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Proudly Serving The Columbia Area Since 1985


Fulmer Heating & Cooling Blog

Air Source Vs Ground Source Heat Pumps: What’s the Difference?


By now, you’ve probably heard about heat pumps as an alternative to central ACs and furnaces. Heat pumps are a 2-in-1 HVAC system that provides energy-efficient heating and cooling. However, not as many homeowners know about geothermal heat pumps. 

The major difference between the two is the sources they draw heat from. Both have their pros and cons. Let’s go over the benefits and drawbacks of each so that you can be an informed consumer when it’s time for air conditioning installation in Columbia, SC.

Air Source vs. Ground Source Heat Pumps

The difference between these is apparent in their names. In a nutshell, air source heat pumps draw heat from the air, and ground source heat pumps (also called geothermal systems) draw heat from the ground. 

  • Air source heat pumps are similar to central air conditioners in that they pull heat from the air and move it into or out of your home using refrigerant. A reversing valve allows it to function as a heater by switching the flow of refrigerant.
  • Ground source heat pumps derive energy by tapping into the heat beneath the earth’s crust. The earth’s temperature is a consistent 50°F all year round.

Air Source Heat Pumps: Cost and Installation

Whether you choose a ductless or ducted heat pump, the installation is similar to a traditional central AC or heater. There’s an outdoor condenser and an inside unit. With ductless heat pumps (also called mini splits), the air handlers are mounted to the walls of your home. 

Ductless cost and installation typically cost more than for a split, ducted heat pump, and ducted heat pumps typically cost more than central AC or heaters. 

Ground Source Heat Pumps: Cost and Installation

The upfront costs are significantly higher and the installation process is extensive. That’s because some excavation of your property is necessary to bury the ground loops about 30 feet underground. However, you’ll save more over the lifespan of the system on utilities.

Air Source Heat Pumps: Efficiency

Just by using a heat pump, you’re choosing a much more energy-efficient HVAC system than traditional types. Although air source heat pumps can struggle to maintain efficiency at very low temperatures, that’s not a problem here.

Ground Source Heat Pumps: Efficiency

Geothermal systems are considered to be the most energy-efficient heating and cooling system on the market. They’ll be more efficient all year round because of the consistent temperature of the earth’s crust which is 55–60°F.

Air Source Heat Pumps: Longevity

These will last about the same amount of time as a central AC or furnace: about 10–15 years. 

Ground Source Heat Pumps: Longevity

For geothermal systems, there are two different components to consider: the underground loops and the heat pump itself.

The underground loop system will remain untouched underground, giving it an impressive life expectancy of up to 50 years. However, the indoor component will last just as long as that of a normal heat pump, about 15 years.

Still curious about which type of heat pump is best for your home? We can let you know if your home is a candidate for geothermal and go over additional pros and cons of each.

Contact Fulmer Heating & Cooling for air conditioning installation in Columbia, SC!

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