Can Air Source Heat Pumps Be Used For Cooling?

Air source heat pumps can be a very efficient heating method for your home, with high coefficients of performance helping to generate more units of heat than units of electricity consumed.

It can be possible to use air source heat pumps for cooling as well as heating. This function is built into many air source heat pump systems, but they must be used with the correct setup in order to take advantage.

Air source heat pumps offer multiple benefits because they can be used for heating and cooling simply by reversing the process depending on the season and temperature.

Our air source heat pump has the ability to cool our home as well as providing heat for central heating and domestic hot water.

Air Source Heat Pump
Air source heat pumps, like our one shown above, can often have the ability to cool a home as well as heat under the right setup

We discuss more about our heat pump and the ability for air source heat pumps to be used for cooling in more detail below.

Can Air Source Heat Pumps Cool?

Both air to air and air to water heat pumps can be used to cool. While air source heat pumps can primarily be used to extract warmth from outside air and deliver it inside a building, this process can often be reversed, and heat transferred from inside to the outside for effective cooling. explains:

An air-source heat pump can provide [both] efficient heating and cooling for your home.

While we only use our own air source heat pump (ASHP) for heating purposes, it can still be used to cool a home with the right setup.

Our air to water ASHP is an Ecodan and is installed on the side of our home adjacent to the garage wall.

Air Source Heat Pump & Air Conditioning Units
Our air source heat pump (right) installed on the side of our house

Mitsubishi Electric Ecodan explains that for cooling:

A heat pump can be used for more than just heating and hot water preparation. Systems featuring this equipment also provide ideal living comfort in summer. In the warmer months a reversible heat pump can be used to cool the rooms to pleasant temperatures.’

Mitsubishi Electric

We haven’t personally used our air source heat pump for cooling as we live in a milder climate and we have a couple of air conditioning units if we really need it, but the option for cooling is available with our model of heat pump. See our article comparing air source heat pumps to air conditioning units for more information.

The Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) provides the cooling efficiency of a heat pump, in a similar way that the Coefficient of Performance (COP) is used to describe the efficiency for the amount the heat that is generated from electricity (more about COP here).

For our particular model of air source heat pump the cooling efficiency is shown below (taken from the owner’s manual).

The cooling data for our own Mitsubishi Electric air source heat pump

Our ASHP has a good EER of between 2.80 and 4.50. The greater the EER, the greater the cooling performance for the amount of electricity consumed.

An installer will be able to provide an air source heat pump that can provide cooling as well as heating.

How Air Source Heat Pumps Provide Cooling

Air source heat pumps can work in reverse to help providing cooling for a home, extracting heat from inside rather than outside.

Natural Resources Canada explains:

Air source heat pumps use the outdoor air as a sink to reject energy when in cooling mode. For air to air heat pumps, air is cooled by passing over a coil. For air to water heat pumps in cooling mode, thermal energy is extractor from the hydronic [water-based] system and rejected to the outside air.’

Natural Resources Canada

For an air source heat pump to provide cooling for a home:

  1. A heat pump system will extract warm air from a home into the indoor unit. This is where the indoor coil sits.
  2. Liquid refrigerant flows through the indoor coil. The coil works to cool the warm air from inside your home.
  3. The hot air inside your home is absorbed into the refrigerant as it passed through the indoor coil unit. The liquid refrigerant boils into a gas.
  4. As the gas passes through to the compressor from the reversing valve, it’s pressurized. The pressurized gas heats up as its volume is reduced and moves to the outdoor unit.
  5. The outdoor unit cools the hot refrigerant as it passes through, and the heat is released into the air. As the refrigerant cools, it returns to liquid form.
  6. The refrigerant liquid then moves from the outside unit to the inside unit, where the expansion valve cools it further. It then returns to the indoor coil, where the cycle repeats.

This video below from the Canadian Government explains how air source heat pumps can be used for cooling as well as heating:

Do All Heat Pumps Have Cooling?

Air source heat pumps can typically have the ability to cool a home. However, the cooling efficiency and optimum temperature ranges for cooling to be at its most effective will differ between models of heat pump and will require the heat pump to be installed alongside the right indoor setup.

Air Source Heat Pump Types For Cooling

There are two main types of air to air source heat pumps:

  • Ductless heat pumps use no ductwork at all and instead have an outdoor unit that holds the condenser and compressor and an indoor handling unit. These connect by suction tubing and transfer refrigerant by a power cable and drain for condensate. Efficient and innovative, ductless air source heat pumps embody the most current technology and design.
  • Ducted heat pumps use existing ductwork or installed ductwork. A ducted air source heat pump transfers cool air through ducts that feed each room.

The majority of air to air source heat pump systems are split systems. With one coil outside and one coil inside, the ducts connect to the indoor fan.

The other system, a package system, has two coils and a fan outside. The cooled air transfers into the house through a duct that connects to the unit outside.

See our article comparing ductless to ductless air source heat pumps for more information.

Air to water heat pumps (like the type we have) will be connected up to the central heating system, such as hot water tank, radiators and underfloor heating, and can also potentially be used for domestic hot water purposes if required.

Air Source Heat Pump Pipes
The pipes out the back of our heat pump that can carry the heat to or from the inside of our home
Air Source Heat Pump Water Heater Tank
Our air to water type heat pump provides heat for our central heating and hot water, which is stored in this tank inside our home. Further apparatus may be required for cooling when using an air to water heat pump system

Air to water heat pumps may not work with in-floor systems and so an air handler and ductwork may be required in order to provide cooling for a home.

Heat from the air in a home would be absorbed into the cold water running through the air handler and a blow would force the resulting cooler air out into the home.

An example of an air handling unit that can work with an air source heat pump to provide both heating and cooling

The extracted heat would be released back outside at the heat pump unit.

See our article comparing air to water and air to air heat pumps for more information.

Benefits of Air Source Heat Pumps For Cooling

From cleaner energy to affordable systems, am air source heat pump offers multiple benefits for cooling.

These include:

  • Efficiency – Compared to gas, oil, and propane heating systems, an air source heat pump delivers more cooling efficiency than any other method. Statistics show that the cooling costs are over three times less than other cooling systems in an average season.
  • Customization – You can customize air source heat pumps to your particular indoor space. With the option for ducted or ductless, you can direct the cool air to any part of your home.
  • Affordability – The cost and installation expenses can be recouped back over time. In addition, because an air-source heat pump can reverse depending on the season, the system as a whole can be efficient and cost-effective.
  • Cleaner Energy – If you care about your carbon footprint, installing an air-source heat pump can help reduce your footprint. This is because they emit zero carbon emissions. A heat pump is especially effective in cold climates in helping to reduce emissions compared to traditional means of heating a home. When the electricity used to power an ASHP also comes from renewable sources such as solar, it can be a very sustainable system.
  • Longevity – The air-source heat pump generally lasts up to twenty years and offers reliable cooling during the hottest summer days.
  • Low Maintenance – Air-source heat pumps need annual maintenance to run well for many years. To ensure optimal heat pump performance, conduct regular filter changes, remove dust and leaves from the outdoor unit, evaluate refrigerant levels, and check for leaks. An installer can do these tasks easily through a maintenance contract.

What Is the Cost To Install an Air Source Heat Pump For Cooling?

The cost to install an air-source heat pump unit is typically between $3,500 and $5,000 per ductless unit. Central heat pumps with ducts may cost between $12,000 and $20,000.

However, this varies according to your location, the type of unit you choose, and specific installation costs.

The following details will help you understand the price:

  • The brand of air-source heat pump will impact the cost. Luckily, there’s a wide range of brands to choose from and one for every budget.
  • Existing ductwork can reduce costs. If an installer can use them as part of your new system, it will cut the costs of labor and materials.
  • Installation tasks affect the cost. For example, if an installer encounters tricky conditions or wiring issues, this will increase the price.
  • Higher efficiency units cost more than lower-rated units. But keep in mind that the most efficient units offer the best energy savings.
  • Pay attention to the SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio), which shows the measure of an average cooling season. While the SEER might be high, the energy savings can offset the cost.

The general cost is typically between $3,000-$7,000, depending on your home, ductwork, and unexpected factors during installation.

See our article on how much it costs to install an air source heat pump for more information.

Can Air Source Heat Pumps Be Used For Cooling?

Air source heat pumps typically come with the ability to cool a home as well as heat.

They can be setup up to reverse the heating process and instead help to remove heat from the air in a home and expel it out through the heat pump located outside. This is in contrast to a heat pump extracting heat from the air outside a home for heating purposes.

Using a standard air to water heat pump setup for cooling may not be feasible and so either further apparatus may need to be installed, such as an air handler, alongside the standard indoor apparatus, or an air to air heat pump can be more suitable for cooling purposes.

Further Reading

How An Air Source Heat Pump Works

Parts Of An Air Source Heat Pump Explained

Where To Install An Air Source Heat Pump

Air Source Heat Pump Installation Requirements

Pros & Cons Of Air Source Heat Pumps