Can my geo unit be damaged by frozen loops?

Discussion in 'Vertical and Horizontal Loops' started by frozen, Jan 28, 2011.

  1. frozen

    frozen New Member

    I'm hoping someone may be able to help to advise if my geothermal unit can be damaged by frozen loops, and how to evaluate if it is ok.

    I had a horizontally-drilled closed-loop geothermal system installed about 2 years ago. We had a less-than-smooth process with our installer, and have recently had a freeze problem with the ground loops.

    We live in Northern California, so temps are not as cold as other areas. However, we had a colder-than-normal 3 weeks where night-time temps went down to about 25-28, and our geo system started blowing cold air intermittantly.
    The installer finally came out, but the first 3-4 visits, the system had unfrozen (his visits were in the late afternoons). He finally came on a cold morning, and found that the loops were frozen, as they had not put in anti-freeze/alcohol (it was their first horizontal job vs vertical drilling). They added alcohol, and it works ok, but now turns on very hard and loud.

    The system froze and unfroze on-and-off for about 3 weeks, with probably about 8 or 9 times it froze. How bad can this be for the unit presently, as well as for long-term/future functioning and life-expectancy?

  2. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    It could be terminal if

    the heat exchanger freezes. My guess is your machine is designed to protect itself against installation errors. How much freeze protection was added?

    Are you sure the additional noise is not just added awarness on your part?
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2011
  3. frozen

    frozen New Member

    thank you for your response Mark. I'll ask our installer what level of freeze protection we have. What exactly is the "protection"? Does the system shut down, slow down, turn off, etc?
    The system never shut itself off or slowed down....instead, it certainly ran VERY loudly when it was frozen (and was pushing cold air), so we'd go to emergency heat when that happened. Our electricity bill / usage was also more than 2x normal usage in that time....

    And, yes, I can appreciate your question for if we are just more alert to hear more noise, but in past it did not have a big start-up noise.

  4. AMI Contracting

    AMI Contracting A nice Van Morrison song Industry Professional Forum Leader

    A locked out system will not turn the blower off and run the blower at a higher speed when aux coil is on making operation louder.
    Are you sure that's not what you are hearing?
  5. frozen

    frozen New Member

    The system is ok in normal operation now (no longer in locked out mode, as the installer put alcohol in a couple weeks ago and I assume reset any lockout....didn't get much communication from him other than "alcohol in").

    But yes, the big start up was not there before.
    Kind of like when a high-horsepower car first starts.....

    It wasn't that way before (and again, we had it for almost 2 years now before we had the freezing issues in Dec/Jan).

  6. AMI Contracting

    AMI Contracting A nice Van Morrison song Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Make sure all the doors are properly on the unit.
    Compressor shoud have been protected, but damage would not be out of the question.
    Coax heat exchanger damage more likely in my mind.
    Could also be coincedental, or tertiary (bolts not replaced during service letting something rattle).
  7. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    With over 30 years in other peoples

    trucks fixing machines I feel for your pain with the lack of communication. I am selfemployed and still hate my boss.

    Give me a few clues did this take hours or days? Did he bring in a big flush cart and 55 gallon drums?
  8. frozen

    frozen New Member

    Thank you both Mark and Joe....

    We'll do a check on the unit bolts/doors/etc, but it's not a rattle, but more of a heavy start-up when the system kicks on.

    How does one test of the compressor or the coax heat exchanger are damaged?

    I was not there when the installer added the alcohol, but it was one person in a short period of time in one afternoon. No flush cart, no 55 gallon drums, etc. What's the proper way to add alcohol to the loops?

    thanks, Kylie
  9. AMI Contracting

    AMI Contracting A nice Van Morrison song Industry Professional Forum Leader

    One can introduce antifreeze in anyway that does not add air.
    There are small electric and hand pumps as well as flush cart.

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