Radiant heat has often been promoted as, "the most comfortable heat there is," but what's often overlooked is its efficiency. Radiant systems today operate at low water temperatures, and can be a perfect match for renewable energy technologies such as solar and geothermal.
Radiant heating and cooling provided by geothermal systems are exceptionally efficient, and customers who invest in geothermal systems deserve to derive the maximum efficiency from them. This means ensuring that their systems' geothermal loops are properly balanced and maintained.
In a typical geothermal system, it's traditionally been difficult to know exactly what’s going on out in the loop field. For example, if you have a 5-ton geothermal system in a house, you'd typically have five wells or loops in the yard. All of these loops are tied together and piped into the house, at which point they connect directly into the geothermal unit.
When you design and install everything as perfectly as you can, you can assume that everything in the loop field is working properly, but there has been no real way to verify it. Today, new monitoring technology allows you to know what’s going on in the loop field. Some manufacturers, for example, now offer geothermal manifolds that allow you to monitor the flow and temperatures in the loop field. This allows you to balance the system to ensure that it’s operating at maximum efficiency. You can also identify and troubleshoot possible problems in a loop that may be impairing system efficiency and decreasing your customers’ comfort.
Geothermal systems have a significant upfront cost, and customers are willing to make that investment because of the savings they’ll see over time. It’s our responsibility to keep up with new technology, so that we can deliver not only “the most comfortable heat there is,” but also the most efficient.
Eddie Grierson is the HVAC department manager at S.J. Johnson, Inc., Owings, MD. He’s one of six technicians named as North American Technician Excellence (NATE) "Top Techs" at HVAC Comfortech 2010. Eddie can be reached at 410/257-2515, or by e-mail at [email protected].