Expert design is essential for achieving good long-term results
from GSHP installations
With the recent strong growth in the Ground Source Heat Pump sector many mainstream consulting engineers are looking to ground source energy to provide low carbon heating and cooling for the first time and, who could blame them. GSHPs can not only provide low run costs and generous income via the Renewable Heat Incentive but they are also increasingly favoured by planning authorities. Chris Davidson from the Ground Source Heat Pump Association explains the unique approach required to deliver successful projects for our customers.
GSHP technology is unlike any other heating and cooling solution available today. It requires a unique set of skills and experience to design successfully and should never be treated as a drop-in replacement for a boiler and a chiller.
Good design starts with finding the level of building heat loads and cooling loads required. International standards require at least monthly heating and cooling load profiles for compliant GSHP design. A detailed understanding of the local geology is essential to provide budgeted ground loop requirements and therefore costs for a project. Expertise in the use of heat pumps and their controls is also needed for commissioning and optimisation requirements in use after installation.
So where does this leave the consulting engineers considering ground source energy?
In short, they need specialist help and the GSHP industry, particularly the members of the GSHPA stand ready and able to provide it but, there is a catch. The traditional approach of mining a few installers for general information in return for a mention in the specification is extremely limited and dangerous for the reputation of GSHP projects. It's like going into a restaurant and demanding a free meal because you brought some of your own ingredients.
Most installers and consultants may be happy to provide a brief overview, a look at the menu if you like. However, the intellectual property and substatial time commitment required to go far beyond an initial cursory look should not be taken for granted and consultants should be prepared to pay to obtain thoroughly researched advice. The good news is that this assistance is not only great value but increases the likelihood of a successful installation handsomely. In most cases the cost of the consultancy is far outweighed by benefits to the project and the certainty provided around the business case can be invaluable for the project team.
Key messages for consulting engineers:
- Don't assume that free advice, or rules of thumb, will carry your project over the line
- Acknowledge the differences – ground source energy is a finite resource and it's certainly not a boiler
- Get used to providing more detailed and accurate building load information, or be prepared to pay someone to establish the heating and cooling loads accurately