Ground Source Heat Pump & Solar Thermal at Weller School

Ground source heat pumps are a common technology in the Lower 48 but are relatively new to Alaska. Heat pumps harvest warmth from the ground to heat a building. We have much to learn about how well they work in cold climates and the impact they will have on things like permafrost.

CCHRC monitored a ground source heat pump installed by the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District at Weller Elementary School.  The experimental project tested how the technology works in a large building with a high heating demand. It is a hybrid, or combined, system because it integrates a heat pump with solar thermal panels. Because the heat pump extracts warmth from the ground during the year, it poses the risk of creating more permafrost and depleting the heat source.

To compensate, CCHRC added solar panels to the school’s roof to restore heat to the ground. The panels contain tubes filled with a fluid that absorbs heat from the sun. The tubes deposit the heat back to the ground area where we are taking it.

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