Micro-Geothermal Systems

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Micro-geothermal systems, also known as shallow geothermal systems or ground-source heat pumps (GSHPs), are small-scale geothermal systems that utilize the relatively constant temperature of the Earth’s shallow subsurface to provide heating and cooling for individual buildings or small communities. These systems exchange heat with the ground, extracting heat from the ground in winter for heating and transferring heat to the ground in summer for cooling.

Impact on climate action

Micro-Geothermal Systems under Geothermal Energy boost climate action by providing localized, renewable heating and cooling solutions. By tapping into the Earth’s heat at shallow depths, these innovations reduce reliance on fossil fuels, decrease carbon emissions, and promote sustainable energy usage, contributing to climate resilience and mitigation efforts.


  • Ground Heat Exchangers: A network of pipes, called a ground loop, is buried underground at shallow depths (typically 100-400 feet) to exchange heat with the surrounding soil or groundwater.
  • Heat Pump Technology: Heat pumps use a refrigeration cycle to transfer heat from a lower temperature source to a higher temperature sink. In micro-geothermal systems, the heat pump extracts heat from the ground loop in winter and transfers it to the building for heating. In summer, the process is reversed, and heat is extracted from the building and transferred to the ground loop for cooling.
  • Refrigerants: Refrigerants are fluids that circulate through the heat pump system, absorbing and releasing heat as they change phase between liquid and vapor.
  • System Design and Installation: Micro-geothermal systems require careful design and installation to ensure optimal performance and efficiency. This includes determining the appropriate ground loop configuration and selecting the right heat pump size for the building’s heating and cooling needs.

TRL : 8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Advanced Ground Loop Designs: Innovations in ground loop design, such as horizontal loops, vertical loops, and pond loops, are improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of micro-geothermal systems.
  • High-Efficiency Heat Pumps: Advancements in heat pump technology, such as variable-speed compressors and inverter-driven systems, are increasing the efficiency and performance of micro-geothermal systems.
  • Smart Control Systems: Smart thermostats and control systems can optimize the operation of micro-geothermal systems, adjusting settings based on building occupancy, weather conditions, and energy prices.
  • Hybrid Micro-Geothermal Systems: Combining micro-geothermal systems with other renewable energy sources, such as solar PV, can create hybrid systems that further reduce reliance on the grid and improve energy efficiency.
  • Direct Geoexchange Systems: These systems utilize direct exchange of heat between the ground and the building’s heating/cooling system, eliminating the need for a heat pump and further improving efficiency.

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. Dandelion Energy:
    • Technology Enhancement: Dandelion Energy specializes in the development and installation of residential geothermal heating and cooling systems. Their micro-geothermal systems utilize ground-source heat pump technology to extract heat from the earth during the winter for heating and transfer heat back to the ground during the summer for cooling. Dandelion’s systems are designed to be efficient, quiet, and environmentally friendly.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Dandelion Energy stands out for its focus on making geothermal energy accessible to homeowners through innovative financing options, streamlined installation processes, and advanced drilling techniques. By offering turnkey solutions for residential heating and cooling, they aim to accelerate the adoption of geothermal technology as a clean and sustainable alternative to traditional HVAC systems.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Dandelion Energy primarily serves homeowners seeking energy-efficient and environmentally friendly heating and cooling solutions. Their micro-geothermal systems are suitable for residential properties of various sizes and configurations, providing homeowners with cost-effective and sustainable comfort solutions.
  2. GeoComfort:
    • Technology Enhancement: GeoComfort specializes in the design and manufacturing of geothermal heat pump systems for residential and commercial applications. Their micro-geothermal systems use underground loops to extract heat from the earth and transfer it to buildings for heating or cooling purposes. GeoComfort’s systems are engineered for reliability, efficiency, and quiet operation.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: GeoComfort stands out for its focus on delivering high-performance geothermal heating and cooling solutions tailored to the needs of residential and commercial customers. With a history of innovation and expertise in geothermal technology, they offer a range of customizable systems designed to maximize energy savings and comfort while minimizing environmental impact.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: GeoComfort serves homeowners, businesses, and institutions seeking sustainable and cost-effective heating and cooling solutions. Their micro-geothermal systems are installed in residential properties, commercial buildings, schools, and other facilities where energy efficiency, comfort, and long-term savings are priorities.
  3. Enertech Global:
    • Technology Enhancement: Enertech Global is a leading manufacturer of geothermal heating and cooling systems, including residential and commercial geothermal heat pumps. Their micro-geothermal systems harness the constant temperature of the earth to provide efficient and environmentally friendly heating and cooling solutions. Enertech Global’s systems are known for their durability, performance, and energy efficiency.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Enertech Global stands out for its commitment to innovation, quality, and customer satisfaction in the geothermal industry. With a focus on engineering excellence and continuous improvement, they offer a range of geothermal systems designed to meet the diverse needs of homeowners, businesses, and institutions.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Enertech Global serves residential and commercial customers looking for reliable, sustainable, and cost-effective heating and cooling solutions. Their micro-geothermal systems are installed in homes, offices, schools, hospitals, and other buildings seeking to reduce energy costs, improve indoor comfort, and minimize environmental impact.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Oklahoma State University:
    • Research Focus: Oklahoma State University conducts research on Micro-Geothermal Systems, focusing on developing compact and efficient geothermal energy solutions suitable for decentralized heating and cooling applications.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the design and optimization of small-scale geothermal heat pump systems tailored for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. They explore innovative drilling techniques, heat exchanger configurations, and control strategies to maximize energy extraction and system performance in shallow geothermal reservoirs.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in space heating, air conditioning, and hot water production. By leveraging micro-geothermal technology, Oklahoma State University’s research aims to reduce energy consumption, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance thermal comfort in buildings, contributing to sustainable and resilient communities.
  2. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:
    • Research Focus: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is engaged in research on Micro-Geothermal Systems, leveraging its expertise in geoscience, engineering, and renewable energy to develop novel approaches for harnessing geothermal heat at small scales.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses numerical modeling, field testing, and experimental validation of micro-geothermal technologies, with a focus on optimizing system design, performance prediction, and economic feasibility assessment. They also investigate the integration of geothermal heat pumps with renewable energy sources, thermal energy storage, and smart building controls for energy optimization and grid integration.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in residential communities, commercial districts, and rural areas lacking access to centralized heating and cooling infrastructure. By advancing micro-geothermal systems, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s research aims to expand the reach of geothermal energy and promote its adoption as a reliable and cost-effective renewable energy source.
  3. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL):
    • Research Focus: NREL conducts research on Micro-Geothermal Systems, leveraging its expertise in renewable energy technology development, modeling, and system integration to advance the deployment of small-scale geothermal solutions.
    • Uniqueness: Their research spans techno-economic analysis, geospatial mapping, and resource assessment for identifying suitable locations and optimizing system performance. They also collaborate with industry partners to develop standardized testing protocols, performance metrics, and quality assurance measures for micro-geothermal components and systems.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in residential retrofitting, urban redevelopment, and off-grid electrification. By providing technical expertise and validation support, NREL’s research accelerates the commercialization and adoption of micro-geothermal technologies, enabling reliable and sustainable energy solutions for diverse end-users and market segments.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Micro-geothermal systems are a mature technology and are widely implemented in residential and commercial buildings around the world. They offer a highly efficient and sustainable heating and cooling solution, particularly in regions with moderate climates.