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Adding up the geothermal benefits

A tool developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers gives building owners and equipment manufacturers and installers an easy way to calculate the cost savings of a heating and cooling system that utilizes geothermal energy and emits no carbon.

Ground source heat pumps, or GSHPs, operate with a heat exchanger that extracts heat from the ground in winter and serves as a heat sink in summer to provide cooling.

ORNL’s free web-based application identifies the benefits and implementation costs for GSHP installation in existing U.S. buildings. Users can modify utility prices for electricity, water and natural gas. A techno-economic analysis is provided in simple charts.

“You can change building characteristics, ground properties and utility rates, and the annual return on investment is updated in real time based on these inputs,” said ORNL’s Xiaobing Liu. “This is the only tool available that can automatically simulate and predict performance of GSHP applications.”