Energy Conserving Ground Source Heat Pump

  • Added:
    Oct 21, 2013
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Energy Meter
Energy Meter
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Installing an energy conserving ground source heat pump could be the next smart move you make in your efforts to wrangle down high utility rates while taking advantage of resources that are literally just outside your doorstep.

Scientists today are finding ways to squeeze power out of every resource possible. Wind turbines, solar panels, wave converters and anaerobic digesters help tap energy from the sun, air, water and waste products. Another way to leverage as much power as possible is to use an energy conserving ground source heat pump, or GSHP, which is a means through which precious warmth can be retained in the colder months and unwanted heat can be dissipated in the hotter months.

Sunshine, in a Way

Based upon designs devised over 150 years ago, GSHP heating is making great strides today, particularly in light of looming price increases for gas and electricity. Anything that can help stretch the utility budget a bit is welcome news to most energy consumers.

GSHP is sometimes mistakenly referred to as “geothermal heating,” which would more precisely describe heat drawn from within the deepest maws of the Earth. Actually, GSHP makes use of the energy that’s collected in the top layer of the Earth’s crust. The action of the sun’s rays beaming onto the ground warms the soil not only at the surface, but deeper, down to as much as one hundred meters below the surface. That range is the sweet spot for generating and retaining underground heat to use with a pump.

So in truth, GSHP could be considered a roundabout form of solar energy! As it happens, this method of home heating combines beautifully with setups including solar panels and/or true geothermal heating.

So Cool, It’s Hot

The big bonus of GSHP is that plain old dirt has a fantastic quality of generally maintaining even temperatures. For several meters down, the soil ends up being warmer than the ambient temperatures above ground level during the winter time, and cooler than the heated air of summer. The benefits of that steady temperature characteristic are harnessed through the use of GSHP, forcing the collected warmer air from the ground into cooler areas (like your home!) in the frosty months, and drawing the hot air from your home into the ground on hotter days, where the heat will be absorbed and then naturally released.

GSHP as a concept blends beautifully with radiant heat flooring. Imagine underground heat (that would otherwise go unused) drawn directly into your house, circulating in your home’s own “ground”--meaning, its sub-flooring--and then allowed to release its warmth throughout your home without noisy forced-air heating units, and with a significant cost savings. Radiant heat systems can be easily and reliably set up with PEX plumbing components [1]. PEX tubing can also run outdoors, as long as it is buried or otherwise protected from the sun’s rays. Loop PEX tubing around and around in a compost heat, and let nature’s biodegrading process super-charge temperatures upwards.

A heat exchanging device performs the job of converting warmth underground into heat you can appreciate indoors. Open loop systems have hoses filled with plain water, and so may be viewed as the style with the least potential negative environmental impact.  Closed loop systems more closely resemble an automobile’s radiator, since those both use a combination of water and antifreeze. Be particularly careful not to puncture closed loop systems; animals are naturally lured by the sweet scent of antifreeze, and will not hesitate to lick it up if it oozes up above ground, where it becomes easily accessible to wildlife. The same goes for the most conventional kind of GSHP which uses the direct exchange method, relying completely on circulating refrigerant liquid.

Spending Energy to Make Energy

Although GSHPs operate on electricity, they yet bring in more energy that they require for conducting the entire process, giving the consumer a net gain. The amount of benefit hinges on how drastic of a temperature change is desired. It’s much easier to increase or decrease by a couple of degrees either way, than to kick it up or down to the tune of ten degrees or more. Still, for most household needs, major adjustments in temperature aren’t so necessary as compared with merely holding a line of acceptable temperature ranges on an ongoing basis.

Close Eye on Quality

When purchasing and installing a ground source heat pump, go for top-notch quality. You will be relying on this device to keep you and your family comfortable indoors, regardless of the whims Mother Nature wishes to play outdoors.

Author's Profile

Sam Jones suggests that a ground source heat pump would make a great long-term energy efficiency investment

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