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Air and Ground Source Heat Pumps: What Are They?

Heat Pumps

Severna Park, MD, sees plenty of blistering hot and humid summer days as well as frigid and snow-laden winter months. Enjoying the full scope of all four seasons isn’t always a bad thing. But it poses a real challenge for residents who want to enjoy affordable and reliable indoor temperatures throughout the year. Heat pump technology can help you strike a balance between power and efficiency with any kind of home in this diverse climate. Read on to learn about air and ground source heat pumps.

The Fundamentals of Heat Pump Technology

Rather than generating warmth with electricity or fossil fuel, heat pumps consume energy to collect heat from one location and transfer it to another. During the winter, these systems collect heat from the external environment and transfer it indoors. In the warmer months, the system reverses the process to pull heat from indoor air and dispenses it outside.

Heat pumps work much like conventional air conditioners when providing cooling. But there are big differences in the physical process when warming the home. Since pumps use energy to move heat rather than create it, they can provide much greater efficiency. HVAC professionals describe this efficiency as coefficient of performance (COP), which compares energy consumption to output and typically ranges from 1.5 to 3.5.

Air-Source Heat Pumps

Air-source heat pumps are the most common in households throughout the United States. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best for your situation. These pumps work by drawing heat directly from the air outdoors and transferring it throughout the house.

The chief drawback of an air-source system is its fluctuation in efficiency, especially when it’s really cold outside. The pumps require more energy to pull heat as ambient air temperatures fall. As a result, the system is less efficient during the times when you need to rely on it the most.

Ground-Source or Geothermal Systems

Ground-source heat pumps function on the same principles as their air-source counterparts. The difference is that they pull heat from the ground instead of the air. The temperature of the soil beneath the Earth’s surface is far more stable than that in the air above, remaining at around 70 degrees throughout the year. This mitigates the fluctuation in energy efficiency that occurs when heating a home during the depths of winter.

Even though they offer the potential for much greater operating efficiency, geothermal systems are more expensive and difficult to install. Since they rely on buried coils to transfer heat from the soil, they’re more demanding in terms of time and labor. In contrast, air-source pumps only require a basic process similar to installing a conventional central system.

Factors in the Decision Equation

While we can’t make the choice for you, we can provide you with information to guide you during the decision-making process. There are several factors that you should consider before choosing between air and ground-source. That includes available space in the yard or garden, typical seasonal efficiency changes and expected duration of your stay in the home.

Choosing for Your Home

Understanding the difference in operating costs based on expected efficiency throughout the year is a major factor when comparing overall value between the two options. You also need to consider the discrepancy in upfront installation costs, which can range to up to double for ground-source heat pumps. Depending on how long you plan to use the system, improved energy efficiency can make up for higher immediate costs and can also reduce total environmental impact.

Contact Coastal Heating & Air Conditioning Co., Inc. to learn more about heat pump technology and the benefits it has to offer. We have the skills and experience to consult, maintain, repair and install heat pumps. We look forward to every opportunity to help our clients make smart decisions and implement practical solutions to maximize comfort while minimizing expenses.

Image provided by iStock

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