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A Technology Breakthrough for Geothermal

April 25, 2012 - 4:08pm


The Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in partnership with ClimateMaster, has developed a highly efficient ground-source heat pump appliance for heating and cooling interior spaces. Learn more about this clean energy technology by watching the video above. | Video by the U.S. Department of Energy.

For more than 10,000 years, various cultures have turned to the stable temperature of the ground as a resource of comfort. When it comes to going green while keeping cozy, one of our best options could be going back to our roots. The Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has partnered with ClimateMaster -- a leading manufacturer of geothermal and water-source heat pumps -- to develop an appliance that could provide space conditioning and all domestic hot water needs while consuming at least 50% less energy than conventional minimum efficiency equipment.

The partnership between the Department and ClimateMaster began in 2008 in an effort to develop a more efficient ground-source integrated heat pump. Based on field tests and analysis, the new Trilogy 40 Q-Mode™ could save about 60% of annual energy use and cost for space conditioning and water heating in residential applications compared to new minimum efficiency conventional systems. Also, it’s about 30% more efficient than any other available ground-source heat pump.

Here’s how typical ground-source heat pumps work: when you’re heating your home, the pump pulls heat from the Earth and uses it to warm up your rooms and your water. Conversely, when you need to cool your home, the pump pushes heat from inside your home back into the Earth. This ClimateMaster integrated heat pump is a bit different. Instead of just pushing or pulling heat around to cool or heat your house, it also uses that heat to provide 100% of your domestic hot water on-demand, all year long, at very high, heat-pumping efficiencies. Conventional ground-source heat pumps can only generate hot water as a byproduct when operating to heat or cool your home, and typically supply less than 30% of your annual hot water needs.

The Energy Department's partnerships with companies like ClimateMaster underscore its commitment to harnessing American ingenuity to commercialize and deploy cutting-edge technologies that help people save money by saving energy. ClimateMaster currently manufactures the Trilogy heat pump at its plant in Oklahoma City.

To check out another application of geothermal heat pump technology, you can read about a project that was just completed with Energy Department support at Ball State University, which is estimated to save the university $2 million annually in operating costs and cut its carbon footprint by nearly 50%.

From Paleo-Indians using geothermal heat to cook, to Romans utilizing hot springs in their bathhouses, to our new super-efficient geothermal integrated heat pump, using the Earth’s warmth as a sustainable source of comfort continues to pave new paths forward. One can only ask, what’s next?  

The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. Learn more about EERE's support of building technologies.