Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Hong Huang (Committee Member), James Menart (Committee Chair), Chung-jen Tam (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering (MSEgr)


The use of the earth's thermal energy to heat and cool building space is nothing new; however, the heat transfer approximations used in modeling geothermal systems, leave uncertainty and lead to over sizing. The present work is part of a Wright State effort to improve the computer modeling tools used to simulate ground loop geothermal heating and cooling systems. The modern computer processor has equipped us with the computation speed to use a finite volume technique to solve the unsteady heat equation with hourly time steps for multi-year analyses in multiple spatial dimensions. Thus we feel there is more need to use approximate heat transfer solution techniques to model geothermal heating and cooling systems. As part of a DOE funded project Wright State has been developing a ground loop geothermal computer modeling tool that uses a detailed heat transfer model based on the governing differential energy equation. This tool is meant to be more physically detailed and accurate than current commercial ground loop geothermal computer codes. The Wright State code allows the geothermal designer to optimize the system using a number of outputs including temperature field outputs, existing fluid temperature plots, heat exchange plots, and even a histogram of the COP data. Careful attention to the algorithm speed allows for multi-year simulations with minimal computation cost. Once the thermal and heat transfer computations are complete, a payback period calculator can compare any conventional heating and cooling system to the designed geothermal system and payback periods are displayed. The work being presented as part of this thesis deals with five issues that were required to make the Wright State geothermal computer code a reality. The five aspects of this modeling tool addressed by this thesis work are: energy load calculations, GUI (graphical user interface) development, turbulence model development, heat pump model development, and two-dimensional numerical grid development. The energy load, or heating and cooling load, calculations are handled using the sophisticated DOE program called EnergyPlus. This thesis work developed a technique for coupling EnergyPlus to the Wright State geothermal code and devising a way for novice users to obtain energy loads quickly and easily, while still allowing expert users to utilize the full strength of EnergyPlus. The GUI for the Wright State computer program was developed with the novice and expert users in mind. The GUI offers ease of use while maintaining the ability for the expert users to setup unique designs for simulation. A unique way of modeling the effects of turbulent flow in the ground tube has allowed the Wright State code to maintain low computation times, while having small errors for a wide range of Reynolds numbers. To make the Wright State ground loop computer model more complete, a heat pump was developed as part of this work. The heat pump model uses the performance characteristics of commercial heat pumps to determine the performance of the geothermal system. The energy transport in the fluid is determined and used to select one of eighteen water-to-air heat pumps that calculate hourly COP's for all system conditions. The calculated heat pump efficiencies are used in an energy balance with hourly building loads to calculate the next iteration's bulk temperature entering the ground loop. Additional details are provided in this thesis on each of these five, important, computer modeling issues.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Year Degree Awarded