Water Source Heat Pumps vs. Ground Source Heat Pumps: Which Is Better?
Heat pumps provide extremely efficient levels of indoor heating and cooling at a very economical price. A widely used type of geothermal heat pump system is either a ground source or a water source heat pump. The following guide will help you understand the differences and determine which is the better style for you.
Geothermal Heat Pumps and How They Operate
A water source heat pump and a ground source model both work on a similar principle. They extract heat from where it’s not wanted and move that heat to areas where it’s needed, providing cooling in summer and heating in winter. Heat is acquired and released using a refrigerant solution, or sometimes plain water, circulated through an extensive network of pipes called the loop.
Ground Source Heat Pumps
Ground source heat pumps use the soil outside your facility as the source for heat capture and as the area where heat is released. At a depth of about six feet under the surface of the ground, temperatures stay relatively consistent at about 45 to 60 degrees all year round. This provides an ongoing source where heat can easily be removed or added with constant reliability and efficiency. In a ground source system, the loop pipes are buried in trenches dug into the earth.
The loop pipes form a large twisting network and, in some cases, the pipes are stacked on top of each other to create more surface area for heat extraction and release. The loops are connected to the main heat pump installed inside your facility. The heat pump unit itself unit contains the major operating components of the system, such as heat extractors, air handlers and blowers, and thermostats and other controls. When providing cooling, the refrigerant solution or water moves through the loop pipes inside your facility.
Heat is pulled out of the indoor spaces and is transferred to the water or refrigerant, which then circulates through the pipes and into the underground loop. When providing heating, the flow of the refrigerant solution is reversed. Heat is picked up from the ground surrounding the outdoor loop pipes, circulated indoors, and transferred to a heat exchanger that creates warm air for distribution inside your building.
Water Source Heat Pumps
A water source heat pump works in almost exactly the same way, except that the loop pipes are submerged in a body of water at a depth where the water does not freeze in the winter or get too hot in the summer. The refrigerant solution in the loop pipes circulates as normal, but in this case, it picks up or releases heat within the water source. Common water sources are lakes, ponds, aquifers, or wells.
Ground Source or Water Source Heat Pump: Which is Better?
Water source heat pumps can be less expensive to install than ground-source models. They do not require the extensive digging and trenching that would otherwise be needed for burying the ground loop. Either a vertical or horizontal installation of loop pipes can be used, depending on the depth and characteristics of the water source. It can be easier to install water-source loop pipes.
On the other hand, water source heat pumps are not practical if you don’t have a well, pond, aquifer, or body of water near your facility where you can submerge the loop pipes. A water source heat pump can require additional equipment for proper operation, such as a cooling tower where heat is transferred back and forth inside your building. Consult with your local trusted geothermal expert for advice on whether a ground source or water source heat pump would be best for your needs.
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