Geo Exchange vs Geothermal: Uncover Energy Solutions with PBA

Kenneth Boyer Jr.
Aug 9, 2022 10:33:10 AM

Savings From the Ground Up with Geothermal Solutions and PBA Engineering Consultants


With a global push towards reducing carbon emissions by the year 2050 and many cities focusing on the utilization of more sustainable energy sources, we must consider the major benefits that geothermal solutions can offer. Over the past thirty years, PBA has assisted in the engineering design and implementation of over 4 million square feet of heat pump systems including 2 million square feet of geo-exchange (geothermal) designs using both central and unitary heat pumps. PBA has always been ahead of the renewable energy curve. We have designed sustainable projects across the country that are thriving and in full operation today, including our first geothermal project completed nearly 20 years ago.

On average, geothermal systems can reduce energy consumption by 30% or more energy over standard ASHRAE compliant HVAC systems and require considerably less maintenance. Geothermal heat pumps systems have been designed for various building types including libraries, office buildings and education facilities both, K12 and higher ed. 

Geo-exchange fields range from vertical bore to horizontal ground source, to utilizing rivers, lakes, and ponds. For one particular project, PBA was tasked with designing and implementing a system that would maximize efficiency for Battle Creek Central High School. The design and construction team decided to incorporate an open geo-exchange heating and cooling plant that would utilize the Battle Creek River.

Photo_21Geothermal_PipingHubSpot copy Photo of: Geothermal Piping

Soil borings and soil testing revealed that the site had enough water to implement a ‘once-through system.’ A once-through system is best defined as a process in which, ground water from a well is pumped through heat exchangers that isolate the ground water from the building’s closed loop system. In this instance, after a thorough environmental study concluded, this ground water was then discharged into a storm sewer that runs into the Battle Creek River. A detailed HVAC system analysis of all available resources uncovered this way to incorporate a renewable energy system and provide an efficient heating and cooling source for the building.

Benefits of utilizing a geothermal system

  • Geothermal utilizes the earth’s natural ability to regulate temperatures and reduces carbon emissions from heating and cooling. Overall choosing geothermal reduces our carbon footprint by taking out typical components of the heating and cooling system - removing boilers and chillers.
  • Less maintenance means a reduction in operating costs. Geo-exchange fields can operate in place for up to 50 years with little to no maintenance.
  • The air moving equipment for Geothermal systems are typically indoor units allowing them to avoid the wear and tear caused by the natural elements like snow, ice, debris, rain, extreme temperatures, or vandalism.

Geothermal can be a highly efficient and environmentally friendly option when considering the next HVAC system for your facility. With the global focus on acknowledging and acting upon climate change, conducting a detailed study of HVAC system options including first cost and energy cost should be undertaken. This study will highlight potential energy, economic, and carbon reduction benefits of the studied systems, and may very well point to geothermal as the system of choice.

The decision of a vertical boring versus horizontal boring is also important and  largely based on the site conditions. If you can sustain the possible additional first cost, the positive environmental impact may be substantial and you will eventually recoup your initial investment and receive major benefits over the lifespan of your system.

According to the Geothermal Exchange Organization, 'The earth is a huge energy storage device that absorbs 47% of the sun’s energy'… '500 times more energy than mankind needs every year-in the form of clean, renewable energy.'

 When selecting an MEP consulting firm to engineer the right building environment, clients choose Peter Basso Associates because we excel at solving complex, challenging problems and possess an in-depth knowledge of best practices that extend across multiple markets. We want to be your partner for engineering the right building solution.





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