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Difference Between Air Source and Ground Source Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are becoming an increasingly popular choice for homeowners. Compared to traditional systems, these HVAC systems are more energy efficient, environmentally-friendly, lower maintenance, and combine heating and cooling in one system. Below we break down the primary differences between ground source and air source heat pump systems.

What Are Heat Pumps?

Heat pumps do not generate heat from burning fossil fuel like traditional HVAC systems. A heat pump is an electrical appliance that extracts heat from a source, amplifies it and transfers it to where it’s needed. Both ground source and air source heat pumps absorb heat from renewable sources. However, there are some differences between these two types of heat pumps.

Where Does The Heat Come From?

The main difference between ground source and air source heat pumps is where they collect heat energy from. A ground source heat pump, also known as a geothermal heat pump, draws heat energy from the surrounding ground. An air source heat pump draws heat energy from the outside air into your home or rejects heat energy from inside your home back into the air outside to heat and cool your home.

Why Are Heat Pumps So Efficient?

High energy bills month after month is often the catalyst for a homeowner to consider investing in a heat pump system. Heat pumps are not electric heat, they do not convert energy, they transfer energy and are powered by electricity. Although all heat pumps are different, for every kilowatt to power the compressor the heat pump has the ability to provide up to an average of three to seven kilowatts, for the one kilowatt that you paid for. Therefore, the average efficiency can be up to 400% while the best efficiency for an electric HVAC system is 100%.

In the world of air source heat pumps, there are conventional air source heat pumps, like air conditioners, and there are more energy efficient systems called cold climate air source heat pumps. Because cold air produces less energy, these heat pumps are designed to ramp up more refrigerant in the circuit, providing more flow through the compressor, creating more energy from the cold air and therefore providing high energy efficiency year-round.

Simply put, ground source heat pumps are the most efficient heat pump, because it harvests heat energy from the earth. Below a certain depth, ground temperature remains relatively consistent year after year. The average ground temperature is always higher than the average air temperature during the cold winter months. Geothermal heat pumps are not affected by the air temperature, they do not have to work as hard as air source heat pumps to remain consistently efficient.

Differences In Installation?

With an air source heat pump, the installation process does not require an exorbitant amount of labor. The technicians will install the device outside your home, oftentimes next to an external wall. An air source heat pump takes up as much space as an air conditioner. Similarly, all the components of this type of heat pump are installed above the ground

A ground source heat pump consists of pumps that are laid underground in a well. Some companies installation can involve digging up a significant section of land to create the well to place the ground loops into. This installation technique often requires extensive lawn repair maintenance once the installation is complete.

However, Capital Heat uses different installation technology known as vertical or horizontal boring, which allows the technicians to install a ground source heat pump through a 6 inch hole, located just 15 feet away from the house. This boring technique drastically minimizes the disruption to the lawn and allows homeowners with small lots the opportunity to access the benefits of a geothermal heat pump.

What Are The Cost Differences?

With an air source heat pump, you pay for the unit itself plus labor fees. Also, when factoring in the NYS tax credits and rebates, a cold climate air source heat pump is generally less expensive than having to purchase a furnace and an air conditioner.

The installation of a ground source heat pump requires more planning, time, and labor which in turn results in higher upfront costs than an air source heat pump. Part of the planning process should include researching the utility rebates and NY state and federal tax credits offered. These NYS clean heat energy incentives can help provide up to a 50% reduction in cost for NYS homeowners looking to purchase an average ground source heat pump.

Once installed, you will be harvesting your own energy and can get your bills down to just delivery charges. New legislation continues to offer rebates and tax credits to make the change to heat pumps much more affordable than years ago.

Which type of heat pump is right for you? The application engineers at Capital Heat Inc. will meet with you, listen to what your specific needs are, and provide you with the knowledge you need to make the decision that is right for your home. Schedule a free estimate or call 716-683-7336.

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