What Is the Life Expectancy of a Ground Heat Exchanger/Ground Loop for a Geothermal Heat Pump?

Life Expectancy of a Ground Heat Exchanger/Ground Loop for a Geothermal Heat Pump

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Above photo is a vertical ground heat exchanger installation in progress in Edwardsville, Illinois with 3 – 200 ft. boreholes.

If you are looking for a reliable, efficient, and environmentally friendly way to heat and cool your home or business year-round, you need to consider installing a geothermal heat pump (GHP) system.

Geothermal systems (GHPs) use the earth’s constant underground temperature to provide efficient heating and cooling and can reduce your energy bills by up to 65% compared to traditional HVAC units.

But how long do geothermal systems last? And what are the maintenance requirements for them?

We will answer these questions and explain why GHPs are a smart and durable investment for your property.

What is a Ground Heat Exchanger/Ground Loop?

The ground heat exchanger, also known as a ground loop, is a series of pipes buried underground at a depth where the temperature stays consistent year-round.

The ground loop serves as the critical link between the geothermal heat pump (located inside the building) and the earth, allowing heat transfer to or from the ground.

There are two main types of ground loops: closed loop and open loop.

Closed loop systems circulate a thermally conductive fluid (usually a mixture of water and antifreeze) through the pipes, while open loop systems use groundwater or surface water as the heat exchange medium.

The type of ground loop that is best for your site depends on factors such as soil conditions, land availability, water quality, and local installation costs. But regardless of which type of ground loop your property needs, you can look forward to its longevity.

How Long Do Ground Loops Last?

One of the main advantages of geothermal systems is their longevity.

According to ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers), the indoor components of a GHP system (i.e. the heat pump) lasts on average more than 24 years. But the ground loop, which is what this post is primarily concerned with, can last 50 years or more.

The reasons for this long lifespan are multiple.

One major factor is that, because they are buried underground, the pipes of the ground loop are safe from weather exposure and tampering by wildlife and people alike. Another is the recent advancements that have produced improved buried pipe materials that have made them more efficient and longer lasting.

Ultimately, all of this means that once you install a GHP system, you can enjoy its benefits for decades without worrying about replacing it.

Of course, the actual lifespan of a ground loop depends on several factors, such as the quality of the installation, the type and size of the pipes, the soil characteristics, the fluid chemistry, and the operating conditions.

However, with proper design, installation, and maintenance, you can expect your ground loop to outlast your heat pump and most other HVAC equipment.

In fact, so excellent are the newer materials used for the ground loop piping, that manufacturers of the piping warranty their products for 50 years.

What Are the Maintenance Requirements for Ground Loops?

Another benefit of the geothermal systems is their low maintenance requirements.

Unlike conventional HVAC systems, GHP systems have no outdoor components that are exposed to weather, vandalism, or noise. The ground loops are buried underground, as previously mentioned, where they are protected from physical damage and corrosion.

The only visible parts of the system are the heat pump and the ductwork, which require minimal maintenance and are both housed indoors.

The maintenance requirements for geothermal systems vary depending on the type of system. Closed loop systems are generally more maintenance-free than open loop systems, as they do not interact with groundwater or surface water that may contain contaminants or minerals.

However, both types of systems should be periodically inspected and tested by qualified professionals to ensure optimal performance and efficiency.

Some of the regular maintenance tasks that may be performed on the system include:

  • Checking the fluid pressure and flow rate
  • Changing or cleaning the air filter
  • Evaluating the system performance and energy savings

Additional maintenance items that may come up during the lifetime of the system include flushing and refilling the fluid, cleaning and disinfecting the pipes, repairing any leaks or cracks, and monitoring soil temperature and moisture.

By choosing IGSHPA certified contractors, you can ensure the very best quality equipment and installation, and by following the manufacturer’s recommendations and the installer’s instructions, you can rest assured that your geothermal system is properly installed, stays in good condition, and will have an excellent life expectancy.

A Long-Term Investment with Immediate Benefits

Geothermal systems are a long-term investment that will provide you with reliable, efficient, and environmentally friendly heating and cooling for your home or business.

The ground loop is the most durable and critical component of the system, and it can last for 50 years or more with proper installation and maintenance, essentially meaning your investment and its benefits will last you a lifetime, but with the perk that it will immediately start paying off in the form of significantly improved utility bills, better comfort, less impact on the climate, and a cleaner, safer system than a fossil fueled space conditioning system.

Want to learn more?

Visit our website or contact us today: Frequently Asked Questions | International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (igshpa.org). At IGSHPA, we are the leading organization for the promotion, education, and training of GHP professionals and consumers. Visit our website to find out more.

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