Ground Source Heat Pumps
CCHRC is studying the performance of ground source heat pumps to see if they are a cost-effective heating option for northern Alaska. Over the past five years heat pumps have become more common across the state, including commercial installations at the Juneau Airport and library as well as residential installations around the state. As Alaskans look for cleaner and cheaper forms of energy, this research will shed light on the technical and economic considerations of ground source heat pumps.
A heat pump transfers energy from the earth or water to use for heating or cooling a space. The system consists of underground tubing filled with heat-transfer fluid, an electric pump and a heat distribution system.
CCHRC partnered with the UAF Alaska Center for Energy and Power to complete an economic analysis of GSHP in Alaska. We looked at the technology in five cities--Fairbanks, Anchorage, Juneau, Bethel and Seward—and compared the cost and performance of heat pumps with traditional heating systems, such as oil-fired boilers and natural gas furnaces. We found that heat pumps can potentially compete with other heating systems in Fairbanks, Juneau, and Seward—where heating oil is expensive and electricity costs are low. They are not economical in Anchorage, which has inexpensive heating and power costs, or rural Alaska, which has extremely high electricity costs.
We focused on the unique impacts that GSHP could have in cold climates, as extracting heat from the ground has the effect of cooling the soils and lowering the efficiency of the heat pump. A heat pump was installed at CCHRC's facility in Fairbanks to monitor the long-term performance and effect on ground temperatures. Learn more about the project here.