Domestic heat pumps

A geothermal heat pump or ground source heat pump is a system that allows heat to be transferred from the ground (heat source) or back into the ground (heat sink). These set-ups can be used to efficiently heat or cool buildings, and are becoming more popular

How does the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) view geothermal heat pumps?

Under the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967, activities involving geothermal energy are required to operate under what is referred to as a safety management system (SMS). This aims to protect the occupational safety and health of any workforce.

All geothermal activities from exploration to drilling, development and recovery require approval from DMP before starting. This includes developing an SMS for the proposed activity.

Exclusions from the legislative requirements

Exclusions apply when the geothermal activity:

  • is carried out for the purposes of a small-scale ground-source heat pump, such as for heating and cooling private domestic dwellings
  • involves small-scale recovery of geothermal energy not for a commercial purpose (e.g. not for profit research, charity, teaching functions, personal use).

What is meant by a commercial purpose?

To operate for a commercial purpose, the following factors apply:

  • separate legal entity
  • able to yield or make a profit
  • suitable or fit for a wide, popular market
  • suitable for or catering to business rather than private use.

Collective geothermal heating and cooling systems, such as those for an office or apartment block, would be considered commercial as the system requirements are suitable for a wide market.

Do I need to obtain confirmation of an exclusion?

Confirmation of non-commercial operations must be sought in writing at all times. The only exceptions are:

  • for the use of small-scale ground-source heat pumps where vertical drilling is purely for domestic home systems.
  • where no drill rig is required on site – such as installing a horizontal ground-coupled heat exchanger as part of an energy recovery ventilation system for personal use.

FAQs on managing safety associated with geothermal energy - information sheet - 59 Kb

FAQs on regulatory requirements for managing safety associated with geothermal energy exploration, drilling and recovery


For any enquiries contact the Critical Risks Team at Resources Safety:
Ph: +61 (08) 9358 8001
Fax: +61 (08) 9358 8000