A ground source heat pump (GSHP) is a heating & cooling system for buildings that uses a water-to-water heat pump to transfer heat to, or from a ground heat exchanger. The system takes advantage of the relative consistency of the Earth's temperatures through the seasons. GSHP are among the most energy-efficient HVAC systems, using far less energy than traditional fossil fuel burning boilers or furnaces or using electric resistance heaters. Efficiency is given as a coefficient of performance (COP) typically in the range of 4 to 6, meaning that the devices provide 4 to 6 units of heat for each unit of electricity used.

Installation costs are higher than other HVAC systems due to the requirement to install ground loops by drilling boreholes. However, the significant operational cost savings and low maintenance cost make GSHP a viable option for many projects.

Fig 1. Illustration of ground source heat pump system

Fig 1. Illustration of ground source heat pump system


In loadmodeling.tool, GSHP can be configured on the Mechanical Plants page. A fully defined system is divided into three main plant loops: Condenser, Heating, and Cooling.

Fig 2. Line diagram of condenser and heating/cooling plant loop from EnergyPlus

Fig 2. Line diagram of condenser and heating/cooling plant loop from EnergyPlus

The Vertical Borehole Ground Heat Exchanger - Condenser Loop contains a variable speed pump, a vertical borehole ground heat exchanger on the supply side, and a water-to-water heat pump on the demand side. There can be more than one heat pump connected to a condenser loop, each connected to its cooling and/or heating plant loops.

The Water to Water Heat Pump Plant - Cooling Loop connects to the Condenser Loop via the heat pump component. This loop contains a variable speed pump, a cooling water-to-water heat pump on the supply side, and a series of connected hydronic cooling coils on the demand side.

The Water to Water Heat Pump Plant - Heating Loop connects to the Condenser Loop via the heat pump component. This loop contains a variable speed pump, a heating water-to-water heat pump on the supply side, and a series of connected hydronic heating coils on the demand side.

For a ground source heat pump system to be complete, a Condenser Loop must be paired with a Heating or Cooling, or both plant loops via the Heating Rejection Source input under the Water to Water Heat Pump Plant - Heating/Cooling Loop properties, shown in Figure 3 below. Adding a Condenser Loop alone will not provide heating or cooling, since there must be a connecting water source heat pump to facilitate the transfer of thermal energy between the ground heat exchanger and the heating or cooling coils of a distribution system.

Fig 3. Heat Rejection Source input under the Heating/Cooling Loop properties

Fig 3. Heat Rejection Source input under the Heating/Cooling Loop properties

Adding a Water to Water Heat Pump Plant Loop to the project automatically adds a paired Condenser loop. Adding any additional Heating or Cooling plant loops will connect them to the first condenser plant loop that was added unless an additional Condenser loop is added. Then, the user can use the Heat Rejection Source input to specify how their GSHP plants are linked.

Related articles:

  1. Mechanical Plant Inputs

  2. Mechanical Plant Results

  3. Assigning Mechanical Plants

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