Geothermal Heat Pumps

Ground source heat pumps are the smartest way to heat and cool a building. They can reduce HVAC costs from 50% to 80%. It’s a proven technology that has been around for decades.

Great Articles
Geothermal as a Hedge Against Rising Energy Costs
Geothermal 101 Reading List

Amazing Tools and Courses
4 Basic Steps to Design a Geothermal System
Download the Geothermal Heat Pump Design and Installation Bundle
Complete Guide to Geothermal Tax Credits

Advanced Training
IGSHPA Installer Certification Training
Standing Column Well Certification Training
Geothermal Design Boot Camp + Loop Link Certification

Success Begets Success: Why Your Trip to Ball State’s GeoCon is a Great Investment in the Future of Your Business

GeoCon Banner.001

I’m not a fisherman, but I have plenty of stories about the one that got away.  Big, fantastic opportunities don’t come along frequently, so they tend to catch us off guard.  Ball State is the one that didn’t get away.  3,600 bore holes, $88 million spent, 8% ROI, 2,300 new jobs created, $2 million reduction in annual energy costs: this is the whopper we – the high performance building industry – caught.  It’s the single biggest success story in the history of the U.S. geothermal industry, and I believe the secrets to industry growth can be uncovered by dissecting how this project came to be.

On November 7th Ball State University is hosting it’s first Geothermal Conclave (GeoCon) – a one-day conference and trade show for anyone interested in high performance buildings.  This is a free event that includes lunch, networking, educational sessions and a tour of the largest geothermal heat pump installation in the United States.  We at HeatSpring are proud to be partnering with Ball State to make this event a success.

Click here to register or learn more about GeoCon.

Here are six reasons why you need to attend GeoCon this year:

  1. It’s the professional equivalent to visiting the Grand Canyon.  Can you really call it a life well-lived if you haven’t seen this thing with your own eyes?
  2. Ball State is recruiting other universities and academics to attend – can you imagine if a college near you decided to do the same thing?  Ball State has explicitly said this is a goal of theirs.  This is your chance to be a part of those conversations from the earliest stages.
  3. You’ll make new, potentially valuable, business contacts.  Since this is a new event it’s going to pull a diverse group of folks together who may not already know each other.  That’s an exciting and potent formula for finding new opportunities.
  4. We’re using education technology to make the event even more interesting.  We’re donating the use of our Cammpus training software to make this more of a ‘blended learning’ opportunity.  You’ll be able to start learning about the Ball State system and chatting with other attendees online before you ever set foot on campus.
  5. The focus is on big systems, not residential.  Sometimes selling residential systems feels like herding cats – I find it refreshing to talk about how to sell IKEA and Ball State on geothermal.  It’s harder, but has such a massive impact on the industry when it happens.
  6. We’ll be there discussing the future of the industry, not the past.  Almost all of the young geothermal professionals I know are anxious about their future in the industry.  They want to do work they love, but also need to make a living.  That’s going to be the focus of several breakout events, including the session on geothermal design led by IGSHPA author Ryan Carda.

Success begets success.  I’m excited for this opportunity to learn more about one of the best things that ever happened to the high performance building industry and to support Ball State’s effort to spread the word about what’s possible.  Joining me in that costs you zero dollars.  I hope to see you there.

To register or learn more about GeoCon click here

Posted in Geothermal Heat Pumps, Noteworthy News | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

POLICY ACTION ALERT MASSACHUSETTS: Help Needed with The Most Important Renewable Thermal Legislation in the Country

I’ve been working on an important renewable thermal (oil elimination!) policy issue in Massachusetts. We’re making a lot of progress but need help from industry. Read below for more detailed information.

We have a hearing on July 16th and NEED to get support for the bill. Here’s how you can help:

1 – Do you work in one of these industries; solar thermal, air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps, biomass, or biogas? Yes, see question 2.

2 – Do you live in an district represented by one of the members on the committee of telecommunications, utilities and energy (SEE THE BOTTOM OF THE ARTICLE FOR THE LIST)?

If the answer is yes to both questions, we need your help. Please email me at or call me at 917 767 8204 with any questions.

Here’s the full release

Action Alert from the Massachusetts Renewable Thermal Coalition


A hearing will be held on SB1593, our bill to add renewable thermal energy to the MA Alternative Portfolio Standard, on Tuesday July 16 at 10 AM before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy at the Massachusetts State House in Boston.

It is imperative before the hearing that advocates in favor of this legislation reach out to members of this committee before the hearing, AND URGE SUPPORT FOR THE BILL.  In particular, we need constituent contact to House members of the committee.

What You Can Do:

  • Please request a meeting, call or email the House members as soon as possible.  SEE COMMITTEE LIST BELOW.  This is especially important if you are a constituent of a House member.  Use this link to find contact info for your House member:
  • Let us know if you would like assistance arranging a meeting.  Let us know, in advance, of any meetings you arrange. One of us may be able to join you. We can also coordinate your meeting with other similar meetings.
  • A personal meeting is preferable.  A phone call or personal letter is also helpful.  Email is a last resort if no other communication is possible.
  • Use the talking points below to frame your communication.  Ask the member if they will support the bill.
  • Let us know what feedback you get following your communication.

Talking Points:

  • SB1593 adds renewable thermal energy technologies – solar, geothermal and biomass thermal – to the MA Alternative Portfolio Standard.
  • Heat represents one-third of all energy consumed in Massachusetts.  MA is among themost dependent states on imported and expensive fossil heating fuels such as heating oil or propane.
  • Renewable thermal technologies are ready for the market and can help MA reduce dependence on these fuels, and create new jobs by the growth of the renewable thermal businesses.  Due to high capital cost, they need support from the APS, much as renewable electric technologies receive support from the RPS.
  • MA cannot meet its aggressive greenhouse gas emission targets under the MA Climate Solutions Act without attention on thermal energy.
  • SB1593 will save ratepayers money by providing utilities with lower cost options to meet their APS obligation.
  • SB1593 is a logical extension of MA’s national leadership on renewable energy policy. SB1593 is good for the MA economy, and good for the MA environment.


Thank you for taking action to support SB1593.  If you have questions, please contact Jeff Hutchins at

Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (JCTUE)

House Members (2013-2014)


Use this link to get contact info:


John D. Keenan (D) – Chair

  • Representative from 7th Essex
    • Towns include:
      • Salem

Mark J. Cusack (D) – Vice Chair

  • Representative from 5th Norfolk
    • Towns include:
      • Braintree
      • Holbrook – Precinct. 1
      • Randolph – Pct. 4

Jennifer E. Benson (D)

  • Representative from 37th Middlesex
    • Towns include:
      • Acton – Pcts. 3-5
      • Ayer – Pct. 2
      • Boxborough
      • Harvard (Worcester County)
      • Lunenburg (Worcester County)
      • Shirley

Tackey Chan (D)

  • Representative from 2nd Norfolk
    • Towns include:
      • Quincy
        • Ward. 1
        • Ward. 3, Pcts. 1, 2
        • Ward. 4, Pcts. 2, 4
        • Ward. 5, Pcts. 1, 3, 4, 5

Stephen L. DiNatale (D)

  • Representative from 3rd Worcester
    • Towns include:
      • Fitchburg
      • Lunenburg – Pct. B

Thomas A. Golden (D)

  • Representative from 16th Middlesex
    • Towns include:
      • Chelmsford – Pcts. 2, 3, 6
      • Lowell – Wards. 5, 6, 9

John J. Mahoney (D)

  • Representative from 13th Worcester
    • Towns include:
      • Worcester
        • Ward. 1, Pcts. 1-4
        • Ward. 3, Pct. 2
        • Ward. 9
        • Ward. 10, Pct. 1

John H. Rogers (D)

  • Representative from 12th Norfolk
    • Towns include:
      • Norwood
      • Walpole – Pcts. 1, 2, 6, 7

Walter F. Timilty (D)

  • Representative from 7th Norfolk
    • Towns include:
      • Milton – Pcts. 3-10
      • Randolph – Pcts. 1-3, 7-10

Randy Hunt (R)

  • Representative from 5th Barnstable
    • Towns include:
      • Barnstable – Pcts. 11, 12
      • Bourne – Pct. 1, 2, 7
      • Sandwich
      • Plymouth – Pct. 9

Leonard Mirra (R)

  • Representative from 2nd Essex
    • Towns include:
      • Boxford – Pcts. 2-3
      • Georgetown
      • Groveland
      • Haverhill
        • Ward. 4, Pct. 3
        • Ward. 7, Pct. 3
    • Merrimac
    • Newbury
    • Rowley
    • West Newbury
Posted in Clean Energy Policu, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar Thermal | Leave a comment

Real Time Data on Actual Geothermal COPs – Part 2 of Lessons Learned from 100,000 Hours+ of Real Time Geothermal Monitoring Data

This is a very nervous time for the geothermal industry and I can feel it when I’m on the phone with installers. There’s a lot of geothermal companies that have been around for 20+ years and now there’s a lot of innovation happening around policy, real time monitoring, and playing around with different ground loop heat exchangers, that industry veterans haven’t had to deal with before and it’s uncomfortable for them.

Here’s my main message to the geothermal industry: if you’re asking everyone to look at new ways to heat and cool buildings, you also need to be looking at new technologies, policies, and ways of doing things yourselves. Some of you are, but on average I notice more hesitancy within the industry than excitement about embracing (inevitable) change. I could be wrong on this, just my perception.

Monitoring projects means that we’re going to find great, good, and bad systems. In fact that’s the goal. Matt is a little more soft spoken so he wouldn’t say this, but yes, we will find bad systems.

With that being said, I’m super excited to be working with Matt and publishing this data. There’s only a small group of things the geothermal industry can do to proactively (unlike waiting around for fuel prices to increase by 300%) increase the adoption of the technology; including working for better policy, better ground loop innovations, decreasing customer acquisition costs, and verification of system performance.

Geothermal technology has a low margin of error, if anything is messed up during the design, installation and (most overlooked) operation of the system, the efficiencies will be shot. Here’s some of the interesting bits of information that can easily be found monitoring more than just kWh of the system:

  1. How much does the COP drop due to pumping losses
  2. Equipment failures; low refrigerate, valves, and pumps.

If you want more on monitoring check out these previous resource:

  1. Performance Based Contracts Are the Future of Geothermal
  2. Lessons Learned about Ground Loop Sizing from 100,000+ Hours of Real Time Geothermal Monitoring 
  3. Free Course: How to Install, Commission and Use Real Time Geothermal Monitoring

Matt and Ground Energy Support’s data is a robust but small sample size, compared to the whole industry. But it shows the possibilities of what we can figure out with a larger sample size and more data. If you’re a manufacture, distributor, installer or driller, utility, or state energy official and would like to go a monitoring and verification study. Feel free to call me, Chris Williams at 800 393 2044 ex. 33, or Matt Davis at (603) 867-9762

Future posts will include

  • Geo Monitoring Quality over Quantity: Why All Data is Not the Same
  • Characteristics of the Best Monitoring and Verification Study
  • How Monitoring can Eliminate, or Prevent, Angry Customers Once and For All
  • Expected Versus Actual Performance: Comparing LoopLink Predictions to GES Data

DOWNLOAD Geothermal Operating COPs

Give us a few pieces of information and download the whitepaper that provides an in-depth review lessons learned from real time monitoring on the operating COPs
  • The guide will be sent to this email.

Enter Matt Davis from Ground Energy Support


This article is the second in a three-part series prepared by Ground Energy Support LLC (GES) that will highlight some of the lessons learned from over 100,000 hours of real-time ground source heat pump (GSHP) monitoring data. This is written for GSHP installers of residential and light commercial systems who want to learn how to leverage real-time Performance Monitoring to build better GSHP systems, reduce their risk and callbacks, and ensure customer satisfaction.

The previous article focused on showing how data from real-time monitoring can be used to assess how the ground loop is performing relative to both the installed capacity and the measured heating load. The daily load profiles presented in that article are now available to GxTracker™ users as part of their Performance screens (login required to view Load Profile graph).

This article focuses on the overall system performance, factors that affect performance, how real-time monitoring can be used to evaluate performance of installed equipment, and identify and address issues before they become problems.

The number of sites represents a relatively small sample size and the different measurement techniques used at the sites result in different levels of accuracy.  In spite of these limitations, we are able to identify and illustrate several factors that affect system performance.   As more sites are instrumented with web-based monitoring systems that have the capability of quantifying ground loop performance, geoexchange, and electrical consumption, there will be an unprecedented ability to assess a wide range of GSHP designs over a wide range of geologic and climatic conditions.

Measuring GSHP System Performance

GSHP systems have the potential to significantly reduce the energy needs for space heating and cooling (an estimated 4 Quadrillion BTUS in the US) and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, these benefits will only be realized if the systems operate efficiently. Efficient operation requires proper design, installation, and maintenance.

One common method for assessing system performance of residential systems is to review the customer’s electric bills on a regular basis. While lower electric bills are a clear indication that the systems are operating efficiently, it is often difficult to parse out other factors that contribute to the overall electrical consumption. Additional challenges to using a customer’s electric bill to assess system performance include: new construction has no baseline for comparison; retrofits will often combine the addition of a heat pump with other efficiency measures, making it difficult to attribute the savings to the GSHP; and finally, when an electric bill is higher than expected, the cause may be unrelated to the GSHP system. One of the biggest disadvantages of relying on electric bills as a measure of system performance is that the homeowner is left to identify and report GSHP performance problems. In short, the most effective way to demonstrate that a GSHP system is performing efficiently, and thus ensure customer satisfaction, is to monitor the system in real-time so as to assess key performance metrics.

Many factors contribute to the overall performance of a GSHP system. Through our monitoring activities to date, we have found the main factors to be:

  1. Heat pump performance and ground loop temperature
  2. Pumping energy necessary to circulate loop fluid
  3. Heat pump cycling patterns
  4. Auxiliary electric heat

One of the key metrics of assessing how a GSHP system is performing in heating mode is the Coefficient of Performance (COP). The COP is the ratio of useable thermal energy to the thermal equivalent of the electricity used to operate the system.

While measuring the COP is not always the primary objective, all of our real-time monitoring systems include, at a minimum, measurements of entering and leaving water temperature (EWT and LWT), heat pump status, and an estimate of fluid flow. When power measurements are not available, power consumption is modeled using the heat pump specifications, a pump penalty based on type of system and flowrate, and measured runtimes. These methods provide representative values of COP with an error of +/- 20% and are intended to show overall trends in system behavior.

In some installations, a higher level of accuracy is desired and additional measures of power consumption and, if necessary, flowrate can be included. When accurate measures of both flow and power consumption are available, the accuracy of the COP improves to approximately +/-5%.

Because the accuracy of the computed COP varies from site to site and quality assurance measures are necessary to insure the values are representative, COPs are not computed automatically as part of our performance metrics. Rather, the necessary components are available by downloading either the minute-resolution observations or integrated daily values.

Daily Average System COPs


Figure 1. Daily Average Measured COP at 5 installations ranging from US Climate Zones 4 to 1. See Table 1 for site designations and seasonal average COPs. Power measurements are included for Sites B, C, and E.

The Daily COP values presented in Figure 1 and summarized in Table 1 illustrate some of the main factors that affect performance. Overall, there is an upward trend in performance as heat pump technology has gone from single stage to multi-stage compressors.

The system with the lowest performance (Site A) has single stage heat pumps using a standing column well. The two-stage heat pump on a standing column well (Site B) has a higher COP, but is adversely affected by the power required for fluid pumping. The COP of the two-stage system on the closed vertical loop (Site C) varies more through the year due to both the change in EWT and the use of the auxiliary electrical heat in late February. The performance of the two-stage system using two well groundwater loop (Site D) is comparable to, and slightly higher than, the other two-stage heat pump systems. The system with a variable stage heat pump (Site E) has the highest average COP. This is likely due to a combination of the variable-stage technology and its geographic location which enabled it to maintain higher EWTs throughout the winter.

These COP values are consistent with those reported by Puttagunta and others in their 2010 study of residential GSHPs. We have also found that, while the in-field performance is typically less than the AHRI rating, the systems are seen to provide a reliable technology for heating and cooling at consistently lower cost than conventional systems.

Table 1: Seasonal Average System COPs, Winter 2012-2013
Site System Description Average COP
A Standing Column Well, 2 Heat Pumps, Single Stage 2.74
B Standing Column Well, 1 Heat Pump, Two Stage 3.15
C Closed Vertical Loop, 1 Heat Pump, Two Stage 3.27
D Open Two Well System, 1 Heat Pump, Two Stage 3.33
E Closed Horizontal Loop, 2 Heat Pumps, Variable Stage 4.18

Factors that affect System COP

There are several factors that affect the overall GSHP system performance. Because of the wide range in GSHP system designs and equipment available, there is not a single best approach to optimizing performance. Rather, we show how monitoring can help characterize the elements that affect specific installations. Again, the lessons learned and examples presented in this initial series of articles focuses on heating mode and uses examples from installations ranging from US Climate Zones 4 to 1.

Heat Pump Cycling

It has long been recognized that rapid cycling of heat pumps diminishes performance and increases mechanical wear on the equipment. In recent years, more efficient dual stage heat pumps have become common that enable heat pumps to operate for longer cycles, produce lower heat output, and use less electricity.


Figure 2. Three examples of heat pump cycling patterns. Each diagram represents the GeoExchange for a six hour period of heating (heat extraction). Top image is from a system with two single stage heat pumps (5-ton and 3-ton units). Middle image shows the GeoExchange for a two-stage (4-ton) heat pump. Bottom image is for a variable stage (3-ton) heat pump.

Figure 2 shows the heat pump cycle patterns for three different systems: one with two single-stage heat pumps, a two-stage heat pump, and one with a variable-stage heat pump. While the single-stage heat pumps reach their expected heat of extraction (~22MBtuH for the 3 ton and ~40MBtuH for the 5 ton), the average production of the heat pumps (while running) over this same period was 17 MBtuH and 32 MBtuH, about 20% below their steady state production. In contrast, the two-stage heat pump is able to maintain its steady state heat production in part load for cycles of approximately 30 minutes and then, when additional heat is necessary, switch into full load. With two-stage heat pumps there is much less efficiency lost from cycling on and off. The final example is a new variable stage heat pump that operates over extended periods of time, adjusting the heat output to meet demand. In general, the lower stages provide greater performance by varying heat output over multiple stages thereby increasing overall performance.

Loop Temperature

Entering water temperature is well-recognized as one of the leading factors affecting system performance and heat pump manufacturers provide performance specifications for temperature ranging from 25 to 100 ° F.


Figure 3. Measured COP for 15-minute intervals during which heat pump was running continuously. (A) Measured COP for different times of the day relative to manufacturer COP for different loop temperatures. COP values in (A) include power from both compressor and flow center. (B) Same measured COP values (green) compared to the COP in (A) with the pump power removed (yellow)

In the example shown below (Case A from last week’s article on Loop Performance), the power consumption of the heat pump circuit (which includes the flow center), and the Auxiliary electric heat are being monitored separately with a WattNode power meter. The COP is calculated for 15-minute intervals through the 2012-2013 winter. To remove the variability of performance associated with the heat pump cycling on and off, we only include 15-minute intervals for which the heat pump was running continuously. The EWT ranges from 33 to 51 °F. While there is an overall correlation between COP and EWT, there is also considerable variability at a given temperature.

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Lessons Learned from 100,000 Hours+ of Real Time Geothermal Monitoring Data – Part 1

This is a guest article by Matt Davis, co-founder of Ground Energy Support (GES). GES provides a top quality real time monitoring package for monitoring geothermal heat pumps. Matt is an expert in geothermal monitoring. Matt has over 25 years of experience in data collection, analysis, geology and modeling of groundwater systems. He is now bringing that expertise and passion to help address the number one research priority in DOE’s recently updated GSHP Roadmap, see below “Collect/Analyze Data from GHP Systems”

Screen shot 2013-06-02 at 5.50.58 PM

Matt is an extremely active member of the ASTM committee that is working to develop heat metering standards in the United States. This committee is extremely important for implementing production based incentives for renewable thermal technologies and the lack of such a standard has been holding up the implementation of New Hampshire SB 218, the first production based renewable thermal incentive in US. This standard will also have implications for Massachusetts Bill SD 1593, which will create a production based incentive for renewable thermal technologies in Massachusetts, if it passes.

Matt is without question a top US expert on monitoring ground source heat pumps and he has the data to prove it ;)

A Few Odds and Ends Really Quick

  • If you’d like a larger copy of the data and graphs in this article, you can download it here. 

DOWNLOAD Lessons Learned Monitoring Geothermal Ground Loops

Give us a few pieces of information and download the whitepaper that provides an in-depth review of the current state of geothermal monitoring.
  • The guide will be sent to this email.

This Series of Articles on Geothermal Monitoring Lessons Learned is for 2 Audiences 

1. Geothermal professionals that want to remove risk and improve their designs.

Never have angry customers again, because you can set up alerts.  Remove your risk, especially drillers, by being able to objectively calculate how much energy was extracted from the ground.

In the geothermal industry, I see three main groups. We can call them, the bottom 50%, the middle 45%, and the top 5%. The bottom 50% of the industry are the notorious, yet elusive “hacks” that everyone in the geothermal industry complains about. This technology is not for them, because it would show them how bad their work is. The top 5% is what I’ll call the geothermal old guard. These are companies that have been doing geothermal for 30 years+ and have a set standard of their ways, and don’t feel that they need to verify anything. They “know” it works. The middle 45% is really the group of contractors that is new to the geothermal industry, are extremely business savy and very confident in the quality of their designs and installations. You want monitoring to verify your designs, removes risk from your businesses and sell more jobs.

2. Policy Makers in New England

The second major group is policy makers in New England (particularly Massachusetts, hey guys!) that are now looking more and more into renewable thermal technologies and want real data on how the systems are performing. On the policy front, I’ll be doing following up posts on solar thermal and hopefully advanced biomass as well.

3 Geothermal Trends We Can be Proactive About

There are only four that I’ve been watching (click here to read 4 Trends Driving the Geothermal Industry) and working on lately that are exciting me about the geothermal industry. There’s only three that was can actually do anything about. First, policy. Second, how can we shove plastic in the ground in different configurations to decrease ground loop costs. Third, real time monitoring. Fourth is rising fuel costs, which we don’t have control over.

The geothermal industry is filled with people that think everyone outside of the industry are trying to stop the adoption of ground source heat pump. So, instead of thinking about what we PROACTIVELY do to further our industry, too much time is spent talking about what other people need to do.

Monitoring is critical because it is something we can proactively do that we solve a lot of problems.

1. “Geothermal is too expensive” –> Wrong, it’s not expensive. We don’t have the right policy in policy to support adoption. We need verified data to implement policy. Mark Faulkenberry from Western Farmers Electric Co-ops data is a good start on the utility side, we need more.

2. “The public needs to be better educated” –> Wrong. We, as in industry, need to be better marketers, salespeople, and communicators and prove the value to them. This starts with verifying performance claims.

What all of this means is that adoption of real time monitoring of geothermal systems is one of the most important things we need to start doing as an industry

Enter Matt Davis from Ground Energy Support

This article is the first in a 3-part series that will highlight some of the lessons learned from over 100,000 hours of GSHP real-time monitoring data. This is written for GSHP installers of residential and light commercial systems who want to learn how to leverage real-time Performance Monitoring to build better GSHP systems, reduce their risk and callbacks, and ensure customer satisfaction.

The overall goal of this Performance Monitoring series is to engage the GSHP community in a discussion of both 1) what is possible and 2) what is useful. This first article focuses on how web-based performance monitoring data can be used to assess the performance of the ground loop relative to installed capacity. The second article will focus on using performance monitoring data to assess the overall performance (COP) of the system and how the ground loop, heat pump, and loop pump all contribute (or limit) system performance. The third and final article will discuss how performance monitoring can be used to develop and implement performance guarantee contracts. This initial series of artilcles will focus on heating applications in residential and light-commercial installations. Cooling applications that will be addressed in future articles this Fall.

Loop Temperature

There is a growing consensus (e.g. “Ground Loop Performance”) that monitoring Entering Water Temperature (EWT) is important, relatively easy, and helps to identify problems in system performance. There is less agreement as to what the minimum entering water temperature should be for a specific application or whether adhering to a uniform standard (e.g. ISO 13256) is best for all clients under all conditions. Regardless of your design preference and practice, EWT should be monitored to ensure that your systems are operating within the design limits.

As shown in Figure 1, there is a wide range of behavior in the EWT of GSHP systems in the Northeast. The variation is due primarily to differences in design and use. All loops shown in the graph below are vertical boreholes, but they range in design from open diffusion (one well for groundwater extraction and another for groundwater return), standing column wells with various levels of bleed, to closed loop systems. Geographically, they range from Connecticut to southern New Hampshire. The residential systems are dominantly used for heating and the commercial installation has a significant cooling load for most of the year.


Daily Minimum Entering Water Temperature for a range of GSHP sites in New England. Values represent 1-minute sampling interval and are filter for conditions when heat pump is running.

While the minimum EWT is a good indicator of ground loop conditions, the average of the entering and leaving water temperatures [½(EWT+LWT)] is a more meaningful metric for evaluating how the ground loop is performing relative to heating and cooling load.

Building Load

Real-time monitoring data can be used to track building load under a wide range of conditions and assess system performance. Building load provides a critically important context for interpreting loop temperature data, as it enables the installer to demonstrate that their system is operating as designed and isolate factors that are outside of their control. For example, construction practices (insulation of windows and door jams, proper ductwork installation) can have a significant impact on an GSHP system. The installer is often provided the building specifications and leaves it to the building contractors to meet those specification and can’t be on site to inspect all phase of construction or renovation. If the building envelope is not on spec, problems that arise in the heating/cooling system will like fall in the lap of the installer — why isn’t the system working? Also, installers can’t control homeowner’s thermostat settings, some of which may affect the efficiency of the system. However, by monitoring the system load, installers can identify discrepancies between operating and design conditions — discrepancies that may impact system performance and customer satisfaction.



The total building heat load is the sum of the GeoExchange and the heat produced by the compressor. In this discussion of Performance Monitoring, we focus on the GeoExchange portion of the building load as it is readily measured and is most closely tied to Ground Loop Performance. GeoExchange [MBtu/hr] is measured by multiplying the temperature difference (EWT – LWT) by the mass flow rate and the specific heat capacity of the circulating fluid.

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Posted in Geothermal and Solar Design and Installation Tips, Geothermal Heat Pumps | Tagged | 3 Comments

4 Trends Driving the Geothermal Heat Pump Industry in 2013

For a long time, the geothermal industry has assumed that if everyone just magically knew “how efficient” the technology is, that they would just adopt it. That is never going to happen. There’s many othervariables that matter much more than the system efficiency.

What will not drive the Geothermal Industry

  1. Continuing to recite over and over again how efficient the systems are. First, prove it. Tests performed in laboratory conditions and software models do not cut it. Real time monitoring is the only way to solve this.
  2. Second, homeowners only care about efficiency in how it impacts their savings. Translate efficiency into savings. No homeowner cares about COP.
  3. Economies of scale will not reduce installed costs. Similar to the solar thermal industry, geothermal is simply reconfigured commodity equipment. If the geothermal industry grew by 100x, the installed costs would drop slightly, but not drastically. The cost reduction would come from soft cost efficiencies, marketing, sales, lower margins can be accepted due to higher volume. We can’t rely on lower installed costs to drive our market.
  4. We do have the potential to reduce borehole length. Over the past 12 months, I’ve spoken with roughly 5 firms woking on better ways to install the ground heat exchanger that will shorten the loop. Not all of these technologies will work, but we need to be happy and welcoming to the firms trying to do push innovation. This is amazing, we need this innovation, and as an industry, we need to find a way to support these innovators as much as possible.

Here is what Can Drive the Geothermal Industry

Geothermal Trend #1 – State Policy Will Drive Adoption

In states that are heating dominated and using expensive heating sources, like New England, the policy is clear. Oil elimination. Sometimes called Renewable Heating and Cooling. Several New England States are getting bullish on this (NH, MA, ME, CT, and maybe VT), but we need to put gas on the flames.

Heating Policy

  • New Hampshire has established a thermal REC program
  • Vermont and Renewable Energy Vermont has established task forces to figure out how to achieve 90% renewable energy generation for all energy sectors by 2050.
  • Massachusetts has a yet to be released, pilot program of $6 million dollars for heat pumps and biomass that will be going into effect in 2013.
  • The Massachusetts DOER, with the help of Meister Consulting group,  has submitted to the legislature a report to the legislature on December 2012, outlining several policy measures that would help renewable thermal technologies.

Cooling Policy

In states that are cooling dominated, or states that are heating dominated but use natural gas and thus electric utilities are peaking in the summer, the policy to focus on is clear, peak demand side management for cooling in the summer.

Western Farmers Electric Coop put out a great article on their rebate program describing the impacts of ASHP and GSHP on demand side management. This case study needs to be the cornerstone of our policy efforts in cooling dominated areas. 

Why is this important and how does it impact your business?

  • If you’re serious about geothermal and it’s the future of your business, we need you to get active and help get policy through. Policy will not happen by itself, we need to push it. 
  • Getting policy in place in addition to the 30% ITC will make geothermal much more affordable to the general public. Cheaper equals growth.

Geothermal Trend #2 – Real Time Monitoring Can VERIFY Performance ans Reduce Risk for Property Owners

I wrote a full article on the subject that you can read here: Real Time Monitoring and Performance Based Contracts Are the Future of Geothermal

I’ll provide a little recap.

  • The top 50% of the best geothermal contractors now have the ability to double their business and put all of the fly-by-night geothermal installers doing horrible work out of business.
  • Performance based contracts remove risk from the property owner, making them more comfortable in the investment.
  • Real time monitoring will be required for production based incentives that New Hampshire has, and that other states are looking to create them.
  • Read more about performance based contracts here, how they could work, and what you’d need to add to your existing contracts to implement them.

Geothermal Trend #3 – Communications and Industry Research

The geothermal industry is currently run by contractors and engineers, generally speaking. We need to determine the best way to sell these projects and gather real data on the projects that we’re putting in.

  • Because our industry is still extremely niche, we don’t have a lot of data on it. This is hurting us from a policy perspective by making it harder to find allies, but also from a sales perspective. Not having a lot of data on existing systems increases the perceived risk to property owners. Here are a few questions we don’t have answers to:
  • How large is our industry?
  • How quickly is it growing?
  • What is the size, growth rates, etc in different regions and states? by customer category?
  • How many jobs does it employ?
  • How many dollars per dollar invested in the US, stays in the US?
  • What are average installed costs by region, by system type, by system size?

Geothermal Trend #4 – Fuel Prices Increasing

Exactly the same as solar thermal, installed costs will not be dropping, but fuel costs will rise, increasing the value of geothermal output.

It’s clear oil, propane and electricity costs will continue to increase, there’s growing evidence natural gas prices will also increase. Here’s the logic behind gas prices increase.

The low cost of natural gas has created trends that will increase demand, and cost, 1) exporting the gas, 2) converting coal power plants to gas, and 3) light truck usage.

Deborah Rogers has done some amazing research on the shale gas bubble, why gas producers are loosing money hand over fist, and why prices will likely be increasing over the next few years. More more about the shale gas bubble here.

Posted in Clean Energy Policu, Geothermal Heat Pumps | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

ASHP vs. GSHP Making An Apples To Apples Comparison

The article comes from the 2013 print edition of HeatSpring Magazine. It’s by Doug Carruthers from LoopLink.

The purpose of the article is to arm geothermal industry with information for one specific scenario. You walk into a room with a homeowner that doesn’t really know what’s going on, a air source heat pump sales man, and an architect that doesn’t want to look stupid.

The point of this article is to provide some technical understanding of how efficiency ratings are calculated, and how they might be different in the real world.

In my opinion, both types of heat pumps really lack actual field data on in field performance vs assumed performance. No has a set of 1,000 GSHP that have been monitored for 24/7 for 3+ years that we can run an analysis on. The results of this is that what should be an objective discussion, turns into a very subjective discussion.

There are a few good resources coming out on the geothermal side. If someone has similar items for ASHP, let me know!

  1. Mark Faulkenberry from Western Farmers Electric Co-Op Recently Published some real world data on their AC rebate program
  2. Companies like Ground Energy Support are bring to market real time monitoring for geothermal heat pumps (that will allow for performance based contracting). In a little while, they’ll have enough data to publish some great findings.

I realize this post is focused on the GSHP industry, and I’d love to hear from the ASHP industry. My goal is to eliminate oil and fossil fuel use and clearly there is a room for both GSHPs and ASHPs, the challenge is finding the best applications for both.  If you have some data or something to add, please send me an email at

Enter your information below to get the PDF of the article.


If you want to download this article so you can reference it later, feel free to download it here.
  • The guide will be sent to this email.

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Posted in Geothermal and Solar Design and Installation Tips, Geothermal Heat Pumps | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

HeatSpring is Building the Largest Library of Free Clean Energy Product Training to Get Manufactures in Front of Contractors

All Manufactures know that they need product training 

Everyone needs to get up to speed on how to use specific products. Every product is a little bit different and getting distributors and contractors to really understand a product makes them more likely to spec it into a project. Also, increased product knowledge will decrease customer service time that manufactures spend with existing customers.

Existing product trainings are done face-to-face, but there are a few problems with face-to-face product trainings.

  1. Face-to-face product trainings are expensive for both the instructor, especially if he’s traveling, and the students. The students have to take time out of their day to go to the training. Missing work in the construction industry is very expensive.
  2. One person can ruin a training. In face-to-face trainings, strong personalities or a single member that has less experience than other students can significantly decrease the value of the training to rest of the students. In an online product training, those people can easily be controlled by the instructor and they won’t impact the other students learning.
  3. In-depth technical training are actually better online. We’ve taught people how to design Net Zero Energy Homes, in a 100% online course. If we can teach people how to design amazing homes online, you can do a product training.
  4. It’s hard to get 1-on-1 time with every student in a face-to-face training. In online trainings you can address everyone’s questions and schedule 1 on 1 time with everyone with weekly office hours.
  5. In a face-to-face training, it’s hard to tell if everyone is understanding the material. In an online product training, you can track who is completing the assignment with the progress bar, and you can also create quizzes for each module to make sure students are learning the material.

Why every manufacture making energy efficiency or renewable energy products should build a product training on HeatSpring

  • Get in front of 6,000 solar PV, solar thermal and geothermal alumni and all new students.
  • Get in front of 33,000 newsletter subscribers and 10,000 monthly online magazine readers that are all extremely interested in products and working in the renewable energy business.
  • HeatSpring is great at marketing and we’ll get your name out there. We write in numerous industry publications, like Renewable Energy World, Cleantechies, Greentech Media and Alternative Energy Stocks. Click here to see our press page. 
  • Get direct connection with contractors that are signed up for your course in two ways. First, you’ll get all the students contact information so you can follow up with them after the course. Second, you’ll have direct contact with all the students on the course wall during the course.

Why is Heatspring Building a Product Training Library?

  1. We receive a lot of questions about products, and frankly, we don’t have enough time to answer them, but we want to be a resource to our students and readers.
  2. Our readers, students and alumni want to keep up to date with the best products that are hitting the market.
  3. By helping our alumni and readers more and more people will trust Heatspring. This is good for our brand.

How do we know it works? SRECTrade’s Product Training is an Example

SRECTrade is a perfect example of a product training that we offer. I’ll use them as an example of why we (HeatSpring) created the product training, what specifically a product training is comprised of, and why it’s awesome for SRECTrade’s business.

Why did we create it?

Everyone on the east coast is trying to figure out the SREC markets. Thus, we were spending a lot of time answering questions about SRECs and writing about them. It was clear that offering a free product training course would be very valuable.

What exactly is in the course?

Here is a quick 3 minute tour of what the inside of a product training looks like, and how the student sees the course once they are inside of it. 

How many people take the course?

As you can see, every 1 to 2 months, we get around 50 people in the course. For SRECTrade, these are all their customers, contractors looking to learn more about SRECs.

What is contained in a course?

1. First, there are modules. Product trainings tend to have two to three modules. Here is what a module looks like:

2. Within each module, you can upload video presentations, PDFs, downloadable tools, quizzes. Whatever you use for existing product trainings can be used in an online course. 

Here’s an example of what a video would look like once the student clicks on it.

3. We’ll create a sales page that can have a introduction video and will also go over what the course will cover, the instructor, and when it will be. You can see the example from SRECTrade in this video:

4. The course wall. The course wall is where all the discussion happens with the course. This is where you’ll have direct connection with each student and have them introduce themselves and answer any questions that they have during the course.

Watch the video above to see the course wall in action, here’s a picture of what happens in a course for student introductions.

Who should create a product training?

We’re building our product training for many categories

  1. Solar PV: Module manufactures, inverter manufactures, racking manufactures, software product, other tools related to the sales, design and installation of the product.
  2. Solar thermal: modules, storage tanks, pump packages, controls, software.
  3. HVAC: Any equipment and products that contractors use to install air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps.

What we need from you to create a product training

If you’re interested in offering a product training, here’s what we need from you.

  1. One single product. You can upload a product training for one single product.
  2. Up to 1 hour of video. These can be split into many videos. Video is a nice to have, but it’s not required.
  3. Up to 5 supporting resources. These can be PDFs, tools, or presentations.
  4. 1 or 2 quizzes that are either multiple choice or true/false. Students and instructors need quizzes to make sure that students are learning the material.
  5. A picture and bio of the instructor. The instructor should be the person who is best able to answer the questions from the students. These are most typically, a) a sales or marketing manager or b) the a training director.

Product Training Signup Page

If you want to have your product training in HeatSpring's product training library, fill out the below information and we'll be in touch.
Posted in Geothermal and Solar Design and Installation Tips, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar Photovoltaics, Solar Thermal | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ASHP vs GSHP and The Importance of SEER and EER in Utility Air Conditioning Demand Side Management Programs

The following post is by Mark Faulkenberry, Manager Marketing & Communications and Kalun Kelley, Commercial and Industrial Marketing Manager, both with Western Farmers Electric Cooperative. 

The post was originally published on Geoexchange, but because it’s so awesome, and uses specific data, I wanted to republished it on HeatSpring Magazine. This post goes into very useful data that the geothermal industry must use whenever speaking with municipal and co-op utilities about their HVAC rebate programs, especially because even Northeast utilities are peaking in the summer. It was reprinted with the authors permission.

Enter Mark

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) has been the federal efficiency metric for residential air conditioners since the late 1980s.  On January 23, 2006 new federal standards increased the minimum (SEER) requirement for central air conditioning equipment from 10 to 13.  These revised standards required air conditioning equipment manufacturers to build their new units to the higher SEER rating level and also created a marketing race to develop units that exceed the minimum standards.  Because the Federal standard is based on SEER many utilities have also based their efficiency program incentives on SEER.  Manufacturers have responded by focusing their efforts on building units that have high SEER ratings.  Unfortunately, this has resulted in overlooking the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) which provides a more accurate measure of the peak demand impacts of cooling equipment.

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) based utility demand side management incentive efforts including loans and rebates provided for residential central air conditioners and heat pumps to encourage improved cooling efficiency may directly hurt utility load factor by reducing kWh sales without a corresponding reduction in peak demand.  This is because SEER provides a reasonable measure of seasonal energy efficiency but it does not reflect efficiency (and related peak demand) on peak load days driven by above average temperatures.  In fact, it is not uncommon that air conditioning units with the highest SEER ratings have lower efficiency (and higher peak demand) at high outdoor temperature than units with lower SEER values.  If a utility’s goal is to reduce air conditioning kWh consumption without regard to peak demand, SEER is a useful tool.  However if the utility’s goal is to reduce peak demand from air conditioning loads, the utility planner must look at the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) of air conditioning units at the expected summer peak weather (outdoor air temperature) condition.

It is also important to note that When ARI certifies the SEER rating of an air conditioner; it does so for specific indoor and outdoor unit combinations, which are designated as “matched assemblies.” If some combination other than the ones ARI has tested is installed, the SEER rating will not be known.

Introduction to SEER, EER, and COP

SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio)

SEER was developed to provide a proxy for the expected average efficiency of an air conditioner or heat pump throughout an average cooling season in the U.S.  It is a calculated value that uses the estimated Btus that will be provided for cooling over the year divided by the estimated watt-hours that will be used to provide this cooling (Btus/watt-hours).  The formula for this calculation is based on measurements of a unit’s performance at several different operating conditions/temperatures in a testing lab.  The resulting data points are then used to calculate the SEER rating using an established Department of Energy (DOE) protocol.  This calculation protocol was developed to represent the expected total cooling energy delivered by the unit during an average cooling season and the total electric energy that would be consumed to deliver the cooling over the course of the season.  Because it is a calculated value based on a few measurement points, SEER does not measure peak load efficiency and it cannot be used to predict a unit’s peak demand requirements on the hottest days of the year.  It can only be used to estimate the unit’s annual cost of operation against other units with different SEER ratings.

EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio)

The Energy Efficiency Ratio was developed to indicate the cooling performance of an air conditioner or heat pump at a single, fully loaded operating point (outdoor air temperature).  EER is calculated by dividing the cooling output of a unit in Btus over the course of one hour (Btu/hour) by the peak electric energy (watt) used to deliver the cooling ((Btu/hour)/watt).  Consequently, EER represents the peak cooling capacity divided by the electric power input during steady state continuous operation.  EER is typically measured and reported at standard test conditions of 95°F outdoor and 80°F indoor dry bulb temperatures using the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute’s (ARI) test procedures.  It is important to note that the published EER data does not represent the peak demand conditions on an individual utility’s system.  Many utilities have peak conditions above 95 degrees and many consumers keep their homes well below 80 degrees.  Consequently, industry EER ratings are good for comparing the relative peak performance of different cooling equipment but the EER rating of a unit at the expected indoor and outdoor air temperatures must be used to calculate the true expected peak demand of the unit on the utility’s peak load condition.  It is possible to estimate the actual peak demand of a unit using published EER values.  For every 1°F change in outdoor temperature above 95°F the EER drops by approximately 0.1 (an outside temperature of 105°F would drop the published EER of a unit by 1.0 point below the listed EER value).  An accurate EER can only be developed by testing a unit at the expected indoor and outdoor air temperatures.

SEER and utility rebate programs

SEER based utility program incentives including loans and rebates for central air conditioners and heat pumps can directly hurt a utility’s financial position by inadvertently ignoring peak demand impacts.  Because air conditioning is often the biggest component of a utility’s summer peak, it is important for utilities to consider the peak demand impacts of its demand side management programs.  If peak capacity is not an issue for the utility, SEER is a good measure for efficiency programs.  If demand reduction is important to the utility, using SEER can result in utility program investments that do not provide peak load reductions because SEER provides a reasonable measure of seasonal energy efficiency but does not reflect peak demand when load is driven by above average temperatures.  In fact, it is not uncommon that the units with high SEER ratings have lower efficiency at high outdoor temperature than units with lower SEER values.  Efficiency programs promote SEER because it is the basis of the Federal efficiency standard and the rating data is readily available.  These efficiency efforts were not developed to focus on the peak load issues that are becoming a critical issue for utility resource planners. 

EER and Utility Rebate Programs

If demand reduction is an important consideration for a utility’s Demand Side program, the utility must specify the equipment EER it requires at its peak load/outdoor air temperature condition to be eligible for loans, rebates, or other program incentives.  Manufacturers of air source equipment are often reluctant to provide this information.  While Manufacturers are not required to certify the EER values of their equipment, most do publish their standard EER values in their central air conditioner and heat pump catalogs.  Fortunately, the California Energy Commission also publishes a directory that lists both the SEER and EER for many, but not all, air source cooling equipment.

EER and Ground Source Heat Pumps 

Ground source heat pumps (GHPS), also called geothermal heat pumps or GeoExchange systems, are a unique heating, cooling and water heating technology that use the steady state ground temperature for their operation.  These systems combine the compressor and energy distribution components associated with air source heat pumps with a ground loop that dissipates the heat removed from a building into the earth (where it can later be used for winter heating). Their cooling efficiency is measured in EER at an established entering water temperature.  Because the ground is always cooler than the surrounding air during peak air conditioning loads, GSHPs will always provide a higher EER and lower peak demand per unit of cooling energy delivered vs. air source equipment.  This is one of the reasons GHPS are the most energy efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available, according to ENERGY STAR (a U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency initiative).  The heat captured from air conditioning using a GSHP can also be transferred into the domestic hot water system, further increasing the EER of the system.

Western Farmers Electric Cooperative as a Case Study

The Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WF) has been operating for nearly 70 years as a generation and transmission cooperative that provides essential electric service to 19 member cooperatives in Oklahoma, 4 cooperatives in New Mexico and the Altus Air Force Base.  WF supplies the electrical needs of more than two-thirds of the geographical region of Oklahoma, part of New Mexico, as well as small portions of Texas and Kansas.

By the end of 2012, over 15 percent of WF’s total annual electricity production will come from power purchase agreements with wind farm generators in Oklahoma.  WF also has five natural gas and coal generating facilities with a total power capacity of more than 1,700 MW including some purchased hydropower. WF owns and maintains more than 3,600 miles of transmission line to more than 265 substations.

To balance its supply portfolio, WF established an aggressive goal of avoiding the construction of 30 MW of new generating capacity by 2017, through peak demand savings.  The G&T staff was provided a$1,000,000 annual budget to meet this goal.  While this budget is large by any measure, the 30 MW of new generation is expected to cost $1,850/kW, or $55,500,000.  This value does not include interest costs, O&M costs associated with the generation, and the capital costs of the related transmission and distribution needed to serve the additional load.    Because WF does not operate under mandates to meet reduced kWh “conservation” requirements, its efforts are focused on reducing peak capacity requirements and improve their overall system load factor and efficiency.

WF’s management was clear in establishing that they wanted a reasonable ROI that would take into account the net difference between reduced energy sales, capacity reduction and the value of numerous other factors including carbon offset, long term interest expense, and consumer and member cooperative value calculations.

Given these directions, WF established a rebate program for both air source and ground source equipment.  They looked at program development like sighting in a rifle. They would load it … start shooting … and zero in as they went.  Their initial rebate effort relied on EER for ground source and SEER for air source.  However it didn’t take them long after evaluating the results of their 2010 program to understand that they had to drastically modify their program if they hoped to achieve their peak reduction goal.  Their original savings projections per ton of equipment installed are shown below:

Original results projections                                       ASHP                        GSHP

Projected kW reduction per ton rebated               0.33 kW                  0.66 kW

2010 results kW reduction/ton rebated                0.16 kW                  0.65 kW

Their 2010 program results analysis also revealed the following:

  • Approximately 80% of rebates where on Air Source equipment and 20% were on Ground Source
  • 92% of rebates where on replacements (equipment failure) and new construction
  • 8% of rebates were on planned retrofits (pre-failure)
  • The original rebate program had an extremely long ROI on Air Source rebates compared to a relatively short ROI on Ground Source rebates. In several cases the ROI on air source installations exceeded the expected life expectancy of the air source equipment
  • In many cases the new (rebated) air source equipment had decreased energy sales without reducing peak capacity requirements

As WF probed to understand why their air source demand reductions fell so short of the expected results in 2010, it became apparent that the negative result was due to the difference between the equipment’s actual Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) on peak load days when compared to the published Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER).  What really opened their eyes was that the EER on even the higher SEER systems was horrible compared to those on Ground Source systems, which met their expected EER on peak load days.  The WF analysis, based on a sample of measured data, showed that the high SEER rated equipment had a poor EER during the record breaking heat of the 2010 Oklahoma summer when temperatures were over 100 degrees for days on end and hit 110 degrees in the middle of August. This got them to adjusting their program design rifle scope!

For 2012 (and beyond)  WF thought about completely eliminating their Air Source rebates due to the low peak contribution obtained from this type of cooling equipment, but opted instead to abandon SEER as a program rebate metric and to increase the EER requirement of rebate eligible air source equipment.  While they would have preferred to have this EER based on 100 + degree (f) outside air to reflect peak load conditions, the inability to find this data forced them to continue to look at EER at 95 degrees.  They will reevaluate this decision based on 2012 unit performance under the new EER requirement.  WF also came to the conclusion that if were to achieve their 30 MW peak demand reduction goal, they would have to focus on flipping the 80/20 Air Source to Ground Source installation ratio experienced in 2010 to 80% Ground Source.  Their 2013 demand reduction Business plan will also focus on addressing the following hurdles that must be covered to achieve that ratio flip mentioned above.

  1. Ground Source System Retrofit Costs
  2. Commercial and Residential Member Education
  3. Addressing Urgency Issues (time needed to address system failures)
  4. Changing the Target Market for Ground Source by Making it a Common Retrofit Opportunity

In conclusion, Western Farmers Electric Cooperative has learned a few things over the last couple of years regarding HVAC efficiency ratings (SEER vs. EER).  Based on the wisdom acquired through the first two years of the program , they plan to continue to provide rebates and other member incentives for their Energy Efficiency Rebate Program (EERP) going into 2012 for all Distribution Cooperatives (Co-ops) in Oklahoma and New Mexico. This program was designed to promote efficient use of energy with the long-term goal of reducing approximately 30 megawatts (MW) of future capacity.  A few changes have been made for 2012, including a focus on peak day cooling equipment performance based on EER, an increased focus on increasing peak equipment performance awareness, and improved ways to educate their member Co-op’s consumers and promote energy efficiency.  Their initial focus, centered on heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment with rebates being offered for the installation of both Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP) and Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP) that meet specified efficiency ratings will continue.  They also want to continue the support for education and incentive opportunities for the installation of proven technologies, such as the Ground Source Heat Pumps, that also provide “Green” environmental benefits.  Continuing this effort will help improve the heating and air conditioning energy efficiency of their Residential and Small Commercial rate classes, while reducing peak demand costs.  They will also work closely with each of their member Co-op’s to gather the data needed to justify and modify the program as it moves forward so that it will benefit the entire WFEC family.

Posted in Clean Energy Policu, Geothermal Heat Pumps | 3 Comments

Performance Based Contracting is the Future of the Residential Geothermal Business. Prove Me Wrong

(Screen shot of the Ground Energy Support Geothermal Monitoring dashboard)
Screen shot 2013-05-30 at 6.58.38 PM

If you’re serious about geothermal, you need to be monitoring your projects in real time. Click here to buy a Ground Energy Support monitoring package. Note, I advise Ground Energy Support.

This guest post was written by Matt Davis. Matt is on the ASTM thermal standards committee and is an expert at geothermal monitoring. His company, Ground Energy Support has logged more than 150,000 hours in real time data.

Real time geothermal heat pump monitoring is about to the change the geothermal industry and in 5 years it will become standard practice in competitive markets like New England and the mid-Atlantic. The best 50% of firms will double their businesses and the bottom 50% of firms will stop installing geothermal because they won’t be able to compete. This is great news for the industry and I’m on a personal mission to make this happen as fast as possible. If your business is in the top 50% of geothermal firms and you design and install high quality geothermal systems, you should quickly get familiar with real time monitoring because it will allow you to increase your profit on jobs and increase your sales. Two months ago, I went to an LI Geo meeting, pitched one of the contractors on using real time monitoring with a performance based contract, and he responded, “that’s exactly what I need, I’m not going to lose a $45,000 geothermal job to a competitor for an $800 piece of equipment.” If you’re not in the top 50%, watch out ;)

It will make your business more profitable in a few ways: 1) Increased customer satisfaction. 2) Work into a service agreement so that each sale brings in recurring revenue. 3) Increase sales by a) using other projects to show a potential clients during the sales process and b) offering a performance based contract to win any and all bids from competing geothermal companies that do not feel confident enough the in quality of their design and installation to GUARANTEE its performance.

To get familiar with real time geothermal technology, how it works, the difference between monitoring, measuring and metering, download “The Current State of Geothermal Monitoring”, published by Ground Energy Support and HeatSpring. I’m an advisor to Ground Energy Support.

Here’s what the Geothermal Monitoring Whitepaper will address

  1. The difference between geothermal monitoring, measuring, and metering
  2. Data collection
  3. Calculation of the geoexchange with the ground loop
  4. Modeling with system specifications
  5. Deciding on the best measurement method based on goals, budget and accuracy requirements
  6. Data analysis. How to interpret the data
  7. Most common system performance issues with the geothermal heat pump operation, design and source side issues

Download the Real Time Geothermal Monitoring Whitepaper

Give us a few pieces of information and download the whitepaper that provides an in-depth review of the current state of geothermal monitoring.
  • The guide will be sent to this email.

There are several trends that will make real time monitoring standard practice within 5 years.

  1. Historical precedence with the solar PV industry.
  2. Public policy is pushing towards performance based incentives.
  3. Monitoring addresses and solves HUGE problems that our industry faces
  4. Monitoring also addresses the top issues that homeowners have when looking to purchase geothermal and AFTER they have purchased a product. Addressing these issues will allow you to 1) increase sales by addressing client concerns and 2) increase referral business by increasing customer satisfaction.
  5. Monitoring can be added to your existing O+M contracts
  6. Use monitoring to structure a performance based contract.

Now, I’ll discuss each of these items in more depth.

1. Historical precedence in the solar PV industry

In the early 2000s very few solar PV projects in California had monitoring on them. Why? The technology was too expensive, and it was not required because the majority of state incentives were based on cash rebates. Forward that to today, well over 95% of residential projects in California are monitored. Why? First, the incentives are based on the performance of the system, so they must be monitored. Second, financers are guaranteeing production amounts which must be proven with monitoring. This will be happening in the geothermal industry.

2. Public policy is pushing towards performance based incentives

Even if you don’t want to install real time monitoring, you may not have a choice, as more and more states are looking at production based incentives for renewable thermal technologies.

New Hampshire is leading the country in this effort and is currently working on establishing the rules and guidelines for implementing a law in 2013 that was passed in early 2012. You can read more about the New Hampshire program here.

  1. State by State Comparison of Geothermal Heat Pump Legislation
  2. US States Heating up to Renewable Thermal Heating and Cooling

Maryland has passed some legislation, and Massachusetts is looking to address renewable thermal technologies as well as Vermont. For Massachusetts and Vermont, it’s currently unclear how they will incent renewable thermal technologies, however they incentivize solar pv and wind on a production level, so my guess is that they’re pushing this way with renewable thermal technologies as well.

Continue reading

Posted in Featured Designs, Products, and Suppliers, Geothermal and Solar Design and Installation Tips, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar and Geothermal Sales and Marketing Tips | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

How New England Can Eliminate Oil Use For Single Family Homes for Less Than We’re Spending on Solar PV

I first published this post in Renewable Energy World and it received a lot of comments, mostly getting into all the silly technical details of geothermal and not addressing how to implement policy to eliminate oil use. My hope is that any conversation on HeatSpring Magazine that comes from this can be about implementing policy. The article was also republished on Alternative Energy Stocks and Free Hot Water blog. My conclusion from this is simple, catchy headlines and being really specific about the argument in the meat of the article by using real numbers, backing those numbers up with logic and calculations is extremely powerful. The other lesson is that people really hate oil, and heat pumps along with biomass are the most proven technologies to eliminate a lot of oil use, nothing new needs to be invented, it’s just policy. 

Here’s the post

We can use simple, effective, and proven policies that have been used to supercharge the New England solar PV industry to incentivize renewable thermal technologies and eliminate oil use for single family homes. Here’s the best part, the policies will be cheaper than solar PV, they will create more local jobs per kW installed and displace more expensive fuel.

At Renewable Energy Vermont 2012, I delivered a presentation on how a production-based incentive for renewable thermal technologies, like the $29/MWh incentive in New Hampshire, would be cheaper than the current solar PV incentive in Vermont and could have a larger impact. The current incentive for solar PV in Vermont is $271/MWh for 25 years, but we could eliminate oil use for single family homes with a policy for renewable thermal technologies of $100/MWh guaranteed for five years. This policy would be much cheaper than the solar PV incentive and would drastically increase the adoption of biomass, air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps. It would put a huge dent in oil consumption for single family homes, save money and create local jobs. If you’re new or curious about thermal incentives, Renewable Energy World has done some great reporting on it.

As I started to run the numbers when I was creating the presentation, I was blown away by how much energy renewable thermal technologies produced, and how valuable that energy is when displacing oil, propane and electricity. Many attendees at the talk had never seen the numbers broken out in a way that easily compares apples to apples. However, as any engineer knows, converting kWs to tons to BTUs is relatively simple. When we compare these technologies in the same terms, it starts to provide a very clear picture of the results that can be achieved by investing in proven renewable energy thermal technologies. These technologies include solar thermal systems, geothermal/ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps, and biomass.

For the purpose of this article, I’m going to compare solar thermal and ground source heat pumps to a standard solar PV project in a baseline home. I’m using these technologies because I’m the most familiar with them. However, further analysis should absolutely include air source heat pumps and biomass technology.

Background: Why look at renewable thermal technologies?

We waste a lot of money on oil for space heating. Yes, oil industry, my goal is to put you out of business. But don’t worry, we’ll train you to install these new technologies. In addition to building and retrofitting buildings to have tighter shells, there are only three technologies, yes three, that can eliminate on-site fossil fuel use: biomass (pellets and cord wood), air source heat pumps, and ground source heat pumps. Here are a few pieces of data on why a focus on oil usage is so important for New England.

The EIA separates the US into five energy regions.

The Northeast uses the most oil for space heating, which also happens to be an extremely expensive fuel source. Six million homes use oil for heat, and the average home uses 800 gallons of oil per year, which equals roughly 4.8 billion gallons per year.

If we assume that the average residential price is $4 per gallon or slightly higher, home oil-heat spending is roughly $20 billion dollars per year.

These are huge industry trends, so let’s break the data down into something more tangible. U.S. census data reveals the number of single family homes in each specific state, this is the “total homes” column. I then broke down the heating fuel mix for each state, provided by the EIA, and found the number of single family homes in each state that use a high-cost fuel (oil, propane). You can see that the numbers are sizable. I then took the total number of homes and divided it by the number of homes using an expensive fuel source, which you can see on the far right. This means that nine out of 10 homes in Maine are using a very expensive fuel source. In Massachusetts, 54 percent, or five in 10 homes, use these sources.   However, Massachusetts-specific data reveals that some communities use natural gas (that’s green). However, there are a large number of communities where 60+ percent of single family homes use an expensive fuel source.

Solar PV is a great investment but doesn’t address oil use — how can we address this problem?

The goal of this post is to show how we can use policies and incentives that have already been successfully implemented in the solar PV industry to address fossil fuel use for space heating in New England. I’ll provide a basic comparison of how solar pv and renewable thermal technologies compare when looking at fuel savings for property owners, direct job creation, and the cost of the incentive.

With that said, let me be clear: solar PV is a great investment. The purpose of this post is to be a “yes…AND”conversation. Solar PV will do nothing to address direct fossil fuel use. Additionally, the solar PV industry is large enough to be a great comparison tool because many people are familiar with the economics of solar PV. Thus, using solar pv as a baseline will make it easier to communicate the value of other technologies.

I’m also looking to address a question I recieve often: If geothermal heat pumps are so great, why aren’t more people using them?

How do we look at renewable energy policies?

When trying to understand renewable thermal technologies and the impact of different policies, a small number of variables seem to be critical for policy makers.

  1. Reduction in utility bills for property owners and reduction in fossil fuel use that is imported
  2. Local job creation
  3. Amount that said incentive costs for the state or utility
  4. Water quality and air quality issues
I could be missing something here, so let me know if I am.

Let’s create a baseline home for comparison purposes.
This is the home we’ll be dealing with. If you’re not into the technical part of things, please feel free to skim over this, I just want to be extremely clear with my methodology and calculations. If anything is unclear, please let me know; I’ll be happy to address any questions.
  • 2,000 square feet
  • 180 degrees
  • 10 pitch roof (40 degrees) — enough space for a 5-kW system.
  • Requires 63MM BTU for heating (read average shell)
  • Existing heating system is oil furnace with AC that must be replaced within two years. Replacing the existing oil furnace and AC unit with the same technology will cost $10,000.
  • Electric rate is $.17kWh inflating at 3 percent per year
  • Oil prices are at $4.00/gallon inflating at 5 percent per year
Let’s create a baseline with diferent technologies based on current installed costs, incentives and energy costs for an average home.
1. Solar PV
  • $5.50 per watt times 5 kW = $27,500
  • For those of you who think this is high. Think again. Read more on residential prices in Massachusetts at The Open PV project and the MA CEC’s website. Also, I have no reason to make solar PV seem high, I love the technology am a huge supporter of it.
  • Produces 1,000 kWh per kW installed = 5,000 kWh or 5 MWh
  • Value of energy is $850
  • Local jobs created: 15 man hours per kW installed –> 75 man hours (does not include sales, support and supply chain jobs, just direct construction jobs)
  • Percent of year installed costs driven by rebates: 44 percent
  • Gross installed costs to value of energy: $32
  • Net installed cost to value of energy: $19
  • 20 Year IRR, not considering equipment lifetime or O+M: 9 percent

2. Solar Thermal

  • $110 per square foot gross installed costs
  • 80 square foot system (2 modules @ 40 square feet per module)
  • Gross installed costs = $8,800
  • Net energy production per year: 4,100 kWh (140 therms)
  • Value of energy production displacing #2 heating oil = $443 (140 therms is approximately 110 gallons of fuel oil)
  • Local Jobs Created: 20 man hours per module (this is based on anecdotalle experience not an industry study, because they don’t exist) = 40 man hours.
  • Incentives in Massachusetts: ITC, Personal Tax Credit, MA CEC Cash Rebate
  • Percent of year one installed costs driven by rebates: 62 percent
  • Gross Installed Costs to value of energy: $20
  • Net installed costs to value of energy: $7.50
  • 20 Year IRR: 12 percent

3. Geothermal

  • Oil and AC replacement costs = $10,000
  • Geothermal costs = $9,000 per ton X 4 tons = $36,000
  • 4 ton = 14-kW system
  • Geothermal premium = $26,000
  • Oil heating costs = $3,000
  • Geothermal heat costs = $1,000
  • Geothermal Fuel Savings = $2,000
  • Net geothermal energy production from the ground loop = 13,500 kWh
  • Incentives: 30 percent ITC from $36,000 = $10,800
  • 90 man hours per ton = 360 man hours for the job (25 percent of installed costs is labor: $36,000 X .25 = $9,000, and $1,000 is a week’s wage for 40 hours, so nine weeks work * 40 hours = 360 man hours / 4 tons)
  • Percent of year 1 installed costs driven by rebates: 41 percent
  • Gross installed costs / value of energy: $13
  • Net installed costs / value of energy: $7.6
  • 20 Year IRR: 14 percent

For those of you that love tables, I’ve put the data on a table as well.


There’s a lot of information in the above graph, so I made a few simple graphs that display and answer some specific questions.

Installed Cost per Watt

Geothermal costs roughly $2.57 per watt, while solar thermal costs $3.96 and solar PV is around $5.50. Yes, a lot of residential solar pv projects still cost $5.50 per watt. You may be able to reduce this to $4.00 per watt on new construction, but this trend is decreasing.

Energy Production per Installed kW

Solar PV generally produces 1,000 kWhs per year for every 1 kW installed. An average geothermal system, running at COP of 3.75 delivering 63MMBTU will produce 13,500 kWh net energy from the ground loop annually, backing out the electric use for the pumps and compressor. A 4-ton system is 14 kW, so it produces slightly less then 1 kWh of net energy for every 1 kW installed. The solar thermal system is only a 2.22-kW system, but will produce 4,100 kWh of energy in one year.

Gross Invested Cost per Dollar of Energy Output

This metric is simple. Without considering any incentives (using just gross installed costs), how many dollars need to be invested to get $1 in fuel savings? Geothermal and solar thermal are clearly the winner here when displacing fuel oil. If they were displacing propane or electric they would be higher.

Gross Installed Cost to Net Installed Cost: How much do incentives drive returns?

This metric looks at how much incentives decrease installed costs by taking the gross installed costs and dividing them by all available incentives. What we see is that in Massachusetts, solar thermal is the most heavily subsidized technology, followed by solar pv and geothermal.

Net Invested Cost per Dollar of Energy Output:

After incentives are considered, we can look at the net energy investment required to get $1 in energy savings. Solar thermal and geothermal become more equal at $7.60 and solar PV is around $19. This means that to replace oil with a geothermal project in Massachusetts, you need to invest $7 to get $1 in fuel savings in year one.

Total Man Hours Needed per Job

This is looking at the total direct construction jobs to install a project. This is not based on any reports (because they don’t exist for solar thermal and geothermal), but anecdotal evidence. A typical 4-ton geothermal system will require 360 direct man hours in construction, and a solar thermal system will take 40 hours, and a solar PV project takes around 75 hours.

Direct Jobs Created per kW Installed

When we look at direct man hours per kW installed, geothermal and solar thermal create the most jobs, followed by solar PV. The reason for this has to do with the type of equipment being used. For geothermal and solar thermal technology, commodity equipment is used and repackaged in a different way. Components for these technologies aren’t industry specific, except for the actual solar thermal modules and geothermal heat pump, but these are easy to manufacture and thus there are many manufacturers. For the solar PV industry, all main components are specialized: modules, inverters and racking. Thus, equipment costs tend to make up a larger percentage of the installed costs. However, this is declining as economies of scale are reached on the manufacturing side of the business.

20-Year IRR with Current Incentives and Assumptions

This graph shows what the 20-year IRR of these different projects is with our given assumptions. Yes, the IRR of solar PV is getting much lower as installed costs drop and property owners see it as low risk, but also because Massachusetts SREC prices are declining. Geothermal is around 13 percent and solar thermal is around 12 percent.

20-Year IRR of All Technologies Received SRECs

This graph is answering a question I frequently hear: If geothermal is so amazing how come more people aren’t doing it? My answer is simple: If geothermal received the same REC prices as solar PV, no one would be using oil, geothermal would just be cheaper. So, if we assume that geothermal and solar thermal get paid $200/MWh for 10 years based on their output, their IRRs skyrocket to 30 percent.

Lessons earned and what implication does this have for policy in New England?

There are a few lessons we can learn from this analysis.

First, renewable thermal technologies can provide as good or better returns than solar PV technologies for property owners.

Second, renewable thermal technologies need more policy support, but they do not need as much support as solar PV. As you can see, a 30 percent IRR is too high. This is good for policy makers because it means that the cost of deploying renewable thermal technology will be CHEAPER than deploying solar PV. Renewable thermal technologies are cheaper and produce more valuable energy per kW installed, so more of the returns can come from displacing fuel than from a subsidy.

Third, renewable thermal technologies create more construction jobs per kW installed than solar PV.

Fourth, if we’re serious about incentives for renewable thermal technologies, we must use production-based incentives. Production-based incentives maintain quality control throughout the entire process: manufacturing, design and installation. A huge lesson learned in the solar PV industry is that incentives based on installed costs have huge flaws (installing solar PV projects in the shade is one example). Those modules on the left in the photo below will still receive a rebate even though they won’t produce must power.

Fifth, if any policy makers reading this happen to live in New England, my message to you is simple:  If you’re bullish on the solar PV industry and believe that it’s a wise investment in terms of job creation, reducing emissions and saving property owners money, you should look into renewable thermal technologies as the next area of rapid growth. If you’re looking for the next technology that is going to create a huge number of jobs in your state and save a massive amount of money, you must look at renewable thermal technologies.

If you want to chat, I’d be happy to. Here’s my contact information:, 800-393-2044 ex. 33.


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