New Geothermal Exchanger Technology: Harnessing the
Power of the Earth
ir conditioning is one of the largest sources of energy consumption, leading to high energy bills and taxing the sources of energy in any given city. But what if there was a better, more natural way to harness the natural heat from underground? Utilizing that natural energy is at the core of Virtual Harmony’s newest offering.
Virtual Harmony designs and supplies air conditioning systems for buildings and agricultural applications through the use of ground source heat pump technology. The company’s latest technology centers around a new geothermal exchanger that is installed horizontally.
The core value of this technology addresses a pain point for today’s energy consumers and suppliers. While geothermal exchange technology has been touted as the most energy-efficient and eco-friendly approach to heating and cooling, initial cost has always gotten in the way. This company’s technology solves this problem, by enabling heat exchanging units to be close to the surface. This allows the heat to be secondarily be used for snow melting and farming applications.
The US EPA says that ground source heat pumps are the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean and cost-effective space conditioning systems available today. Such pumps take advantage of the naturally occurring difference between the above-ground air temperature and the subsurface soil temperature to move cool or warm air throughout a structure, depending on the season.
Major Features and Advantages
I. Easy Installation
The new geothermal exchanger is installed horizontally underground, about three to five meters down, using an excavator. In contrast, existing geothermal exchangers are installed by boring machines in boreholes, about 50 to 100 meters deep. The new geothermal exchanger is more desirable due to its heat transfer characteristics, coefficient of performance (COP), initial costs, operating costs and even long equipment life. The horizontal installation makes the whole process easier with an excavator. Sites in which the new geothermal exchangers will be placed must meet pre-specified thermal capacity requirements.
II. Lower Initial Cost
The initial cost of the new geothermal exchanger is 20 to 40 percent of the initial costs for existing geothermal exchangers. Constructed from welded steel pipes, the digging process is horizontal, easily accomplished by a water contractor using a power shovel. Then, the water contractor puts the new heat exchanger in the hole. In contrast, the process to install the current heat exchanger requires a boring machine operated by special technical workers, which adds to the cost. In conclusion, the digging fee for the new heat exchanger is far more affordable than the digging fee for the current heat exchanger.
The new geothermal exchangers are ideal for use in air conditioning, cooling and heating systems in buildings and houses. They can also be used within systems designed to melt snow on roads or in parking lots. Additionally, they can be used in agricultural systems or as heat exchangers in thermal systems.
IV. Better Performance Rate
In fact, performance is 14 times greater than existing geothermal exchangers, the best heat exchange performance in the world.
Energy savings are high due to lower operational costs associated with the new geothermal exchanger, stemming from 50 percent less energy consumed compared with existing geothermal exchangers.
VI.High Product Life Cycle
The life span of the product is more than 20 years. This is due to the fact that it is buried underground and covered with concrete.
In an effort to further the prospect of renewable energy, Virtual Harmony wishes to partner with companies that locally manufacture new geothermal exchangers under its own technical supervision. It also wants to transfer new geothermal exchanger technologies to a partner company that will agree to manufacture and install exchangers sans Virtual Harmony’s support.
From lower initial cost to higher performance rates, Virtual Harmony’s geothermal exchange technology is gaining acceptance in the industry.
Applications for the new geothermal exchangers in renewable energy geo-exchange systems supplied by Virtual Harmony
Through the use of an excavator, the new geothermal exchanger is installed horizontally underground, at a depth of about three to five meters.
On the other hand, existing geothermal exchangers are installed in boreholes, created by boring machines, at a depth of about 50 to 100 meters.
Compared to existing geothermal exchangers, the new geothermal exchanger has competitive advantages due to its heat transfer characteristics, coefficient of performance (COP), initial costs, operating costs, equipment life, and other features.
Sample applications for the new geothermal exchanger are described below.
Because the new geothermal exchanger is installed horizontally, installations are easy with an excavator. Sites for the new geothermal exchangers must meet certain thermal capacity requirements. Ideally, users will secure a large area for the exchangers, in case large thermal capacity is required.
1. The new geothermal exchangers can be used for air-conditioning, cooling and heating systems in buildings and houses.
Air Conditioners for Buildings and Houses
2. The new geothermal exchangers can be used in systems for melting snow on roads or in parking lots.
Systems for Melting Snow on Roads or in Parking Lots
3. The new geothermal exchangers can be used in agricultural systems.
The New Geothermal Exchanger in an Agricultural System
4. The geothermal exchangers can be used as heat exchangers in thermal systems.
We have a big advantage with the cost and performance of this renewable energy business, because we have a patent for this new technology that has excellent cost performance, outstanding energy savings, simple manufacturing and easy installation all over the world.
Recognized and recorded more than 14 times better than current technology in temperature rising under constant thermal load
2. Running cost (energy savings)
About 50% of the current technology. Please refer to the “Performance” item.
3. Initial Cost
Less than 50% (20% to 40%) of the current technology. Please refer to the “Performance” item.
4. Product life cycle
More than 20 years (equivalent to a house).
Because the new heat exchanger is buried underground and covered with concrete, the life cycle of the new heat exchanger is more than 20 years. Its life is same or even longer than that of the house.
5. Easy digging by power shovels and installations by water contractors all over the world.
6. Cost Comparison
(1) For air conditioner
The initial cost of the new heat exchanger is estimated at $20,000 to $40,000 per 20kW output, including manufacturing, digging, and setting fees. The graph below shows the cost comparison to other systems. “Original ground source” on the graph is the system with the new heat exchanger.
The system with the new heat exchanger will be about 10 years in return on initial cost with comparison to home air conditioners.
(2) For snow melting systems
Virtual Harmony evaluates the cost of the new heat exchanger for snow melting systems. The initial and running costs of the system with the new heat exchanger for 20 years is estimated to be less than $1k per 1 m2 of snow melting area. The graph below shows the cost comparison with other systems.
● “Original ground source” on the graph is the snow melting system with the new heat exchanger.
1. Performance is greater than 14 times that of existing geothermal exchangers.
In temperature rise tests using thermal response testing, the temperature rise of the new geothermal exchanger is more than 14 times better than that of existing geothermal exchangers. This data represent the best heat exchange performance in the world.
The red curve is for existing geothermal exchangers.
The black curve is for the new geothermal exchangers.
As shown in the graph, the new one is 14.4 times better than existing ones after eight hours under a continuous heat load.
2. Economic rationale based on the performance test results.
(1) The energy savings (operational costs) from the new geothermal exchanger come from the 50% less energy that is consumed than with existing geothermal exchangers.
Virtual Harmony rates the Coefficient of Performance (COP) for the new geothermal exchanger connected to a heat pump, while referring to the COP graph.
Virtual Harmony estimates the COP of the new geothermal exchanger by connecting it to a heat pump. The rated COP is 11.6, an average of the COPs of 14.2 (at a water temperature of 15 °C) and 8.9 (at a water temperature of 20 °C), as seen in the spec. frequency COP curve in the graph above. In light of the fact that the new geothermal exchanger curve gradually demonstrates poorer performance as temperatures rise, heat pumps should be operated at minimum frequency. In this case, the rated COP is 14.1, an average of the COPs of 16.0 (at a water temperature of 15 °C) and 12.2 (at a water temperature of 20 °C), as seen in the COP curve above.
Existing geothermal exchangers are usually operated at 32 °C to 35 °C, with a COP of less than 5. COPs for existing exchangers are usually recorded at 3 to 4.
So we can easily estimate that the COP for the new geothermal exchanger is more than at least 2 times higher than the COPs of 3 to 4 of existing geothermal exchangers. The operating cost estimates are easily 50% lower than those of existing geothermal exchangers.
(2) The initial cost of the new geothermal exchanger is 20% to 40% of the initial costs of existing geothermal exchangers.
The new geothermal exchanger is made from welded steel pipes. The digging is horizontal, which a water contractor with a typical power shovel can easily accomplish. The water contractor sets the new heat exchanger in the horizontal hole. On the other hand, to install the current heat exchanger, a boring machine operated by special technical workers is required to dig a borehole.
The digging fee for the new heat exchanger is much cheaper than the digging fee for the current heat exchanger.
This technology is state of the art.
The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and Iwaki City supported Virtual Harmony from 2014 to 2016, and Virtual Harmony invented the new ground source heat exchanger in 2016. NEDO’s evaluation committee determined in 2016 that the new heat exchanger was technically reasonable. The patent for the new heat exchanger was registered in Japan in 2017 and Virtual Harmony has applied for international patents.
One university in Tokyo was interested in the new heat exchanger. Last year, the university bought the new heat exchanger to research and develop the ground source technology by the new heat exchanger, because the university has confidence that the new heat exchanger’s technology is simple and authentic, and that testing the heat exchanger doesn’t require much money. The university understands that the technology of the new heat exchanger holds the possibility of bringing society to a post-carbon stage. The university believes that people/everyone around the world will be able to understand it and implement it easily.
Leakage from the new heat exchanger while operating the ground source system, caused by manufacturing error in welding or machining, etc. The new heat exchanger needs a leakage test by air.
2. Poor performance
Poor performance of the heat exchanger caused by installation error. The installation of the new heat exchanger needs to be managed and controlled.
Information on patent related to this technology
Registration number 6170228 in Japan
|Name||Virtual Harmony Ltd.|
|Address||4-1 Suwacho, Onahama, Iwaki, Fukushima 971-8161 Japan|
JPY 10,000,000 (As of May 2nd, 2006)
|Number of employees||2 (As of April 1st, 2010)|
|Date of company foundation||
April 8th, 1973
|The type of business||
Number of employees for international operation
City , Country
Name of company (if applicable)
Modality of business transaction
Virtual Harmony would like to enter into a partnership agreement with a company that will locally manufacture new geothermal exchangers under our technical supervision. In the near future, Virtual Harmony desires to transfer new geothermal exchanger technologies to a partner country that will manufacture and install exchangers without our support.
Licensing of patent
- Virtual Harmony has the patent for a new geothermal exchanger, which is a source of renewable energy. Virtual Harmony offers companies all over the world exclusive regional licenses for the patent and related technologies for the new geothermal exchanger.
The existing patent is registered in Japan, and the company has applied for international patents.
- Virtual Harmony is looking for licensees that will design and manufacture new geothermal exchangers, then install them underground by themselves, with the technical support that Virtual Harmony offers. Finally, licensees should conduct their ground source heat pump businesses and lead economic development in their countries.
Licensees and Virtual Harmony will collaborate on the ground source heat pump business and take on the challenge of building a post-carbon society together.
Schematic illustration of the technology
The patent for the new heat exchanger is based on the most orthodox heat transfer engineering theory. Theory says that, to increase thermal energy, thermal conductivity should be greater than before and the heat transfer area should be larger than before.
- To make thermal conductivity greater than before
The new patented heat exchangers are made from welded steel pipes. Current heat exchangers are made from polyethylene. The thermal conductivity of steel is about 60 times greater than the thermal conductivity of polyethylene.
- To make the new heat transfer area larger than before
The diameter of the new heat exchanger is more than 500mm. This is larger than the current heat exchanger, with a diameter of 34mm. On the area of heat transfer, the new heat exchanger is more than 10 times larger than the current heat exchanger.
- Other techniques
The new heat exchangers are laid horizontally, 3m to 5m deep, underground. The current heat exchangers are in boreholes. Horizontal digging is much cheaper than the boring needed for the current heat exchanger.
The new patented heat exchangers are set slightly inclined to the horizontal. The effect produces convection within the new heat exchangers.
The improvement is shown in the table below.
Table The improvement of the new heat exchanger compared with the current heat exchanger.
The new heat exchanger is steel. The new one is bigger than the current one. The thermal conductivity and heat transfer area are improved.
The new one has the inlet pipe and outlet pipe shifted from centerline of the flange and is laid at an incline.
This has the effect of increasing thermal transfer by the convection effect and turbulence effect.
The new heat exchanger is covered with concrete.
This has the effect of decreasing thermal resistance.
★ The Procedure Is Very Simple
1. Design a heat exchanger according to customers’ required thermal energy.
2. Manufacture the heat exchanger at ironworks in town.
3. Dig horizontally to a depth of 3m to 5m underground with a power shovel. A water contractor can do this easily.
4. Set the heat exchanger in the hole dug by a power contractor.
5. A power contractor covers the hole surrounding the heat exchanger with concrete.
6. A power contractor covers the hole with sand.
7. A power contractor connects it to heat pump with piping.
★ Low Technology and Simple Technology
- The new heat exchanger has a very simple structure that anyone can easily understand.
- The principal theory of the new heat exchanger is based on orthodox theory that university students can easily understand.
- The structure is low technology. So everyone can understand/develop the ground source system with the new heat exchanger.
4. Companies in non-high-tech countries can conduct a ground source business, manufacturing heat
exchangers and installing them by themselves without high-tech capabilities. This business can be
undertaken in developing countries, which will develop their economies.
★ Preferable for Cooling Air Condition in Warm Countries
- On the COP of the heat pump, Cooling COP = Warming COP － 1.
This means that cooling is worse than warming on the heat pump.
- The temperature in warm countries is higher than 30℃. So the COP is estimated at lower than 3 or 2. The current COP is not preferable in warm countries at the present time.
- When the new heat exchanger is applied in warm countries, the cooling COP will be most preferable. If COP can be improved from 3 to 6, the energy savings will be 50%. The effect of this energy saving is huge.
Contact Person(s) *Please mention that you saw UNIDO's website when making the first contact with the company.
- Low carbon & energy conservation : Renewable energy