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Geothermal Energy

This page provides easy access to my comments to ASHRAE (formerly the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers) regarding my draft revisions to its 2015 HVAC Applications handbook. The goal of these revisions is to separate ground source heat pump applications from geothermal energy applications, resulting in a 2019 HVAC Applications handbook consistent with Chapter 34 Energy Resources of the 2017 Fundamentals handbook.


2017-06-08: I emailed ASHRAE Technical Committee 6.8 Geothermal Heat Pump and Energy Recovery Applications with a comment similar what is shown in the text section below, but without the draft revision files, which were in progress.
2017-06-23: I replied to the committee chair and handbook subchair with the two draft revision files linked to in the text section below
2017-08-26: I left a similar online comment on the ASHRAE website as in the text section below, but did not find a way to upload my two draft revision files. I created this page to provide access to the two pdf files of my draft revisions in context with my comment.
2017-09-12: I received a reply from the ASHRAE Editor/Group Manager of Handbook and Special Publications thankfully informing me my online comment had been received and that it would be forwarded to the cognizant committee. I replied with a link to this page to provide access to my draft revision files I had referenced in my online comment.
2018-01-21: I attended the ASHRAE TC 6.8 Handbook chapter 34 subcommittee meeting in Chicago. The subcommittee and guests discussed my comments. No one in the room defended using the words "geothermal" or "renewable" when describing ground source heat pumps. I and others pointed out the U.S. Department of Energy and ASHRAE publishing are leading the use of the term "geothermal heat pump." I pointed out that members of ASHRAE are the experts and must be the leaders of ASHRAE and DOE on technical issues. Ironically, ASHRAE's publishing deadlines are seen as a roadblock to dividing these two unrelated applications into separate chapters for the 2019 handbook. The plan is to move the GSHP information to the front, the geothermal sections to the back, replacing most uses of the term "geothermal heat pump" with the applicable GSHP term, and possibly changing the name of the chapter to Ground Source Heat Pumps, or something similar referencing the purpose of the chapter.
2018-01-23: I did not attend the meeting of the full TC 6.8 committee, instead emailing my recommended revision to the Terminology paragraph, as shown in the text section below.
2018-02-08: I exchanged emails with TC 6.8 chair and handbook subcommittee chair and received a copy of the revised "Geothermal Energy" chapter, which included none of the revisions I'd submitted on 2017-06-23. The TC 6.8 handbook chapter subcommittee chair replied they, "chose not to change the terminology after our TC voted “no” to changing the words at the June 2017 Long Beach CA ASHRAE conference."
2018-06-26: I exchanged emails with the TC 6.8 chair, first requesting participation by phone during the full TC 6.8 meeting, and second asking if the chair would read my emailed statement to the committee regarding the importance of ASHRAE correcting its false claims in the 2019 handbook revision. The first request was unreasonable and the second was inappropriate and unappreciated.
2018-10-14: Click to download "ASHRAE, Geothermal Energy, and Heat Pumps" project report (pdf, 18 pages).

Text Referenced by Reports

[2018-01-23 email text for suggested additions to the terminology section for ground source heat pumps. The 2015 handbook text, in italics, is included for context. The underlined text are my recommended additions.]

If the chapter must remain a unit in 2019, I suggest adding two sentences at the end of the first paragraph of the terminology section, plus the reference, as follows:


The term ground-source heat pump (GSHP) is applied to a variety of systems that use the ground, groundwater, or surface water as a heat source and sink. The general terms include groundcoupled (GCHP), groundwater (GWHP), and surface-water (SWHP) heat pumps. Many parallel terms exist [e.g., geothermal heat pumps (GHP), geo-exchange, and ground-source (GS) systems] and are used to meet a variety of marketing or institutional needs (Kavanaugh 1992). See Chapter 9 of the 2012 ASHRAE Handbook-HVAC Systems and Equipment for a discussion of the merits of various other nongeothermal heat sources/sinks. Geothermal energy has no effect on local ground temperature or climate. A ground source heat pump uses neither geothermal nor renewable energy unless the work used by the heat pump is from a geothermal or renewable energy resource.

(reference for first sentence from link /PALE_ClassicArticles/GlobalWarming/Article1.html)
General remarks on the temperature of the earth and outer space. American Journal of Science. 32, 1-20 (1837) by Ebeneser Burgess. English translation of "Remarques générales sur les températures du globe terrestre et des espaces planétaires." Annales de Chimie et de Physique. (Paris) 2nd ser., 27, 136-67 (1824), by Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier.

[2017-06-08, 2017-06-23, 2017-08-26, 2017-09-12 comment and draft revisions recommending dividing geothermal energy applications from ground source heat pump applications.]

ASHRAE published its 2017 Fundamentals handbook on 2017-06-01. Changes it made to Chapter 34 Energy Resources included removing “low-level geothermal energy (an energy source for heat pumps)” as an energy resource form, “earth heat” as an ambiguous synonym for geothermal energy, and “atmosphere or large body of water” as an energy resource used by heat pumps. These corrections were supported by the fact that the Sun, not geothermal energy, is the source of energy for climate-dependent ambient ground/water/air temperatures used as a heat source/sink for heat pumps. Chapter 34 Geothermal Energy of the 2015 HVAC Applications handbook includes application design guidance for ground source heat pumps in addition to geothermal energy systems; these two unrelated applications need to be separated to be consistent with the Energy Resources chapter.

The Geothermal Energy chapter in the ASHRAE Handbook series incorrectly associated ground source heat pumps with geothermal energy beginning with a major revision of Chapter 29 in the 1995 HVAC Applications handbook. A comparison to previous Geothermal Energy chapters (1982 Applications Ch. 56; 1987 HVAC Systems and Applications, Ch. 45; 1991 HVAC Applications, Ch. 29) shows the ground source application design guidance was added to the existing chapter of geothermal energy application design guidance. References to heat pumps were also added to the Resource (renamed Resources) section of the geothermal chapter and the “low temperature” geothermal energy classification, which had been defined as 15°C to 90°C, had its lower bound removed; previously warm and hot springs were considered geothermal resources, this change added cold springs.

I have prepared draft revisions of the 2015 Geothermal Energy chapter and the 2017 Composite Index to correct references to non-geothermal applications. These are in the form of printouts of handbook pages, hand-edited, and scanned to two pdfs.

Theodore B. Reinhart's draft revisions, 1.4 MB pdf, to
2015 ASHRAE Handbook HVAC Applications Chapter 34 Geothermal Energy

Theodore B. Reinhart's draft revisions, 0.4 MB pdf, to
2017 ASHRAE Composite Index

The ground is a unique heat source/sink for heat pumps, not because of geothermal energy, or even the Sun (the power source that maintains the Earth's global average surface temperature of 288 degrees Kelvin), but because of its mass and insulation from the surface, its ability to follow the local average temperature instead of the daily weather. I didn’t count them, but I bet I could easily find a dozen chapters in the handbook series that are dedicated to a single heat exchange system type, nearly all dealing with rejecting heat to the atmosphere. The various open/closed/dx/horizontal/vertical/etc. ground source heat exchanger designs need their own chapter, too, but not the Geothermal Energy chapter, which currently is being "used to meet a variety of marketing or institutional needs," (quoted from 2015 HVAC Applications, page 34.10, section 3.1 Terminology, first paragraph).

Theodore B. Reinhart, P.E., Managing Agent,
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