Water Source Heat Pump:Efficiency,Benefit,Setup Guide

Photo of author

By Debarghya Roy

Table of Contents

Water source heat pumps (WSHP) are becoming increasingly popular heating and cooling systems due to their high efficiency, environmental benefits, and cost-effectiveness.

Through advanced technology, WSHPs harness the thermal energy contained in natural water sources like lakes or streams to provide an efficient approach for residential and commercial space heating.

With such initiatives as improving energy efficiency and reducing our carbon footprint evermore pressing, understanding how engineering expertise has been applied to maximize this emerging technology is essential.

How does Water Source Heat Pump Work?

Water-source heat pumps are a form of geothermal energy technology that operates similarly to air-source heat pumps. 

These systems utilize an indoor unit with a compressor, evaporator, and condenser coil system, allowing it to move thermal energy from the water loop into the building or from the building back out to the water loop depending on whether it’s running in heating or cooling mode.

The two types of water source heat pump (WSHP) systems are open-loop and closed-loop configurations. 

Types Of Water Source Heat Pumps: Open Loop Vs. Closed Loop

Water source heat pumps are heating and cooling systems that utilize water as a medium to transfer thermal energy throughout the system.

The two main designs for water source heat pumps are closed-loop systems and open-loop systems.

CriteriaOpen LoopClosed Loop
Source of waterAn open loop requires external sources of natural renewable water such as springs or well points to operate.Closed Loop Water Source Heat Pumps use the ground or nearby bodies of water as a heat source and sink.
Installation ProcessOpen Loop Systems require external pipes to be installed deep underground before installing other components.Proper installation of error detectors, controllers, and output elements must be carried out effectively.
Cost of Installation$28,000$15,000
AccessIt requires access points that draw from outside groundwater resources intermittently.Widely preferred due to their enhanced efficiency compared to standard air-source units.
ProcessRaw groundwater is drawn up through pipes installed below ground level until it reaches its highest temperature point before being either reused directly.It circulates an antifreeze solution through a closed coil of High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) tubing, making it to transfer the energy.
Maintenance Cost$12,000$8,000
Efficiency Rate68%58%

Components Of Water Source Heat Pumps


This component pumps refrigerant throughout the heat pump system and is responsible for absorbing and releasing heat in either the heating or cooling cycle, depending on what mode of operation the system is in.

4-way Reversing Valve 

The valve controls which mode (heating or cooling) the system will operate in by controlling how much refrigerant fluid flows through its coils when it’s engaged during a call for heating or cooling from a thermostat.

Refrigerant Heat Exchanger 

The purpose of this component is to transfer thermal energy from one medium to another, usually from water to air or vice versa depending on whether heating or cooling is being achieved respectively. 

It achieves this function through two pipes with reactive metals enabling thermal energy exchange across them both due to their natural properties as differentials between cold and hot temperatures occur outside of their direct environment within contact areas elsewhere inside the system’s HWSHP unit enclosure.

Thermal Expansion Device

Also known as a TXV (Thermal Expansion Valve), this device regulates flow lines that contain gaseous coolants under extremely high pressure if necessary so as not to cause any permanent damage.

If it were allowed unchecked flow without relief devices such metering restrictions provided by TXVS collectively combined throughout an entire closed-looped WSHP setup network architecture simultaneously over time while they are actively running but need balancing assistance alongside other valves.


This component serves multiple purposes including: 

Water Source Heat Pump Efficiency And Performance Metrics

Water source heat pump efficiency and performance are important factors to consider when evaluating their effectiveness in various applications. 

To measure their efficiency, there are several widely recognized metrics used, such as Coefficient of Performance (COP), Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER), and Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). 

These metrics allow professionals to analyze and compare the performance of water-source heat pumps against other heating and cooling systems and their higher values indicate better efficiency.

Performance Metric DescriptionFactors Affecting Metric
Coefficient of Performance (COP)The ratio of the amount of useful heat or cooling output to the amount of energy input.The temperature difference between the heat source and heat sink, quality of heat exchanges, and compressor efficiency.
Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER)A ratio is calculated by dividing the cooling capacity of a unit in BTU/hour by the energy input in watts at a specific operating condition.Quality of heat exchanges, compressor efficiency, and temperature difference between heat source and heat sink.
Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER)A measure of the total cooling output of a heat pump in BTU during a cooling season, divided by the total electrical input in watt-hours.Quality of heat exchanges, compressor efficiency, and varying outdoor temperatures throughout the cooling season.

For example, a water-source heat pump with a high COP and EER would be preferable, as it consumes less energy per unit of heat or cooling output compared to other systems. Additionally, the International Energy Agency and the US Department of Energy use these metrics to analyze the performance of water-source heat pumps and develop new standards to improve energy efficiency.

Water Source Heat Pumps Vs. Other Heating And Cooling Systems

Water source heat pumps have gained popularity due to their higher energy efficiency and environmental benefits when compared to traditional heating and cooling systems. 

In this section, we will provide a detailed comparison of water-source heat pumps with other heating and cooling systems commonly used in the industry.

SystemEnergy EfficiencyEnvironmental ImpactCapital CostMaintenance Cost
Water Source Heat PumpsHighLowMediumLow
Air Source Heat PumpsMediumLowLowMedium
Gas FurnacesMediumMediumLowMedium
Electric Resistance HeatingLowHighLowLow
Geothermal Heat PumpsHighLowHighLow

An example of a successful water source heat pump installation is the retrofit of a commercial building in Washington D.C., which achieved a 40% reduction in energy consumption and a 44% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This showcases the potential of water-source heat pumps for reducing carbon footprint while providing efficient heating and cooling solutions.

Cost-Benefit Analysis Of Water Source Heat Pump Installations

The cost-benefit analysis of a water source heat pump installation takes into account the upfront costs associated with the installation and any recurring maintenance/energy expenses that may be required over its lifetime along with energy savings, increased comfort levels in buildings, long-term efficiency and environmental benefits.

The graph and the table is given below give insights into a cost analysis of WSHPs,

CriteriaCost Of Water Source Heat Pump Unit in $
Installation Cost2900 – 9500
Maintenance Cost550 – 750
Upfront Cost1500 – 3000

Energy Efficiency of Gas Heat Pumps

  • A well-designed and installed heat pump can improve overall building HVAC system performance by up to 25%
  • This translates to reducing heating bills by up to 12% because more incoming cold air is converted into warm air through radiant heating instead of traditional forced-air systems.
  • Additionally, this conversion boosts indoor air quality as fewer allergens are spread throughout the dwelling. 
  • Technological advancements allow for a higher coefficient of performance (CoP) for ground or surface source systems leading to enhanced energetic efficiencies compared to other traditional heating solutions.

 Environmental Benefits Of Using Water Source Heat Pumps

Water source heat pumps offer numerous environmental benefits when compared to traditional heating and cooling systems. 

  • WSHPs have high energy efficiency levels giving them a much more efficient energy-to-heat conversion rate.
  • WSHPs cut down on carbon emissions.
  • WSHPs are three times more efficient than regular water heaters which results in electricity bill savings and gives a sustainable practice.

Design Practices For Water Source Heat Pumps

Proper design of water source heat pumps is essential to maximize energy savings and minimize environmental impacts.

The design of a water source heat pump system is key for efficient energy utilization. Engineers must consider various factors such as fuel type, local climate, and building codes when designing the layout of these systems. Additionally, proper maintenance helps ensure optimal efficiency over time. Factors to be considered for successful design include

Fuel Type 

Different fuels require different approaches in their usage; hence, engineers should select a fuel that works best with the structure’s exact needs and parameters.

Local Climate

Buildings located in colder climates usually require higher capacity pumps while those situated in warmer areas can make do with lower power outputs since they have less demand throughout the year.

Building Codes 

It is essential to research each location’s relevant building codes about structural components like piping and ductwork so that necessary adjustments can be made accordingly during the initial set-up process of the water source heat pump system if it fails to meet current standards or performance requirements upon inspection or assessment by officials or contractors involved.

Installation Of Water Source Heat Pump Systems

Installing a water source heat pump is an easy process if a source of water is readily available on the property. The installation process must be carried out by a heat pump specialist.

Steps to Install Water Source Heat Pumps

  • Check whether a sufficient water source is available on the property.
  • Install a heat pump in a suitable place under the guidance of a technician following the instruction manual.
  • Connect the pipes to the heat pump and water source in such a way that it allows water to flow easily through it.
  • The pipe must be trenched 0.5m deep and 40cm wide for proper working.
  • At the edge of the water source, connect pipes to the pond mat(used to circulate brine -a mixture of water and refrigerant).
  • Install pond mats near the collectors and attach them to a corrosion-resistant stainless steel frame.
  • Finally connect the lines of the compressor, radiators, and hot water cylinder with the collectors and properly insulate the wires.
  • Test the functioning of WSHP, if it works efficiently then the installation is successful.

Maintenance Of Water Source Heat Pump Systems

Despite having very low maintenance requirements, regular maintenance is still important for water source heat pumps to ensure the best performance. 

Tune-ups from air conditioner installation, repair, and maintenance experts are recommended at least once a year before the start of every heating and cooling season. During these tune-ups, professionals can check refrigerant levels, filters, bearings in motors, and other parts as well as inspect the overall system.

Common Maintenance Tasks:

  • Inspecting fans & blowers
  • Check filter cleanliness
  • Replacing worn-out/missing insulation materials on ducts/pipes
  • Keeping air intakes clear of debris or any obstruction which could reduce airflow
  • Clean coils & evaporator drain pans regularly to ensure optimal operation efficiency

Potential Issues without Spring Tune-Up:

Uneven distribution of conditioned air throughout the home by dirty filters; the insufficient flow of hot or cold air due to dirt buildup on condenser coils; potential compressor damage if the refrigerant is not properly maintained; reduced energy efficiency due to insufficient lubrication on moving mechanical components such as fan motors.

Troubleshooting Tips For Water Source Heat Pumps

Common issues with water source heat pumps include low refrigerant levels (causing poor cooling performance), dirty filters (affecting airflow), and malfunctioning compressors (reducing system output) among others. 

To identify problems more quickly and accurately it’s important to call an experienced technician who has the equipment necessary for diagnosing faults caused by potentially defective components in your WSHP system.

Noise And Vibration Control In Water Source Heat Pump Systems

Sound and vibration control are critical in water source heat pump systems for ensuring both efficiency and comfort.

Improperly controlled sound and vibration can lead to the following aspects,

The effective technique used to reduce vibratory noise sources is,

Ductwork re-sizing

Larger ducts tend to absorb more sound produced by moving components within the system such as pumps; however, this technique should also factor in considerations like total pressure drop across the ductwork before implementation.

Isolation techniques 

Applied on pumps help diminish their associated vibrations; rigid pipe straps can isolate any piping from the walls where it runs which reduces the transfer of noise generated by flowing liquids inside them.

Recent advances in compressor technology and the integration of water-source heat pumps with renewable energy sources have revolutionized the way we think about sustainable heating.

  • Recent advancements in compressor technology for water source heat pumps have been instrumental in improving their energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. 
  • Developments such as variable-speed compressors, high-efficiency scroll compressors, and inverter compressor technology have allowed for improved thermal performance of WSHPs compared to conventional air-source systems.
  • These novel technologies also offer advantages including lower noise levels and improved longevity of the system’s components over time.
  • Variable speed compressors are designed to automatically adjust output based on the needs of the building at any given time, resulting in unparalleled control over overheating or cooling.
  • Furthermore, they allow a greater level of precision when operating across specific load ranges which further optimizes energy consumption by only providing enough power to meet demands efficiently while.

Integration Of Water Source Heat Pumps With Renewable Energy Sources

One way to increase the efficiency of water source heat pumps (WSHPs) and take advantage of renewable energy sources is by integrating them with other systems.

WSHPs can be integrated with either solar thermal systems or geothermal systems, both of which are commonly used means of producing renewable energy.

The integration allows for mixed-mode operation in which a combination of two heating technologies provides a more consistent environmental temperature than could be achieved with just one method alone.

For example, integration between water source heat pumps and solar thermal heating results in a system that uses both types when needed throughout the seasons. 

In summer months, more cooling power is required so less emphasis on using stored hot water from the solar panels is needed as the WSHP cools the building faster due to its larger capacity compressor.

The use of both technologies in tandem significantly reduces running costs by optimizing daily usage and allowing for maximum flexibility during times when peak load shifts require adjustment.

Integrating WSHP technology into an existing HVAC system also helps reduce equipment size requirements due to increased optimized overall performance enabling smaller but still powerful devices such as chillers and air handlers to do their job effectively.

Water source heat pumps (WSHPs) are becoming increasingly popular due to their affordability, energy efficiency, and environmental benefits. As such, the water source heat pump market is projected to reach record highs in the coming years.

Image Credit: Low Carbon Challenge Fund by Scottish Government is Licensed under (CC by 2.0)

Research in WSHP technology is exploring how advancements can be made that further increase energy savings and reduce emissions from WSHPs.

For example, novel air source heat pump designs have already been developed with potential improvements in the coefficient of performance ranging between 3% – 10% when compared to traditional single-stage compressors.

Similarly, advances in ground-source heat pump (GSHP) technologies could expand its capabilities outside just heating or cooling applications while also reducing installation costs significantly.

With GSHPs improving over time in both COP rate and operating cost reduction trends, there is an opportunity now to create more hybrid water–based loop solutions that include thermal collectors integrated into its sustainability profile based on groundwater sources rather than traditional district heating infrastructure networks.

Applications Of Water Source Heat Pumps In Different Sectors

Water source heat pumps are a versatile technology that can be used in residential, commercial, and industrial applications.

Water Source Heat Pumps in Residential Buildings

To ensure the most cost-effective and energy-efficient heating and cooling of a residential building, it is important to select an appropriately sized water source heat pump (WSHP) system.

  • When selecting or sizing a WSHP system to meet existing requirements within a particular home space or installation several aspects need consideration:
  • Initial expenses associated with installation costs; maintenance efforts needed; operating costs over time; the estimated lifespan of each part within the overall assembly along with measured SCOP/COP ratings.
  • It is determined by seasonally adjustable U-factors regarding surface area paneling used in conjunction; specifically pursuing the lowest achievable entering/leaving temperatures versus desired comfort level criteria set forth.

Water Source Heat Pumps In Commercial Buildings

Water source heat pumps (WSHPs) offer a sustainable and cost-effective method for heating and cooling commercial buildings.

They use submerged pipework to absorb energy from water sources such as lakes, ponds, rivers, or aquifers and are capable of providing up to 5 times the amount of energy they consume, making them among the most efficient HVAC systems available in terms of both performance and environmental impact.

In addition to their higher efficiency, compared to other alternatives WSHP systems require minimal infrastructure with no need for air handling units or conventional evaporator coils.

The design and installation of WSHPs for commercial buildings must be done carefully to achieve optimal performance levels. 

Water Source Heat Pumps In Industrial Process

Water source heat pumps offer a highly efficient and eco-friendly alternative to traditional HVAC systems for industrial process heating and cooling applications.

These systems are based on the simple principle that water has a much higher thermal capacity than air, allowing for increased efficiency in temperature regulation. 

By sourcing energy from available nearby bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, ponds, mines, or aquifers, WSHP systems can generate up to 50% more heating/cooling output when compared with air-based systems due to their improved moisture absorption capability.

For example, A compressed wood processing company installed an open-loop water source heat pump system comprising four 100 kW bundle units connected via two sedimentation tanks to reduce maintenance requirements while satisfying the custom cooling demands of their facility operations.

The result was reduced energy costs due to greater efficiency in maintaining environmental standards throughout summer months when compressor demand was particularly high on days with ambient temperatures above 28°C (82°F).

Water Source Heat Pumps For Heat Recovery And Waste Heat Utilization

Water source heat pumps (WSHPs) are energy-efficient HVAC systems that can recover waste heat and utilize it for heating or cooling in industrial and residential buildings.

ComponentsUses certain components to extract the latent thermal energy from the air, geothermal sources in the ground, or water sources nearby such as rivers or lakes.CompressorRefrigerant systemSpecial heat exchanger
AdvantagesImproved efficiencyLower operating costsAdvanced compressor technologyReduces loss during operationDo not emit any pollutants into the atmosphere 
ApplicationUsing them to  recover waste heat from industrial processesProviding part of a building’s indoor heating needs through integrated district energy networks

Water Source Heat Pumps In District Heating And Cooling Systems

WSHPs are well-suited to large-scale applications since they use waste heat sources, such as underground water or seawater, for both heating and cooling.

  • This means that the energy output of WSHP systems can remain consistent all year round at much higher efficiency rates than traditional HVAC systems. 
  • The increased operating efficiency also reduces the amount of primary energy required to run the system, making it much more environmentally friendly compared with other options.
  • Moreover, there is a wide variety of possible designs when implementing WSHP technology into district heating and cooling systems; open loop, closed loop, and horizontal looping methods are all available depending on specific project needs.

Integration Of Water Source Heat Pumps With Solar Thermal Systems

The integration of water source heat pumps (WSHPs) with solar thermal systems can significantly decrease energy consumption, reduce environmental impact, and cost savings.

ProcessSolar thermal systems use the sun’s energy to generate hot water and air for residential, commercial, or industrial buildings. 
AdvantageWSHPs with solar thermal energies can become a source of renewable energy as they extract and store heat produced by a WSHP system.It operates when there is no sunshine available to provide sufficient heat demand.
Technical Components Used For IntegrationAir collector is used in heating applications such as radiant flooring or fan coil units.It is coupled with a traditional low-temperature solar panel solely to produce domestic hot water (DHW).
The mixing box that connects both panels regulates the maximum temperature value passing through it to prevent any damage suffered during the summer months.
Standard ControlsIt is included to optimize the operation and involves the following processesControlling and protecting against freezingWell-maintaining appropriate DHW temperatures during winter season operations.

Geothermal And Hybrid Water Source Heat Pump Systems

Geothermal and Hybrid Water Source Heat Pump Systems (WSHPs) are efficient HVAC solutions that use water from nearby bodies of water, underground sources, or solar energy to extract heat or provide cooling for buildings.

These systems provide great energy savings over traditional air-source HVAC systems due to their ability to efficiently draw in warmth from the soil or store up warm air during the day which is released at night.

The upfront cost of Geothermal and Hybrid WSHP system installation can be quite significant compared to conventional heating and cooling options but will often give you a return on your investment within 5 years in most cases due to its long-term efficiency gains.

Factors such as pre-existing infrastructure limitations, size requirements, and soil/water quality considerations among others should be taken into account when installing a geothermal system or hybrid WSHP since it could influence performance by 50% either way.

Furthermore, specialized technicians trained in proper maintenance practices must carry out regular checkups on numerous components embedded in these complex configurations thus keeping the system running optimally all year round while reducing their lost life span.

Water Quality In Water Source Heat Pump Systems

Water quality is a key factor in the performance of water source heat pumps. One of the most important factors to consider when installing a water source heat pump is the quality of the water that will be used for operation.  

  • Poor-quality water can potentially cause efficiency and maintenance issues with a WSHP system, resulting in an inefficient system that requires frequent repairs.
  • Water with high levels of sediment or other contaminants can damage pumps, clog pipes, reduce flow rate and pressure, hinder heat exchange capacities, and lead to reduced efficiency of the overall system over time.
  • In order to protect against these problems it’s essential to ensure adequate filtration & treatment solutions are implemented before entering a well or any other water source into a heat/cooling loop.

Thermal Energy Storage In Water Source Heat Pump Systems

Thermal energy storage is an important component of water source heat pump systems and can help to increase the efficiency, performance, and cost savings of WSHP installations.

There are a variety of thermal energy storage methods that can be employed in conjunction with water source heat pumps. 

Aquifer thermal energy storage (ATES)

Aquifer thermal energy storage (ATES) uses underground aquifers to store hot or cold water for use when needed by a building’s heating or cooling system.

ATES requires excavating deep wells into an aquifer which serve both as supply and return lines for the thermal energy loop. 

Additionally, tanks of hot and cold liquid are used in experimental research conducted on thermally driven split cycle chillers coupled with tank-based energy storage systems.

These require additional saltwater circulation pumps between the buffer tanks so that stored solar thermal energy can be made available during times when there is no direct sun input.

Water-to-water (W2W) as well as water-to-air systems also make use of theoretical energy storage techniques.

Wherein a given amount of model fluid such as glycol/water mixture passes through two tubes within one medium-sized buffer tank containing either hot liquids or a direct exchanger coil surrounding the liquid from outside tube walls afterward this collected amount must go through the regular process over again.

Advantages of Thermal Energy Storage

  • Improved demand response capabilities due to large capacity which helps bring down expensive peak electricity usage
  • Increased efficiency by optimizing available power sources
  • Better power quality maintenance thus controlling harmonics caused repeated start-stop signals during operations based on time clock events taking placed
  • Reduced greenhouse gas concentrations when operating condition called upon occasions arise like continuous chill duty required maintaining robust steady speeds allowing setpoints exceed thereby achieving desired end goals according to original base load involving complicated profile accordingly


Water source heat pumps are becoming increasingly popular with homeowners, businesses and industrial companies in both cold and hot climates. They provide energy-saving solutions that are proven to be more efficient than traditional HVAC systems while reducing CO2 emissions.

Heat Pump