There have been a number of heat pump technologies we've covered over the years, from the basic ground source heat pumps (which Lloyd has criticized on more than one occasion for being good at cooling, but not so much at heating) to tapping heat from sewage pipes or even our clothes dryers.
While in some climates these systems can work well, in those where heating is more necessary than cooling, they often don't deliver the efficiency that's promised.
In Europe, a consortium of several universities, research organizations and companies called GEOTeCH is working to develop a geothermal heat pump system that is both more efficient than current technologies and more affordable so that it can be accessible to most European households and decrease the continent's reliance on fossil fuels.The project partners have come up with a dual-source heat pump unit that uses both the ground and the air as heat sources, using one or the other as either a heat source or heat sink depending on the outside temperatures and whether heating or cooling is needed. Depending onteh climate, the system determines which source is best and then it can operate as either an air-to-water or brine-to-water (ground) heat pump. The system also provides year-round hot water. In summer it does this by using the condensing waste heat from the system.
The technology is being tested in four spots around Europe. In the UK, one has been installed on the campus of De Montfort University Leicester that's meant to replicate a small household. At that location, five bore holes were drilled to at least 10 meters deep. Four of those contain heat exchangers, while the fifth contains a temperature sensor that monitors temperature changes in the ground. That data, along with that from air temperature sensors allows the system to determine which source is needed for heating or cooling.
The consortium hopes that with testing, this technology will be able to reduce the need for gas heating in European homes.