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Thermal Conductivity Testing

Thermal conductivity testing* can be described as the “reality check“ that happens between a conceptual design, and one that is based on site specific data. A conductivity test is required to verify and fine tune the assumptions and rules of thumb that were employed by the design team. The design team starts with a rough idea of the number and depth of loops required for any given project, based on location and experience. The test is where those numbers are validated. A conductivity test specifically measures the thermal conductivity of the soils at a given site expressed in BTU/hr-ft-F. It also measures the thermal diffusivity expressed as ft squared/day, as well as the deep earth undisturbed temperature. By having this real world data the design team can confirm or dispute their original numbers, and finalize the design.

GIGO Garbage in, Garbage out

We have all heard this tried and true adage, and it applies to thermal conductivity testing as well. The data on which the design team bases all of its final design parameters rests solely with the accuracy of the conductivity testing. If corners are cut, or procedures are neither followed nor objectives met, the result will be GIGO. There are only a handful of companies nationwide that I would trust with the data collection and data interpretation. GRTI comes to mind as leading the pack. Being one of the first to offer this service, and continuing to learn and change their methods to improve data collection, puts them at the top of our list. The same can be said for any company providing the drilling. Thermal conductivity testing is not something for the “new guy on the block“. The logs, loop depth, loop size and grout need to be recorded and installed as to the specifications for the test or the result will be GIGO. As our industry becomes more regulated, this is the first place that engineering take place, and this sets a precedent for the rest of the geothermal installation. The attached PDF is an example of a test that was generated by GRTI and Weber Well Drilling for a commercial project.

*Please note: Conductivity testing is typically not necessary in a standard residential installation, but is most advantageous in a commmercial application where tonnage, or load, exceeds 20 tons.

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