Geothermal

U.S. Company Markets New Renewable Energy System

A U.S. company that manufactures ground-coupled heat pumps has formed a joint venture to market a new system that uses municipal water as a source of energy.

FORT WAYNE, Indiana – WaterFurnace International Inc will work with Hardin Geotechnologies to market the technology that utilizes the municipal water supply to lower the cost of heating, cooling and refrigeration. The joint venture will be called water+(TM) and is based on a patented process developed by Jim Hardin, founder of Hardin Geotechnologies. The process uses municipal water as a vehicle to absorb or extract heat. The city water is run through a heat pump that will raise the temperature by 11oF in the summer and lower it 8oF in the winter. The water is then routed back to the municipal water utility. In the process, the water absorbs or rejects heat to the earth surrounding the return pipe. The water will ultimately return to the same temperature as the water in the main, allowing the whole system to provide a 100 percent renewable source of heating and cooling. Once at the municipal water facility, the water will be treated and returned to the water main. “This technology changes the economics of heating, cooling and refrigeration,” says president and CEO Bruce Ritchey. “It eliminates the need for rooftop units and cooling towers on commercial buildings.” “The water+ system will also eliminate the need for outdoor air conditioners for homes,” he explains. “The cost for the system will be equal to or less than conventional systems, but will be dramatically more energy efficient, with lower maintenance costs.” Water+ will be an independent operation that will be available to all heating, air conditioning and refrigeration manufacturers who make geothermal or water source units. “This new technology has the potential to move geothermal energy out of the niche market category into the conventional construction market,” says Conn Abnee, executive director of the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium (GHPC). “It is a renewable energy source that will out-perform any conventional system over time, and now it is more affordable in first cost.” The GHPC is a U.S. non-profit organization that promotes the use of ground-coupled heat pumps, which are trademarked as GeoExchange(r) units in the U.S. and called earth energy units in Canada. It is funded by grants from the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy and through membership fees from manufacturers and electric utilities. “This is a real breakthrough for the company,” adds James Shields, Chairman of WaterFurnace. “It allows us to compete on the basis of cost.” “In the past, our system was typically more expensive to install, but we could sell them on the basis of energy and maintenance savings that would pay back the price difference,” he explains. “Now, we can meet or beat the first costs and have even better energy savings.” “There are a lot of winners as a result of this approach,” he adds. “Building owners save money on lower fuel costs and it’s like a tax cut for consumers. The water utility wins because they have a hidden asset that can be utilized to dramatically improve their profitability. Electric utilities win because the system lowers energy use on the hottest days when the electric companies can run into brown-out conditions, but increases the load in winter when there typically is capacity to spare. Local and state economies benefit because the money paid to the local water utility stays in the local economy. Economic development commissions will be able to lure potential businesses interested in moving into communities with low energy costs.”