A Beginner’s Guide to Geothermal Heat Pumps or Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs)

Geothermal Heat Pump Diagram

Perhaps you have heard of a geothermal heat pump, also called a ground source heat pump (GSHP). While it may sound fancy and the technology is pretty impressive, the basic concept of what it is and how it works is actually quite simple.

How Do Standard Systems Work?

A standard heat pump absorbs the heat from the outside air and pushes it inside. These types of pumps are most efficient at heating your home when the temperature is 40° or higher outside, and work best in cooling mode when the temperature is 90° or lower. So what about when it’s extremely cold outside and you want to crank the heat, or when it’s sweltering and you need the A/C on blast? In these cases, your standard heat pump has to work harder, or you must use electric strip heat or a gas furnace as a backup.

How Is a Geothermal Heat Pump Different?

A geothermal heat pump uses the heat found in the ground instead of the air to provide heating and cooling. The temperatures in the ground (typically 45° to 55° in North America) are more consistent than the outside air temperature, providing the ideal climate for the geothermal pump to heat or cool your home efficiently.

In fact, a GSHP is 50-70% more efficient than traditional heating systems, and 20-40% more efficient than standard air conditioners. It’s the best of both worlds! GSHPs have lower operating costs than most units on the market, and provide the same level of comfort as a traditional heating or cooling system.

Sounds Great! Where Do I Sign Up?

While geothermal heat pumps are great in many situations, they are not the right solution for everyone. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of GSHPs, and which customers could benefit most from using them.

Pros:

  • High energy efficiency
  • Quiet
  • Safe for the environment
  • Long life expectancy

Cons:

  • Expensive to install (typically double the cost of a standard system)
  • Expensive to repair due to the fact that the pipes are buried underground
  • Requires a lot of land

According to Reggie Ross, one of Newcomb’s in-house experts, “the best situation to purchase a geothermal system is when the area it serves is 3,000 square feet or more or when the equipment size requirements are 4 tons or heavier. Larger areas will yield the quickest return on investment. In smaller applications, there may never be a full return on investment.”

Interested in learning more about geothermal heat pumps? Contact Newcomb and Company and we’ll be glad to help you determine whether or not a GSHP is right for your situation.

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