The Inevitable Heat Pump Post (Part 2)


-It was snowing
-There were some math equations
-These farmers have a whiteboard in their dining room?
-Heat pumps are a good way to save substantial money on heating costs and make the planet less sad


And now for the thrilling conclusion!


Up to this point, the heat pumps I have referred to are all “air-source” heat pumps. They extract heat from the air and move it into your home. Now there’s two issues with this when you’re a farm on the highest point in Erie County, NY, downwind of a Great Lake.

  1. There are days during the winter where extracting heat from the outdoor air becomes a bit difficult, as the outdoor air is -10F.
  2. These systems, just like a central air conditioner, require the compressor to be located outside 

Okay, maybe a heat pump isn’t ideal for this location.

But this is where “ground source” heat pumps come into play. Instead of transferring heat from the outside air, these units instead use heat from water in pipes buried underground, which run into a compressor in the basement. When the heat is extracted, the water cools, but as it circulates through the underground pipe, the ground recharges its temperature, serving as a method of creating a near-perpetual heat source. This type of system is typically referred to as “geothermal” systems because it’s a much cooler term to market, but in reality it’s just another type of heat pump, using water instead of air.

So how much underground pipe does it take to maintain a consistent loopfield temperature throughout the year?

Answer: A lot. For us, it was 5400 feet of slinky pipe buried 8 feet below the ground. All this to achieve a water temperature that varies from 32F in the winter to 60F in the summer. 

But did it work?

Like any completely normal human being, for the last 3 years I had been tracking our daily heating usage, originally with the propane furnace and later on with the heat pump. Here is a plot of the daily cost of heating our house in 2021 was using propane ($2.50 a gallon) versus the heat pump in 2023 ($0.10 per kWh)

Totally normal, human thing to do! Anyways, the end result is that our annual heating bill is $500 instead of $2500, and I don’t spend every evening in the basement sniffing the tiny leaks in our gas line and squirting the joints with soapy water, like normal people totally do. It also produces free hot water in the winter, which will be discussed in Heat Pumps Part 3  is neat!

So that’s it. That’s my tale on heat pumps. But is a heat pump right for you? In almost all situations, an air-source heat pump is a decent investment so long as you’re not currently using cheap natural gas, and you don’t live in New England or California where your electric prices are $0.30/kWh. In a few special circumstances where rebates are available and expert installers are prevalent, a ground source heat pump may even make financial sense. So if you think your situation is right for a heat pump, talk to your local HVAC contractor today and tell them Zach sent you! They won’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

You folks have been robbed of animal pictures for 2 weeks now. I will rectify that next week