Ground source heat pumps—technology
Produced in partnership with WSP Environmental
Ground source heat pumps—technology

The following Energy practice note produced in partnership with WSP Environmental provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Ground source heat pumps—technology
  • What are ground source heat pumps?
  • How ground source heat pumps work
  • Types of ground source heat pump system
  • Closed loop—vertical boreholes
  • Closed loop—horizontal boreholes
  • Open loop
  • Key conditions for development
  • Land availability
  • Demand
  • More...

What are ground source heat pumps?

Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) are central heating and/or cooling systems that pump heat to or from the ground. GSHPs provide an efficient way to extract stored solar/ground source heat and increase the useful temperature to serve the building heating system. In the summer months heat can be extracted from the building and deposited in the ground thereby cooling the building. This is a common application in Scandinavia, the USA and China.

How ground source heat pumps work

Soil temperature can vary considerably depending on the location. In the UK, for example, soil temperature below a depth of 5 m stays constant throughout the year at around 11–12°C. The soil at this depth is effectively a huge thermal store that stores heat absorbed from the sun in the summer and releases it during the winter. GSHPs take this low-temperature energy and concentrate it into more useful, higher-temperature energy to heat water or air inside a building. Figure 1 illustrates how a GSHP works in heating mode.

Figure 1—schematic of a GSHP system (source: WSP)

  1. first, the fluid is pumped from underground (1), absorbs heat, and then enters the heat pump (2)

  2. the heat pump increases the temperature of the fluid through compression; heat is transferred to the underfloor heating loop through a heat exchanger; carrier fluid continues the cycle and is pumped

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