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What are Water Source Heat Pumps?

Patrick Roland
Patrick Roland

Water source heat pumps use the heating power of the earth to fuel commercial heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. By tapping into the natural temperatures far below ground, this method is considered one of the most environmentally friendly available. While installation might be more difficult than traditional heating and cooling elements, the results and longevity make it popular.

No matter if a building is located in a desert, rain forest or suburb, there is a water source heat pump designed to work with that particular environment. Water source heat pumps come in three main types: ground water source heat pumps, surface water heat pumps and ground source heat pumps. They all operate on similar principles, but they get energy from slightly different underground elements.


Ground water source heat pumps dig deep into the ground below a building until the water temperature is found to be much warmer than the surface air. A series of coils is lowered into the groundwater and linked to a heat pump within the building. These coils absorb the heat from the ground water and take it up, where it is circulated to warm the building by using a traditional duct system.

Surface water source heat pumps operate on a similar principle but utilize water seen on the ground level. Its coils are submerged in a nearby lake or pond at least 30 feet (9.14 m) below the surface and dredge up the stable heat found there. This is the most cost-efficient type of water source heating because it does not require drilling, though many buildings might not have a body of water from which to draw.

Ground source heat pumps harness geothermal energy found in rock that is deep below the surface. Many buildings might not have a sufficient nearby water source below or above ground for heating purposes. When this is the case, coils are dropped far below ground until the rock is found at a warm, stable temperature.

This type of heating system has been applauded for its environmentally conscious approach. It creates warm air naturally, so it has to be electrically heated by only a few degrees to meet a thermostat's demands. Traditional heating systems take the cool outdoor air and use a lot more electrical energy heating this air to meet the thermostat settings. These helpful environmental factors and the versatility of water source heat pumps have led to an increase in their popularity.

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