Performance Considerations for Ground Source Heat Pumps in Cold Climates: Preprint

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Remote, cold climates present challenges to finding safe and affordable options to heat homes. In Alaska, residential ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) have been gaining in popularity to fill this gap. However, there is little research on their long-term performance or effect on soil temperatures. The extended heating season and cold soils of Alaska provide a harsh testing ground for GSHPs, even those designed and marketed for colder climates. The large and unbalanced heating load of cold climates creates a challenging environment for GSHPs. In 2013 the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) installed a GSHP at its Research and Testing Facility (RTF) in Fairbanks, Alaska. The heat pump replaced an oil-fired condensing boiler heating a 464 m2 office space via an in-floor hydronic radiant heating system. The ground heat exchanger (GHE) was installed in moisture-rich silty soils underlain with permafrost near 0°C. The intent of the installation was to observe and monitor the system over a 10-year period in order to develop a better understanding of the performance of GSHPs in sites with permafrost and to help inform future design. As of this writing, the heat pump system has been running for seven heating seasons. The efficiency in those seven heating seasons has been variable with ups and downs that have been difficult to explain. This paper seeks to understand the variability in performance as well as make recommendations for GSHP use in other cold climates.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages10
StatePublished - 2021
Event15th International Conference on Energy Sustainability (ES2021) -
Duration: 16 Jun 202118 Jun 2021


Conference15th International Conference on Energy Sustainability (ES2021)

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5600-79479


  • cold climate
  • ground source heat pump


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