A Preliminary Investigation on the Cost Reduction Potential of Optimizing Bore Field for Commercial Ground Source Heat Pump Systems


Jeff SPITLER, Jack COOK, Xiaobing LIU

Key Words:

ground source heat pump, vertical bore ground heat exchanger, cost reduction


Stanford Geothermal Workshop




Direct Use



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1164 KB

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The high initial cost of ground heat exchangers (GHE) is a primary hurdle preventing wider adoption of ground source heat pump (GSHP) systems. GHEs used for commercial GSHP systems commonly consist of vertical boreholes installed on a grid with equal spacing between boreholes. Significant thermal loads require a large number of boreholes to be present in the field. However, due to thermal interactions among boreholes, the ground formation in the center of a bore field can, over time, become thermally saturated when the thermal load is not balanced on an annual basis. The loss of effectiveness due to thermal saturation at the center boreholes in regularly spaced borehole fields suggests that larger spacing near the center of the bore field could be more optimal, and in return reduce initial costs. Through computer simulations using the latest development of a GHE modeling tool, this study evaluates the impacts of various unconventional designs of the borehole field on the performance and cost of the GHEs of a typical commercial GSHP system. The unconventional designs include irregular spacing among boreholes with decreased spacing around the perimeter and increased spacing in the interior of the field. The unconventional bore field design shortens the total drilling length by up to 42% while giving better heat transfer performance than a conventional bore field design. The significant total bore length reduction is due to improved heat transfer effectiveness of each borehole in the unconventional bore field.

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