Open Loop and SCW Now at IGSHPA 2017

Geothermal systems provide some real answers to problems.

Building owners and property management professionals are picking up on a growing list of benefits to buildings with geothermal heating and cooling systems. Properly implemented, a geothermal exchanger equipped building has an impressive list of exclusive benefits that you just can’t find otherwise. Geothermal buildings can reduce or eliminate:

  • Legionella dangers (from cooling towers)
  • Fresh water consumption (from cooling towers)
  • Outside equipment (both condensers and cooling towers); 
  • Noise pollution (from outside equipment)
  • Monthly chemical maintenance (to cooling towers)
  • Storm and weather damage and wear (to outside equipment); 
  • Combustion heating (using heat pumps/reversing chillers)

The first item has been a real bugger in places. Legionnaire’s disease is contracted by breathing in, or aspiration of water containing the legionella bacteria. Cooling towers effectively create the perfect storm because, by their nature and design, water droplets are sent into the air as they operate. And when you look at the maps of infected cooling towers in a region, it looks like a group of folks getting each other sick.

Geothermal systems can be tricky to implement in tight areas. Sometimes a commercial building needs more space to install the ground loop than is available. Some folks don’t know that oftentimes, the exchanger area can be greatly reduced. This type of geothermal exchanger is known as open loop, and, if properly designed, they are the answer for many locations.

Within open loops, there are two major types:

1. Class V thermal exchange wells (Class V), which is a matched pair, one of which is the supply well and the other the return, or diffusion well.

2. Standing column wells (SCWs), which are single wells that handle both the supply and return of ground water into the same bore-hole.

These types of geothermal exchange wells, except for being categorized as open-loop, are quite different from one another. They require a new set of rules and guidelines that are not covered in the more commonly used closed loop heat exchangers designs. They are so much different in fact that open systems have not been covered in depth by the International Ground Source Heat Pumps Association (IGSHPA). That is about to change.

For the first time, a full day course on open-loop geothermal technologies is being offered at the IGSHPA Conference and Technical Expo 2017 in Denver. Learn from two industry experts that have designed and installed open-loop systems for the last 30 years in projects from New York City to Malaysia. John Rhyner and I will the share the information and experiences from the industry that will give you the confidence to implement the geothermal projects you’ve wanted to do.

This educational course is designed for architects, engineers and owners who would like to consider an alternative to closed loop geothermal that may provide options for large capacity geothermal exchange in various applications. Attendees will receive information to help them determine the potential for implementation other geothermal exchange configurations that may provide further options than closed loop geothermal exchange. This course is not intended to replace the need for experienced professionals in the design and implementation of open type geothermal well designs.

Come to Denver and attend a one day course to get your company or building on the way to employing HVAC systems that solve a lot of problems. The IGSHPA- Conference and Technical Expo will be held in conjunction with IGSHPA’s Annual Conference & Expo on March 13, 2017 (includes workshop & conference).

Additionally, the Water Energy Track at AHR in Las Vegas is also hosting some insightful presentations on these technologies. Experts are presenting several case studies from around the country in a technical session at AHR 2017 in Las Vegas on the subject of cooling tower elimination through geothermal exchange.

It can be expensive to remediate a risk to public safety. The real question is whether the risk outweighs the cost to remediate. Replacing cooling towers with geothermal exchangers also costs money, however, governments and private entities all over the world are upgrading willingly. They are making the switch to geothermal because it makes good business sense. Beyond an often impressive return on investment (ROI), geothermal systems offer answers to many of the problems we now experience.

Jay Egg is a geothermal consultant, writer, and the owner of EggGeothermal. He has co-authored two textbooks on geothermal HVAC systems published by McGraw-Hill Professional. He can be reached at

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