Space conditioning is responsible for the majority of carbon dioxide emission and fossil fuel consumption during a building's life cycle. The exploitation of renewable energy sources, together with efficiency enhancement, is the most promising solution. An innovative layout for ground-source heat pumps, featuring upstream thermal energy storage (uTES), was already proposed and proved to be as effective as conventional systems while requiring lower impact geothermal installations thanks to its ability to decouple ground and heat-pump energy fluxes. This work presents further improvements to the layout, obtained using more compact and efficient thermal energy storage containing phase-change materials (PCMs). The switch from sensible- to latent-heat storage has the twofold benefit of dramatically reducing the volume of storage (by a factor of approximately 10) and increasing the coefficient of performance of the heat pump. During the daily cycle, the PCMs are continuously melted/solidified, however, the average storage temperature remains approximately constant, allowing the heat pump to operate closer to its maximum efficiency. A life cycle assessment (LCA) was performed to study the environmental benefits of introducing PCM-uTES during the entire life cycle of the system in a comparative approach.
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