Growth of geothermal heat pump market

Sales of energy-efficient heat pumps for homes and businesses continue to rise as consumers seek out HVAC equipment that cost less to operate and has a minimal environmental impact. Most heat pumps transfer heat between the outside air and the building interior. As outside air temperatures drop in the winter, the atmosphere holds less heat that can be used to heat the inside of the building. Therefore, the lack of heat energy in the atmosphere during the winter makes air-to-air heat pumps ineffective in the coldest parts of the country. However, ground-source heat pumps (GSHP’s), also called geothermal heat pumps, are systems that do not depend on the air temperature for heat transfer.

Instead of moving heat to and from the atmosphere like a conventional air-to-air heat pump, GSHPs move heat to and from the ground through a series of buried pipes. The ground is a consistent temperature throughout the year and provides the perfect place to exchange building heat. GSHPs use 25% to 50% less electricity than conventional heating or cooling systems and compared to air-to-air heat pumps, they are quieter, last longer, and need less maintenance. Although only 1.7 percent of the heat pump market, GSHP sales rose 37 percent from 2017 to 2018 spurred by the industry shift towards high-efficiency HVAC systems.

Homeowners and commercial building owners with GSHP’s see an immediate utility bill savings compared to other HVAC systems. “We’ve had excellent feedback with our ground-source customers,” said Brian Houchin, vice president/general manager of Bratcher Heating and Air Conditioning in Peoria, Illinois. “They’ve all seen energy savings, thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars a year,” he said. “I go back to some of my first customers, and they’ve saved $40,000. They’ve paid for their system twice over.”

To keep HVAC equipment running efficiently and energy bills low, GSHPs, like every piece of HVAC equipment, require routine maintenance. Contracting Business’ article “10 Steps to Servicing a Geothermal [GSHP] Heat Pump” provides guidance on cleaning the GSHP evaporator coil as part of a preventative maintenance program. “The coil should be inspected for dirt during every start-up or service check. If the coil is dirty, it should be cleaned using a nonacidic coil cleaner and then thoroughly rinsed.”

The location of the GSHP unit above a ceiling or when mounted on a high equipment platform makes accessing the coil for cleaning very difficult. Also, servicing GSHPs in occupied buildings means chemical smells and cleaning water should be contained so as not to disturb occupants or leak and cause property damage. Maintenance technicians should select cleaning equipment that allows them to clean the coils regardless of how challenging access is.

Goodway Technologies offers several different styles of coil cleaning systems to match the conditions of the building. For servicing multiple, small GSHPs, particularly above high ceilings, the battery-powered Backpack CoilPro® Coil Cleaner is the best choice. The cleaner easily fits on the technician’s back and gives them complete freedom to move around to get to hard to reach locations. The Backpack CoilPro® weighs only fifty pounds when loaded and is equipped with a ten-foot self-coiling hose and eighteen-inch wand. The long wand gives extra length to access coils mounted deeper inside of the GSHP cabinet. The Backpack CoilPro® comes with a five-gallon water tank and three-gallon chemical tank so multiple pieces of equipment can be serviced without coming down from the ladder or locating a water source to refill the machine.

For jobs where the equipment is easier to reach, the wheel-mounted CoilPro® CC-201T, Coil Cleaner with CoilShine-T is fabricated with an eight-gallon tank allowing service techs to move the unit between GSHP’s with minimal effort. The CC-201T uses CoilShine®-T tablets dissolved into the water tank instead of the liquid CoilShine® used in the Backpack CoilPro®. This method prevents carrying the CoilShine® liquid container with you as you move around the building. You only take the tablets you need to mix for the immediate cleaning job. The CC-201T has a twenty-five-foot hose so the machine can be placed in a central location on the roof or in the mechanical room to access multiple GSHP’s. For larger and dirtier GSHP coils, the CC-201T’s variable water pressure (130-200psi) and flow (0.5 to 0.9 GPM) clean even the most neglected coils.

The market for GSHPs is on the rise and HVAC technicians should be familiar with the maintenance procedures to keep these cutting-edge systems at peak efficiency. Preventative maintenance requires regular cleaning of the evaporator coil with tools and chemicals that remove buildup and debris that hinder performance. Goodway’s line of coil cleaning systems and cleaning products can be an integral piece of your team’s arsenal to keep GSHPs clean and efficient.

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