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A Computer Simulation Project on Underground Heat Pumps

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Innovative Energy Projects

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.31.1 - 25.31.15



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Paper Authors

author page

Craig W. Somerton Michigan State University

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A Computer Simulation Project on Underground Heat Pumps AbstractGeothermal energy may be the most visibly striking of all the alternative energy sources.The idea of capturing the energy from a geyser or even from the flowing lava of anerupting volcano is very exciting to students. However, the truth is that in the UnitedStates there is very limited access to hot geothermal sources. On the other hand, thepossibility exists throughout the United States to use the earth as a heat reservoir for aheating or cooling system. This geothermal energy utilization is often called “coldgeothermal energy”.In this paper a computer based project for a comparative cost analysis betweenconventional heating and cooling systems and cold geothermal systems is presented.This project was assigned to students in a mechanical engineering alternative energyclass. The paper begins with a review of underground heat pump technology. Theproject statement is then presented. The project requires the students to use twocomputer programs, one that calculates the heating and cooling loads and one thatperforms the refrigeration cycle calculations for the heat pump/refrigerator. The studentsare required to document their calculations with a technical memo covering: • Determination of Cooling & Heating Load Parameters • Basic Geothermal System Design • Breakeven Cost vs Heat Exchanger Temperature Difference • Breakeven Cost vs Unit Gas Cost • Payback Period vs Unit Gas Cost • Comparison of Geothermal SystemsThe grading rubric and results are included in the paper. The paper concludes bysummarizing student feedback and providing lessons learned.

Somerton, C. W. (2012, June), A Computer Simulation Project on Underground Heat Pumps Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20791

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