Environmental Protection

Groups Survey State Rules on Geothermal Heating

Four national organizations committed to groundwater protection have agreed to conduct a comprehensive survey of states’ regulation of geothermal heating and cooling systems.

The survey, to be completed in early 2010, is underwritten by the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium, Ground Water Protection Council, International Ground Source Heat Pump Association, and the National Ground Water Association (NGWA).

Nationally, installations of geothermal heat pump systems are estimated by the federal government to have increased more than 33 percent in each of the last two years.

“With more and more boreholes being drilled to accommodate the increased demand for geothermal heating and cooling systems comes greater potential for groundwater contamination,” said NGWA Executive Director Kevin McCray.

“To help ensure a vibrant geothermal heating and cooling industry, groundwater must be protected. It is important, then, to understand how states are protecting groundwater while allowing this technology,” McCray said.

Geothermal heat pumps (GHP), also known as ground or groundwater source heat pumps, replace conventional heating and cooling systems, and can also be configured to heat some or all of a building’s domestic hot water. Because they simply move heat to and from the Earth, instead of burning a fuel to generate heat, properly designed GHP systems can provide decades of inexpensive renewable energy.

GHP systems are comprised of three major components: the Earth connection, a heat pump, and a heating and cooling distribution system. The Earth connection can be an “open loop” that supplies well water to the heat pump, or a “closed loop” that circulates an eco-friendly anti-freeze/water solution through a closed loop of piping buried in the ground or submerged in a pond or lake. The heat pump’s refrigeration cycle uses the Earth connection to move heat from the Earth to the building during winter, and to move heat from the building to the Earth during summer.

The federal government and many state governments offer tax incentives for individuals or businesses that install geothermal heat pump systems. To learn more, visit www.wellowner.org and click on “Geothermal Heat Pumps.”

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