Sustainability and energy efficiency continue to be a focus in all aspects of home development today, including the HVAC industry. While HVAC systems have been heating and cooling homes for decades, in the last 10 to 15 years these systems have become more technologically advanced.
Modern heating and cooling systems, such as geothermal, have become a popular choice for new construction as well as existing homes because they use free, renewable energy from the earth. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that geothermal heating and cooling systems can reduce energy consumption and emissions by more than 40% compared to air-source heat pumps and over 70% compared to conventional HVAC systems.
Our team recently completed a large geothermal install on a 15,000-square-foot, ranch-style custom residential home built by Erickson Balmer Construction. We'll dive into how our team helped with this unique project.
An Eye on Sustainability: Geothermal Home Heating
There’s a lot to consider when designing a new home, including what type of heating and cooling system will provide the best comfort based on your needs. For this project, the homeowner wanted to be environmentally conscious yet comfortable climate-wise. Due to the size of the home, more than one HVAC unit was needed. The solution: five geothermal heating and cooling units.
“Geothermal units are energy-efficient and environmentally friendly for any size home,” said Robbie Xayavongchanh, Bell Brothers HVAC service technician. “Unlike furnaces and conventional heat pumps, a geothermal system is powered 100% by electricity. It uses one or more loops of underground pipes to circulate liquid through the ground to absorb or release heat.”
Geothermal systems work by using heat taken from the ground and transferring it through a heat pump to the air in the home during the winter. In the summer, the process is reversed and the heat in the home is transferred to the ground to cool the home.
“The geothermal units were set up in the basement and pipes were installed underground in the yard that distribute heating and cooling to eight different zones in the house,” said Xayavongchanh. “These loops contain an environmentally safe fluid that helps move heat.”
The geothermal heating and cooling systems were outfitted with energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) to support humidity controls and indoor air quality throughout the home. ERVs take the air that’s inside and use the exhaust system to push it outside. Then outside air is brought in and passes through the heat exchanger, where it is either heated or cooled for use inside the home.
Installing Indoor and Outdoor In-Floor Radiant Heating
In-floor radiant heat, which heats the home through heated floors, was installed throughout the main floor and in the basement of the home as well as outside. This project used hot water as the heat source for the radiant floor heat. There are a variety of advantages to installing indoor and outdoor hydronic in-floor radiant heat; one is that these systems use very little electricity.
As part of this process, water is heated by a natural gas boiler and the temperature is controlled by a thermostat controller. The house has five different zones and each zone is controlled by the in-floor thermostat controller.
For the outdoor portion, plastic piping was placed underneath the driveway and sidewalks along with a moisture sensor and slab sensor, which measures the floor temperature in the area where the radiant floor is located.
“When the sensor detects moisture on the slab and it’s below a certain temperature outside, the system turns on to melt the snow or ice and then dries the concrete,” said Xayavongchanh.
Overcoming New Construction HVAC Challenges
The most challenging aspect of this project was to make sure there was enough wiring to set up the thermostats in the house and the snowmelt system.
“In every new project, I have installed extra wires just to be safe, so I don’t run into issues later on,” said Xayavongchanh. “With the outdoor radiant heat, this was the first season of the heated driveway and there were spots that weren’t melting as much. We had to go back there two or three times to dial in the flow to evenly heat the driveway. But this was a fantastic project. I’m very pleased with how it turned out.”
Whether you’re putting a new system into a modern home or renovating and restoring a historical home, Bell Brothers has an HVAC system to fit your needs. We have a creative team that can make sure everyone in your home is comfortable on every floor and in every room.