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Here in the Richmond area, homes can be heated and cooled efficiently with heat pumps. Due to our relatively moderate climate, either an air-source heat pump or a geothermal heat pump will work well, but each type has advantages and disadvantages. An air-source heat pump extracts energy for home heating from outdoor air, while a geothermal, or ground-source, heat pump extracts energy from an anti-freeze solution circulating in a loop of piping buried beneath the ground where temperatures remain constant throughout the year.

Heat pumps operate by removing heat from air in one place and releasing the heat into another place. For cooling, the system extracts heat from indoors and exhausts it to the outdoors, whereas in heating mode the process is reversed. Because a heat pump moves heat from one place to another, rather than generating heat by burning fuel, it can operate at extremely high energy efficiencies.

Air-Source Heat Pumps Versus Geothermal Heat Pumps

  • Cost - A geothermal heat pump costs several times as much as an air-source system to install. For a geothermal system, a drilling rig or trenching equipment buries the ground loop deep enough on the property to reach the soil's constant temperature zone. An air-source system simply requires an above-ground outdoor unit that looks similar to an air conditioner. Both types of heat pumps qualify for federal energy tax credits if you act by the end of 2013.
  • Outdoor temperature operating range - Air-source heat pumps won't operate at outdoor temperatures below about 30 degrees, so a home with an air-source system must be equipped with a backup furnace or electric heating coils for the coldest winter weather. Since a geothermal heat pump is sourced at a constant ground temperature in the mid-50s in the Richmond area, it can operate without a backup heat source.
  • Efficiency - Geothermal heat pumps are more energy-efficient than air-source systems. Their greater efficiency will pay back the higher initial cost over the life of the system.

For more information about heat pumps and their applicability to your home heating and cooling needs, contact the experts at Gilman Heating & Cooling.