Heat pumps are a good heating alternative to many heating mechanisms used by home owners across the world. A heat pump uses less energy to generate heat compared to diesel, oil and electric heating systems. Heat pumps also lead to much less emissions when in use compared to their electric and oil driven counterparts.
Heat pumps can however be confusing to many people due to the various definitions associated by them. The following is a broad categorisation of heat pumps and their main distinguishing mechanisms without necessarily loosing you with the working mechanisms.
Air source heat pumps
A heat pump is considered air source when its main source of heat is the surrounding environment. These heat pumps extract heat energy from circulating air. The main confusion comes in the nature that these pumps use water to extract the heat from the air and circulate it to the air within the rooms they are heating. Air source heat pumps do not generally achieve very high heating. This is because most of the energy is lost in the conversion of air heat to water carried heat which is then circulated to heat up the surrounding air.
Some heat pumps also use air to circulate the extracted temperature to achieve heating. In such an instance, the pump is only air source if the extracted heat is from air.
Water source heat pumps
Such a heat pump extracts temperature from a water source then circulates it to the rooms. Water is a good at circulating heat and emits temperature easily. These heat pumps sometimes rely on another mechanism to heat up the water which is then used to extract heat that is to be circulated around the room.
It's a confusing world of mechanisms interchanging roles to achieve heating and this always misplaces many people. Water source heat pumps can achieve high temperature easily. They however require more time to ascend to the desired temperatures. Water source heat pumps are further subdivided into open loop and closed loop systems. This categorisation comes from the circulation system interacting with the water to extract heat.
Ground source heat pumps
This type of heat pump relies on geothermal heat from the ground. The pump extracts heat from the ground and uses either water or air to circulate the heat around the room. Geothermal heat pumps may not be quite as popular but the heat produced is good. In places with geysers and similar heat vents, these pumps can achieve very fast heating. The problem with ground source heat is that it takes longer to build up before achieving a good consistency.