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Purchasing Energy-Efficient Geothermal Heat Pumps

The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides acquisition guidance for geothermal heat pumps, a product category covered by ENERGY STAR. Federal laws and requirements mandate that agencies purchase ENERGY STAR-qualified products or FEMP-designated products in all product categories covered by these programs and in any acquisition actions that are not specifically exempted by law.

FEMP's acquisition guidance and associated ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements for geothermal heat pumps applies to open loop, closed loop, and direct geoexchange products that operate on single-phase current.

Commercial products, those that operate on three-phase electric current, are excluded.

This acquisition guidance was updated in December 2015.

Find Product Efficiency Requirements

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides geothermal heat pump program requirements and efficiency criteria on the ENERGY STAR website. Manufacturers meeting these requirements are allowed to display the ENERGY STAR label on complying models. Federal buyers can use ENERGY STAR's list of certified geothermal heat pumps to identify or verify complying models.

Determine When ENERGY STAR Products Are Cost-Effective

An efficient product is cost-effective when the lifetime energy savings (from avoided energy costs over the life of the product, discounted to present value) exceed the additional up-front cost (if any) compared to a less efficient option. ENERGY STAR considers up-front costs and lifetime energy savings when setting required efficiency levels. Federal purchasers can assume ENERGY STAR-qualified products and products that meet FEMP-designated efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective. In high-use applications or when energy rates are above the federal average, purchasers may save more if they specify products that exceed federal efficiency requirements.

Claim an Exception to Federal Purchasing Requirements

Products meeting ENERGY STAR or FEMP-designated efficiency requirements may not be life cycle cost-effective in certain low-use applications or in locations with very low rates for electricity or natural gas. However, for most applications, purchasers will find that energy-efficient products have the lowest life cycle cost.

Agencies may claim an exception to federal purchasing requirements through a written finding that no FEMP-designated or ENERGY STAR-qualified product is available to meet functional requirements, or that no such product is life cycle cost-effective for the specific application. Learn more about federal product purchasing requirements.

Incorporate Federal Acquisition Regulation Language in Contracts

These mandatory requirements apply to all forms of procurement, including construction guide and project specifications; renovation, repair, energy service, and operation and maintenance (O&M) contracts; lease agreements; acquisitions made using purchase cards; and solicitations for offers. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 23.206 requires agencies to insert the clause at FAR section 52.223-15 into contracts and solicitations that deliver, acquire, furnish, or specify energy-consuming products for use in federal government facilities. To comply with FAR requirements, FEMP recommends that agencies incorporate efficiency requirements into technical specifications, the evaluation criteria of solicitations, and the evaluations of solicitation responses.

Find Federal Supply Sources

The federal supply sources for energy-efficient products are the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). GSA sells products through its Multiple Awards Schedules program and online shopping network, GSA Advantage!. DLA offers products through the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia and online through DOD EMALL. Products sold through DLA are codified with a 13-digit National Stock Number (NSN) and, in some cases, a two-letter Environmental Attribute Code (ENAC). The ENAC identifies items that have positive environmental characteristics and meet standards set by an approved third party, such as FEMP and ENERGY STAR.

The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is a worldwide classification system for e-commerce. It contains more than 50,000 commodities, including many used in the federal sector, each with a unique eight-digit, four-level identification code. Manufacturers and vendors are beginning to adopt the UNSPSC classification convention and electronic procurement systems are beginning to include UNSPSC tracking in their software packages. UNSPSCs can help the federal acquisition community identify product categories covered by sustainable acquisition requirements, track purchases of products within those categories, and report on progress toward meeting sustainable acquisition goals. FEMP has developed a table of ENERGY STAR and FEMP-designated covered product categories and related UNSPSC numbers.

Geothermal Heat Pump Schedules and Product Codes

GSA offers geothermal heat pumps through Schedule 51 V (Hardware Superstore).

The DLA ENAC for geothermal heat pumps is "FQ."

The UNSPSC for heat pumps is 40101806.

Buyer Tips: Make Informed Product Purchases

There are various types of geothermal heat pumps, including open loop, closed loop, direct geoexchange, and hybrid systems using several different heat sinks/sources. Learn more about the different types of geothermal heat pumps.

A proper assessment of the building's peak heating and cooling loads is critical to the design of a geothermal heat pump system. As with all heating and cooling equipment, oversizing of geothermal heat pumps, besides raising purchase cost, will result in decreased energy efficiency, poorer humidity control, and shorter product life, all due to excessive on-off cycling.

Accurate knowledge of the properties of the geothermal resource is also crucial in the design of a geothermal heat pump system. For ground-coupled systems, important parameters include the thermal conductivity and temperature stability of the soil formation. In larger installations, these properties are often measured directly in short-term tests at one or more locations on the site. Because ground heat exchangers represent a significant portion of the cost of these types of systems, it is important to size ground loops accurately. Software tools for ground loop sizing are available from a number of vendors.

The design of groundwater systems depends on several properties of the water source, including temperature, well flow rates, and water quality. Surface water systems, whether open or closed loop, depend on the temperature profile of the surface water body (through all seasons, as this may vary significantly).

Because geothermal heat pumps may be more costly to purchase than more conventional systems, direct procurement may be problematic. FEMP has a variety of project financing programs that allow federal facilities to leverage available resources with private financing to fund energy conservation measures, including geothermal heat pumps.

Many states and electric utilities offer rebates or other incentives for the purchase of ENERGY STAR-qualified products. Use the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder to see if your local utility offers these incentives. FEMP's Energy Incentive Program helps federal agencies take advantage of these incentives by providing information about the funding-program opportunities available in each state.

User Tips: Use Products More Efficiently

When installed, operated and maintained properly, geothermal heat pumps provide years of safe and effective service. Having a trained technician service the heat pump annually is necessary to maintain peak performance.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory provided supporting analysis for this acquisition guidance.