A scientific team from the University of Huelva has created a method that, without additional costs, makes it possible to accurately determine the heat transfer capacity of a land to a building. With this system and with the incorporation of geothermal heat pumps in the subsoil that regulate air circulation, the air conditioning needs of new buildings would be covered without the need to resort to electricity consumption.
Taking into account that neither more nor less than 40% of global electricity consumption in the European Union is concentrated in buildings, any contribution that improves their energy efficiency becomes a victory for sustainability. Hence, the value of this innovation, achieved by José Manuel Andújar, Miguel Ángel Martínez, and Sergio J. Gómez, from the Higher Technical School of Engineering of the University of Huelva.
Specifically, as explained in an article published in Sensors, progress occurs in several steps. The first, the development of an innovative methodology that allows to measure what in scientific terms is known as thermal diffusivity of the earth. What the equipment refers to is the possibility of accurately determining the soil temperature at a specific depth. In addition, this method also allows to know the transmission capacity of these lands to a construction that is built on its surface.
The possibility of obtaining real data adjusted to each terrain is in itself a vital change since, to date, constructors have used tables that offered approximate data. In addition, another strong point of this new method is that it is “simple and affordable” . So much so that it can be done by taking advantage of the geotechnical drilling that must be done before the construction of any home or building. Thus, in the same process, the measurements would be taken directly to determine the soil temperature and its thermal diffusivity at the depth that is of interest.
However, Huelva scientists have not stayed in that step, since their vocation with this work has been the real application of this method and the analysis of the advances that it would lead to sustainable construction. Along these lines, the scientific team developed a system based on geothermal heat pumps that, installed in the foundations of buildings taking into account the data collected, would allow to regulate air circulation and, thus, maintain temperatures both in summer and in winter.
With this system, basically a collector tube structure, “the heat is extracted from the earth’s subsoil and rises to the higher plants in winter. However, the reverse process is carried out in the warmer seasons, causing the rooms to cool down ” , Andújar explains in statements collected by the Discover Foundation in which he illustrates how, thanks to these innovations, buildings would become self-regulating.
Beyond theory, the experts have put their proposals into practice in a construction with a basement in Huelva, in which they have verified the energy savings that their advances entail, as well as their benefits for the environment. Thus, once the path has been laid out, any new construction could follow suit by obtaining terrain data and adapting the geothermal systems to its characteristics that would allow any home to be heated thanks to the subsoil.