

Jeff Hammond
Geo-Flo Products Corp.

Mr. Hammond is currently Director of Business Development and Marketing at Geo-Flo Products Corporation, a manufacturer of flow centers and accessories for the geothermal heat pump and hydronics industries. He started with the company in 2012, and has been in the geothermal heat pump industry for over 30 years.

Previous to Geo-Flo, he was at Enertech Global for five years, ClimateMaster for nine years and WaterFurnace International for twelve years. Mr. Hammond’s experience in the industry consists of positions in R & D, engineering, product management, training, sales, and marketing. His education includes a bachelor of business administration from the University of St. Francis and an associate of applied science in electrical engineering technology from Purdue University.

Mr. Hammond has been a member of ASHRAE since 1990 and has served on CSA, AHRI , and IGSHPA marketing, technical and advisory committees.