Design of an Accessible Geothermal Heat Pump; Changing the American Paradigm on Sustainable Living

Daugherty, Lucas, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Chelliah, Harsha, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Earle, Joshua, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

To change our path towards climate destruction, significant changes must be made. The American lifestyle has little regard for the effect it has on the climate, and some effects are barely understood by many Americans. Throwing data without context at the public has little effect, and many dismiss data as having been tampered with. A more effective solution is to change the way Americans build their homes and carry out their everyday activities. If we can construct homes that use less energy than they do now, while still operating with the same performances, then there will be no reason for Americans to keep their current systems.
The capstone team wanted to solve this problem by developing several aspects of a net-zero home for the reCOVER house at UVA’s Milton Airfield. Three groups would focus on the issues of heating and cooling, solar power, and improving the building envelope. Our group worked on optimizing the ground loop for a geothermal heat pump. In the fall semester we began making plans to build a full scale geothermal heat pump to effectively heat and cool the building. Unfortunately, UVA facilities did not approve our permits to dig a trench and construct our original proposed design. We decided to create a small scale design to allow us to further test the performance of our initial ground loop design. We were able to measure the heat transfer and performance for a section of pipe at several different flow rates and entering water temperatures. These values serve as a proof of design and will be valuable to future groups who may have the opportunity to construct a full scale model. They will be able to jump right into full scale design with the necessary background information on the ground loop performance.
Post processing of our data resulted in some unexpected performance and required us to determine which factors contributed to the variation from initial calculations. Most notably, we learned about the sensitivity of the system to the performance of the pump and the effect of ambient air temperatures. Heat transfer of the ground loop was more than sufficient, but components such as the pump had large impacts on the temperature of the water moving through the loop.
The STS research will focus on a broader issue of why change in the home has not occurred yet, and how that change may happen in the future. Key STS texts including works by Bruno Latour, Langdon Winner, and Thomas Kuhn break down three aspects of scientific change. Creating a paradigm shift among Americans towards a more sustainable way of life is the cornerstone of the research. Somehow, Americans must realize that there is an issue and small changes can go a long way. Thomas Kuhn writes extensively on scientific revolutions and his definition of a paradigm is the one used in this paper. Actor network theory and the politics of technology define key STS methodologies that must be considered when attempting to introduce new technologies into the lives of Americans. New technologies are more than just the science behind them. Rather, they are a complex network of interrelated people, places, and things that must work together to see the technology come to fruition. Without all actors on board behind the sustainable technologies in homes, there can be no hope for change. Furthermore, these technologies will inherently have politics that will alter the American way of life. It is often believe that the use of technology has political effects, but these effects rather come from the technologies themselves and the world around them is shifted.
Changing the American way of life is not trivial. Many aspects of the design and implementation must come together with a common interest between all of those involved. Fortunately, if we can all unite under a need to prevent future climate change there is hope. Designs like our geothermal ground loop are needed to develop the technology and give Americans sustainable systems they are excited about.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
sustainability, renewable, geothermal, Actor network theory, green energy

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Harsha Chelliah
STS Advisor: Joshua Earle
Technical Team Members: Alex Davis, Kara Koopman, Isaac Mulford

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: