Geothermal HVAC: Green Heating and Cooling
Geothermal HVAC: Green Heating and Cooling
by Jay Egg and Brian Clark Howard, Published by McGraw-Hill
ISBN 13: 978-0-07-174610-6, hardback, 249 pp, $60.00, October 2010
Jay Egg starts his Introduction in this book with, “I have been passionate about geothermal air-conditioning for 20 years because it is renewable, sustainable, and comfortable.” My experiences with the technology have been a lot less practical than the principal author but my first introduction to geothermal was when I was not even out of elementary school: on a field trip to the Royal Festival Hall on the Waterloo South Bank of the Thames in London; the Hall was built for the 1951 Festival of Britain, and its HVAC system was based on geothermal loops buried under the mud of the river using what was always described as the latent heat of The Thames.
It is therefore good to see, after over fifty years, geothermal turning into mainstream practice backed by government assistance for the cost of the systems and installation.
The first chapter cover the fundamentals of geothermal, explaining the energy sources that are beneath our feet and how the technology is green. The book then goes on to explain the basics between convection, conduction, and radiation with the differences between open- and closed-loop systems as well as an understanding of the usual types of HVAC in operation today. Some early confusion is created in the units of HVAC calculations: but they unfortunately exist in real life as well!
The next three chapters cover some repetitive geothermal heat pump systems, ground loop coupling, and load sharing. Chapter 6 takes us into ‘Efficiency and Load Calculations Simplified’ which is a strange, fairly useless place as, unfortunately, is the next chapter on pricing and the following one on the current levels of incentives, tax credits, and rebates. Chapter 9 goes on with the theme, supposedly covering the understanding of project proposals but not offering nearly enough detail for that to actually happen. Chapter 10 encourages the calculation of your return on ‘investment’ from a geothermal system, rather than simply calling it a matter of how long a period before your expenditure can be recouped compared to another high efficiency system: ROI simply does not apply to expenditure.
The text goes on to chapters encouraging that you verify how your installed system is working and to talk about system longevity, while Chapter 13 is a fun one with some common problems and horror stories described. Chapter 14 rounds off the book with a partial trip around the world with what is happening with the technology in other countries.
An appendix lists some government resources as well as professional, manufacturing, and installation contacts. After the index there then appears what can only be described as five pages of advertising.
The fundamental questions that any publisher needs to ask of a budding author is ‘who is your audience?’ ‘Who will buy your book?’ I am still very unsure of the answers. The coverage is not very technical in the sense of explaining the heat/cooling processes and the illustrations are frustratingly simplistic. The book does, however, convey a passion for geothermal and enough warnings about the kind of mistakes and blind alleys that might be taken that a consumer should be awake to the questions to be asked, of whom, and the care to be taken in listening to the answers.
The index is annoyingly inaccurate by one page number on a consistent basis: a very amateur error for a major publishing house. Mr Egg also makes his church a central part in some of his stories – great for an introduction so that we can understand the author and his positions on life, not so cool for the body of a textbook.
The co-author of the book, Brian Clark Howard, is a well-known technology journalist who is currently the web editor of the Hearst Digital Media title The Daily Green (one of the advertisers appearing post-index) and his imprint can be found throughout the text, emphasizing the environmental aspects of the technology.
Nevertheless, despite all my misgivings, this is a textbook that I read virtually cover-to-cover: not at all something that I can usually say in a publishing world where often just one or two chapters are enough to spark my interest in a book.