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Ground Source vs. Air Source: Which Kind of Heat Pump Is Better?

Heat pumps are becoming more common, and that has caused a huge jump in demand for accurate information and advice on their selection and operations. The question “which kind of heat pump is better?” has become quite common, and it’s not hard to see why. Homeowners are always careful to make sure that they get the best fit for their needs and their home. They don’t want to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars in a system that isn’t going to take good care of them. With that in mind, let’s attempt to answer this question.

Air Source Heat Pumps

The core of this question has to do with where the heat pump gets the thermal energy that it uses to heat the home. First, though, let’s discuss how heat pumps work. A heat pump is not a combustion-based system, like a furnace or a boiler. Those systems create heat by burning some kind of fuel. Instead, a heat pump draws heat from one area and deposits it in another.

Air source heat pumps do this by using two different units, an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. The outdoor unit is installed outside the house, while the indoor unit is installed inside. When the heat is turned on, the outdoor unit will siphon thermal energy from the surrounding air and send it inside to heat the house.

Like all heat pumps, an air source heat pump is very energy efficient in most cases and will save money on heating bills. However, in climates that routinely reach sub-zero temperatures there isn’t enough thermal energy to make an air source heat pump worth it.

Ground Source

Ground source, or geothermal, heat pumps draw their heat from the ground instead of the air. They do this by relying on an underground pipe loop filled with refrigerant. When the heater turns on, it cycles this refrigerant through the main unit and siphons heat from it instead of the air. This solves the problem with air source heat pumps because the temperature underground remains fairly constant, regardless of the weather outside. Thus, they always have a renewable heat source to draw on. Unfortunately, they also require more space to install the loop.

If you’d like to know more, call Sound Heating. We provide heating services throughout Tacoma.

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