The Science of Thermal Energy: Geo-exchange

The science of thermal energy and how it can be leveraged to provide new and green alternatives to meet the heating and cooling requirements of high-rise buildings is evolving fast. Geothermal energy or, more specifically, geo-exchange is one such solution.

In this article we focus on the fundamentals of geo-exchange and geo-thermal heat pumps, and how they can be used as a sustainable fuel source and energy storage solution – improving the energy efficiency, operating costs and security of supply of thermal energy within our cities’ buildings. If you would like to know more about how geo-exchange can provide a win for your building developments, bottom line and the environment, feel free to get in touch.

What is geo-exchange?

Natural Resources Canada ( NRCan) and the US Environmental Protection Agency state that geoexchange is the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning system available on the market today.

How does it work?

Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs), sometimes referred to as Geo-exchange, earth-coupled, ground-source, or water-source heat pumps, have been in use since the late 1940s. They use the constant temperature of the earth as the exchange medium instead of the outside air temperature. This allows the system to reach fairly high efficiencies (300% to 600%) on the coldest winter nights, compared to 175% to 250% for air-source heat pumps on cool days.

An energy-efficient heating and cooling alternative, the geothermal heat pump system moves heat from the ground to a building (or from a building to the ground) through a series of flexible pipe “loops” containing water.

How can geo-exchange be used in buildings?

Geo-exchange systems are optimal for commercial or high-rise mixed use buildings as they provide the architect with optimal design flexibility because the roof and landscape are free of chillers, air handlers and other outdoor equipment. In addition, with geo-exchange systems, boiler rooms can be eliminated and the size of mechanical rooms can be reduced.

The systems are so flexible, they are ideal for renovating buildings with historical merit. One successful strategy is to use smaller heat pumps dispersed in closets, basements, and attics to provide space conditioning and ventilation with minimal ducting. Additionally, there are no unsightly condensers on the roof or grounds to distract from the building’s historic charm.

Did you know?

How does geo-exchange work using geothermal heat pumps?

Sometimes a picture or in this case a video can paint a thousand words! You can learn more  about the fundamentals of geo-exchange using geothermal heat pumps; in this video by US Department of Energy.

Learn more

With so many questions surrounding thermal energy – the how, what, why, benefits and payback – why not drop us a line? Contact

Related articles

The Science of Thermal Energy: Heat Transfer

The Science of Thermal Energy: Measurement and Management

The Science of Thermal Energy: Biomass


Technical insights courtesy of  Canadian GeoExchange Coalition – The facts about GeoExchange systems,  US Department of Energy – Energy 101 – Geothermal heat pumps video and Energy 101: Geothermal Heat Pumps web site.  


Fēnix guarantees energy, efficiency and infrastructure savings for our clients. Not to mention additional increases in asset value and annual revenue streams for owners. Learn more

Asset Valuation

Interested in increasing the asset value of your development, and exploring the possibilities of new annual income streams? Learn more.

Investor Portal

Interested in collaborating? Learn about unique investment opportunities with Fēnix. Learn more.