Geothermal Energy for Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, Sustainable Development, and the Environment

Omer A

Published on: 2021-06-15


Geothermal heat pumps (GSHPs), or direct expansion (DX) ground source heat pumps, are a highly efficient renewable energy technology, which uses the earth, groundwater or surface water as a heat source when operating in heating mode or as a heat sink when operating in a cooling mode. It is receiving increasing interest because of its potential to decrease primary energy consumption and thus reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases (GHGs). The main concept of this technology is that it uses the lower temperature of the ground (approximately <32°C), which remains relatively stable throughout the year, to provide space heating, cooling and domestic hot water inside the building area. The main goal of this study was to stimulate the uptake of the GSHPs. Some emphasis has recently been put on the utilisation of the ambient energy from ground source and other renewable energy sources in order to stimulate alternative energy sources for heating and cooling of buildings. Exploitation of renewable energy sources and particularly ground heat in buildings can significantly contribute towards reducing dependency on fossil fuels. This section highlights the potential energy saving that could be achieved through use of ground energy source. This study highlights the energy problem and the possible saving that can be achieved through the use of ground sources energy. Also, this study clarifies the background of the study, highlights the potential energy saving that could be achieved through use of ground energy source and describes the objectives, approach and scope of the thesis. It also focuses on the optimisation and improvement of the operation conditions of the heat cycles and performances of the GSHP. It was recommended that GSHPs are extendable to more comprehensive applications combined with the ground heat exchanger in foundation piles and the seasonal thermal energy storage from solar thermal collectors. Therefore, an approach is needed to integrate renewable energies in a way to meet high building performance. However, because renewable energy sources are stochastic and geographically diffuse, their ability to match demand is determined either by the utilisation of a greater capture area than that occupied by the community to be supplied or the reduction of the community’s energy demands to a level commensuratable with the locally available renewable resources.


Geothermal heat pumps; Direct expansion; Ground heat exchanger; Heating and cooling


Globally buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of the total world annual energy consumption. Most of this energy is for the provision of lighting, heating, cooling and air conditioning. An increase in awareness of the environmental impact of CO2, NOx and CFCs emissions triggered a renewed interest in environmentally friendly cooling and heating technologies. Under the 1997 Montreal Protocol, governments agreed to phase out chemicals used as refrigerants that have the potential to destroy stratospheric ozone. It was therefore considered desirable to reduce energy consumption in order to decrease the rate of depletion of world energy reserves as well as the pollution to the environment. One way of reducing building energy consumption is to design buildings, which are more efficient in their use of energy for heating, lighting, cooling and ventilation. Passive measures, particularly natural or hybrid ventilation rather than air-conditioning, can dramatically reduce primary energy consumption. Therefore, promoting innovative renewable energy applications including the ground source energy may contribute to preservation of the ecosystem by reducing emissions at local and global levels. This will also contribute to the amelioration of environmental conditions by replacing conventional fuels with renewable energies that produce no air pollution or the greenhouse gases (GHGs). An approach is needed to integrate renewable energies in a way to achieve high building performance standards. However, because renewable energy sources are stochastic and geographically diffuse, their ability to match demand is determined by the adoption of one of the  following two approaches: the utilisation of a capture area greater than that occupied by the community to be supplied, or the reduction of the community’s energy demands to a level commensurate with the locally available renewable resources. Ground source heat pump (GSHP) systems (also referred to as geothermal heat pump systems, earth-energy systems and geo exchange systems) have received considerable attention in recent decades as an alternative energy source for residential and commercial space heating and cooling applications. The GSHP applications are one of three categories of geothermal energy resources as defined by ASHRAE and include high-temperature (>150°C) for electric power production, intermediate temperature (<150°C) for direct-use applications and GSHP applications (generally (<32°C). The GSHP applications are distinguished from the others by the fact that they operate at relatively low temperatures. The earth’s surface acts as a huge solar collector, absorbing radiation from the sun. In the UK, the ground maintains a constant temperature of 11-13oC several meters below the surface all the year around [1]. Among many other alternative energy resources and new potential technologies, the ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) are receiving increasing interest because of their potential to decrease primary energy consumption and thus reduce emissions of greenhouse gases [2]. Direct expansion GSHPs are well suited to space heating and cooling and can produce significant reduction in carbon emissions. In the vast majority of systems, space cooling has not been normally considered, and this leaves ground-source heat pumps with some economic constraints, as they are not fully utilized throughout the year. The tools that are currently available for design of a GSHP system require the use of key site-specific parameters such as temperature gradient and the thermal and geotechnical properties of the local area. A main core with several channels will be able to handle heating and cooling simultaneously, provided that the channels are thermally insulated to some extent and can be operated independently as single units, but at the same time function as integral parts of the entire core. Loading of the core is done by diverting warm and cold air from the heat pump through the core during periods of excess capacity compared to the current needs of the building [3,4]. The cold section of the core can also be loaded directly with air during the night, especially in spring and fall when night times are cooler and daytimes are warmer. The shapes and numbers of the internal channels and the optimum configuration will obviously depend on the operating characteristics of each installation. Efficiency of a GSHP system is generally much greater than that of the conventional air-source heat pump systems. Higher COP (coefficient of performance) is achieved by a GSHP because the source/sink earth temperature is relatively constant com-pared to air temperatures. Additionally, heat is absorbed and rejected through water, which is a more desirable heat transfer medium due to its relatively high heat capacity.

The GSHPs in some homes also provide:

  • Radiant floor heating.
    • Heating tubes in roads or footbaths to melt snow in the winter.
    • Hot water for outside hot tubs and
    • Energy to heat hot water.

    With the improvement of people’s living standards and the development of economies, heat pumps have become widely used for air conditioning. The driver to this was that environmental problems associated with the use of refrigeration equipment, the ozone layer depletion and global warming are increasingly becoming the main concerns in developed and developing countries alike. With development and enlargement of the cities in cold regions, the conventional heating methods can severely pollute the environment. In order to clean the cities, the governments drew many measures to restrict citizen heating by burning coal and oil and encourage them to use electric or gas-burning heating. New approaches are being studied and solar-assisted reversible absorption heat pump for small power applications using water-ammonia is under development [5]. An air-source heat pump is convenient to use and so it is a better method for electric heating. The ambient temperature in winter is comparatively high in most regions, so heat pumps with high efficiency can satisfy their heating requirement. On the other hand, a conventional heat pump is unable to meet the heating requirement in severely cold regions anyway, because it’s heating capacity decreases rapidly when ambient temperature is below -10°C. According to the weather data in cold regions, the air-source heat pump for heating applications must operate for long times with high efficiency and reliability when ambient temperature is as low as -15°C [6]. Hence, a great deal of research and development has been conducted to enable heat pumps to operate steadily with high efficiency and reliability in low temperature environments [7]. For example, the burner of a room air conditioner, which uses kerosene, was developed to improve the performance in low outside temperature [8]. Similarly, the packaged heat pump with variable frequency scroll compressor was developed to achieve high temperature air supply and high capacity even under the low ambient temperature of –10 to –20°C [9]. Such heat pump systems can be conveniently used for heating in cold regions. However, the importance of targeting the low capacity range is clear if one has in mind that the air conditioning units below 10 kW cooling account for more than 90% of the total number of units installed in the EU [10].