Radiant Floor Heating
Geothermal technology can be applied to distribution systems other than forced air ducted systems. Radiant floor heating is the most popular hydronic application using ClimateMaster water-to-water ground source heating equipment. These systems involve supplying heat directly to the floor of the home using hot water circulating through tubing in the slab. The distribution of heat not only provides better comfort, but also reduces heat loss, since hot air is not rising above occupant level, and therefore lowers the temperature difference at the ceiling. Radiant floor heat systems typically operate 10% to 20% less than forced air systems and lead to substantial energy cost savings.
Homes that also need cooling require a separate water-to-air geothermal system with dedicated ductwork for cooling.
In most applications, the water-to-water unit is connected to a buffer tank, where hot water is stored, and the radiant system pulls hot water from this tank to heat the floors of the home. Typically the home is zoned into 3-4 areas, each with its own thermostat controlling the radiant floor heat system. Automatic zoning valves simply turn on/off each zone of the home and a variable speed pump is used to increase energy savings of the system. The pump will automatically adjust its RPM's depending on how many zones are calling for heat, reducing pumping power requirements for the system.
Although geothermal radiant floor heat systems do cost more to install, homeowners say it is worth every penny and they will never go back to a forced air system. The feeling of warmth coming from the floor and the fact no air is circulated in the home gives a feeling of comfort that is truly unique in comparison with traditional systems.
Geothermal water-to-water ground source heating equipment can also be used for the heating of pools. These systems supply heat to a pool/spa in the most unique and energy efficient way by utilizing a three-way valve to direct heat gathered from the home and diverting it to the pool/spa for essentially "free" heating. Of course extra heating will be needed during cooler seasons of the year when it is not feasible to use the heat of the home, this is accomplished through the water-to-water system during these seasons at extremely high efficiency levels.
Essentially, in the late spring as you start to air condition your home, the automatic three-way valve will divert the heat gathered from your home and send it to the pool/spa ("free heating"), once temperature is satisfied the three-way valve will then send it to the ground loop system. If additional heating is needed, the water-to-water system will start its compressor to satisfy requirements. All summer long, and into early fall, the system will maintain the pool/spa heating in this way. During late fall, winter, and early spring seasons the water-to-water system is fully capable of heating both the pool and spa, however, homeowners typically choose to only heat their spa during these times.
In a recent installation, a homeowner was considering using a gas boiler to heat his pool/spa. The installation cost was $4,000 and operating costs of $2,800 per year! The geothermal water-to-water system had an upfront cost of $13,000 for this installation, but operating costs were now $450 a year! Saving $2,350 a year in operating costs the system will pay for itself in less than 4 years.