Home | Français | Russian

Geothermal Heat Pump Theory

Introduction to Heat Pumps

The name heat pump is a relatively new phrase to most people in the heating business and as such the heat pump is viewed as a new innovation to enter the 80's market. However, heat pump is only another manner of saying refrigeration device and we are all familiar with our conditioners, home refrigerators, dehumidifiers, and ice-cream coolers. These devices could also be correctly termed heat pumps since the principle of operation is to remove heat from one place and transfer it to another.

Through common consensus the industry designates a refrigerating device by its method of utilization as either a heat pump or air conditioner. If the prime reason for using a refrigerating device is to produce cooling, then the device is commonly termed a cooler. Similarly, if the prime function of a refrigerating device is to produce heating, then it is commonly called a heat pump.


A refrigerating device which can deliver both heating and cooling to a given space is also regarded as a heat pump. For example, take the household refrigerator. It cools the food inside it and delivers the extracted heat to the kitchen via a system of coils at the back of the unit. Nearly everyone has noticed the heat from these coils and perhaps wondered where it came from. All refrigerating devices produce heating and cooling simultaneously. Now that you know we are referring to a refrigerating device when speaking of heat pumps, you will also realize that heat pumps have been around for a long time and are not new technology for the 90's.

The principle of the ``heat pump'' or refrigeration machine was discovered during the 18th century by Lord Kelvin, a prominent British scientist of that age. In 1834, Jacob Perkins, an American engineer, designed an apparatus which artificially produced ice and was the forerunner of our modern vapor compression systems.

In 1918, Kelvinator Company marketed the first automatic refrigerator and in 1926, General Electric introduced the first "hermetic'' or sealed compressors, a design which is still in use today. During this same period, Carrier Co. successfully introduced automatic refrigeration units for comfort cooling. Since this time, growth in the industry has been phenomenal. In the future, heat pumps will play an ever increasing role in heating as they have done so long in cooling.