I'm wondering how to compare the efficiencies of vertical and horizontal ground loops for heating. [Assumptions follow, please correct if any are wrong!]

The biggest differences seem to be the higher cost of vertical loops vs the land required for horizontal loops, so therefore I'm having trouble finding any information on how to compare the energy input/output of similarly sized systems.

I'm interested comparing the two systems, so at the risk of getting off the question: in my area, average winter temp is a low of -6F/-20C, and a high of 12F/-11C, with cold snaps of -40deg. Frost gets to 70in/ 1.7m in the colder winters. If comparisons want to use that info, I would be very curious.


  • $\begingroup$ When using vertical - make sure of the geology - I know of one instalkation were the water came out colder than it went in... The "survey" did not find the cold spring at 30m down... $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Commented May 18, 2019 at 20:06

1 Answer 1


Geothermal heating requires detailed gathering of several kind of data for planning and then you can judge which system is better for your particular case.

Some of Those factors are

  • Outdoor design temperature (coldest night of the winter usually published by the building authority),

  • Soils and geology data (frost line and aggregate of the layers of soil at 10-20- 50 feet)

  • Tonnage of the heat pump, related to the size of your home and its thermal leakiness, etc.

  • The availability of land.

Vertical ground loops cost more but don't need a large area of land so they lend themselves more to urban areas, they may need high pressure plumbing and bigger pumps.

Here are schematic diagrams of , horizontal loop horizontal loop

and vertical loop, --- vertical loop

There are courses that teach how to estimate and design an efficient systems, International Ground Source Heat Pump Association has a course called, IGSHPA training. Here is the course

There are people who have installed their system after taking similar courses, but one needs to check with the manufacturer of the pumps to see what kind of a warranty restriction the may have on installer qualification.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.