Ground Source Heat Pumps

Ground Source Heat PumpIn regions without any high temperature geothermal resources, a Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) can provide space heating and space cooling. Like a refrigerator or air conditioner, these systems use a heat pump to force the transfer of heat from the ground to the building. Heat can be extracted from any source, no matter how cold, but a warmer source allows higher efficiency. A ground-source heat pump uses the shallow ground or ground water (typically starting at 10–12 °C or 50–54 °F) as a source of heat, thus taking advantage of its seasonally moderate temperatures. In contrast, an air-source heat pump draws heat from the air (colder outside air) and thus requires more energy.
Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP) are NOT geothermal, i.e.,There is no geyser providing heat to be captured. GSHP merely accesses stored solar heat energy in the soil or rock. GSHPs circulate a carrier fluid (usually a mixture of water and small amounts of antifreeze) through closed pipe loops buried in the ground. Single-home systems can be "vertical loop field" systems with bore holes 50–400 feet deep or, if adequate land is available for extensive trenches, a "horizontal loop field" is installed approximately six feet subsurface. As the fluid circulates underground it absorbs heat from the ground and, on its return, the warmed fluid passes through the heat pump which uses electricity to extract heat from the fluid. The re-chilled fluid is sent back into the ground thus continuing the cycle. The heat extracted and that generated by the heat pump appliance as a byproduct is used to heat the house. The addition of the ground heating loop in the energy equation means that significantly more heat can be transferred to a building than if electricity alone had been used directly for heating.
Switching the direction of heat flow, the same system can be used to circulate the cooled water through the house for cooling in the summer months. The heat is exhausted to the relatively cooler ground (or groundwater) rather than delivering it to the hot outside air as an air conditioner does. As a result, the heat is pumped across a larger temperature difference and this leads to higher efficiency and lower energy use.