With the current movement towards net zero energy buildings, many technologies are promoted with emphasis on their superior energy efficiency. The variable refrigerant flow (VRF) and ground source heat pump (GSHP) systems are probably the most competitive technologies among these. However, there are few studies reporting the energy efficiency of VRF systems compared with GSHP systems. In this article, a preliminary comparison of energy efficiency between the air-source VRF and GSHP systems is presented. The computer simulation results show that GSHP system is more energy efficient than the air-source VRF system for conditioning a small office building in two selected US climates. In general, GSHP system is more energy efficient than the air-source VRV system, especially when the building has significant heating loads. For buildings with less heating loads, the GSHP system could still perform better than the air-source VRF system in terms of energy efficiency, but the resulting energy savings may be marginal.
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