Demand, opportunities for commercial geothermal heating up

| by Steve Arel
Demand, opportunities for commercial geothermal heating up

The new commercial series compact horizontal packaged water source heat pump features a smaller footprint. Photo courtesy of Enertech Global

With ground already chewed up for new commercial projects, more and more owners and designers see value in digging a little deeper to install geothermal systems.

Just ask companies like Enertech Global, which is seeing demand – and opportunity – for its commercial geothermal solutions heat up in recent years.

Enertech has increased its footprint in the commercial geothermal heating and cooling market, showcasing some of its products at AHR Expo 2018 in Chicago.

Among them: A horizontal commercial solution designed to be hung from ceilings, which is smaller than other models, as a means of freeing up more building space.

Schools and other operations in the public sector long have been the primary installers of Enertech’s geothermal products because of the systems’ life cycle that typically spans 50 years or longer. But today, that consumer base is expanding to include more private-sector facilities, such as low- and mid-rise office buildings.

Brian Urlaub, Enertech’s commercial sales manager, attributes the expansion to new financing options that have emerged.

In one approach designed to offset the cost of the ground loop, developers are using a utility model for the geothermal system. The developer provides the installation of the loops and the building owner a monthly fee for the service. The developer, or a third party, acts as a separate utility provider for the thermal energy provided by the geothermal system. The building owner owns the heat pump and other equipment in the structure.

The owner doesn't have to pay the cost of the ground loop in the mortgage. The monthly fee is usually less than the cost of the energy savings.

As much as anything, “it’s a feel-good for them,” Urlaub said of commercial customers turning to geothermal. “It’s showing that they are interested in saving and protecting the environment and in saving money and energy on their utilities.”

Geothermal systems offer up to 70 percent energy cost savings – that's potentially several hundred dollars off a building’s monthly electric bill – and are more durable and long-lasting, with underground components potentially lasting more than 50 years compared to around 12 years with traditional systems.

In addition to environmental benefits, geothermal systems provide significant aesthetic advantages. Because there are no outdoor compressor units and the underground systems are virtually silent, there is little distraction to building occupants from noise or unsightly industrial equipment.

And because the units are located inside the facility, there's nothing outside that’s exposed to the weather.

It’s that protection, Urlaub said, that’s something of a “forgotten” positive financial impact.

“The setup requires such little maintenance that it saves users as much on what they might otherwise spend on maintaining the system as they are on monthly savings,” he said. “The ground loop is going to be there for the life of the building.”

As interest in geothermal increases, Enertech sees its solutions used for both new construction and retrofit projects.

“Obviously, going in with the building makes it easier,” he said. “There are a lot of retrofit opportunities that work just as well, and they’re just as easy to install. It all goes back to do you have the space, what type of system do you have currently or do you have to start from scratch or can you add to what you already have?”

Topics: Architectural Firms, Building Owners and Managers, Construction Firms, Educational Buildings, Educational Buildings - Colleges and Universities, Energy Saving Products, Engineering Firms, Environmental Firms, Geothermal Heating and Cooling, Great Commercial Buildings, Healthy & Comfortable Buildings, HVAC - Heating, Cooling, and Ventilation, Incentives - Rebates / Tax Credits / Other, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), Interiors, Office Buildings, Sustainable Communities, Technology, Urban Planning and Design, Ventilation

Companies: Enertech Global, LLC

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