Are Air Source Heat Pumps Expensive To Run? (Real Example)

Many households have turned to installing air source heat pumps in order to help reduce carbon footprints and rely less on traditional heating fuels.

However, electricity energy costs can often be more expensive than gas energy costs and so is an air source heat pump still expensive to run?

Air source heat pumps can be less expensive to run compared to other traditional heating systems, but the efficiency and overall cost reduction can depend on the local climate and electrical energy unit costs, and the heating system that’s being replaced.

The running costs for our air source heat pump is cheaper overall than what a traditional gas heating system would cost.

However, it’s a fairly modern and efficient unit that was installed when the house was built in 2017, meaning that the internal apparatus has been set up from the start to make the most of the heat pump, such as a hot water tank, and radiators and underfloor heating throughout the house.

Air Source Heat Pump
Our air source heat pump has similar running costs to a gas heating system (for now)

This article will detail under which conditions air source heat pumps will save you money and when they can be more expensive. We’ll also give some advice on how to prepare your home for an air source heat pump and maximize your overall energy efficiency to help keep running costs to a minimum.

Is An Air Source Heat Pump Expensive To Run?

Air source heat pumps are often retrofitted into existing properties to replace an existing gas or oil heating system.

While the initial purchase and installation costs of air source heat pumps can be relatively high, much of the costs can be recuperated over the lifetime of the unit through savings in running expenses.

Air source heat pumps are electric-only appliances. They only need an electricity supply to run and take the heat energy available within the outside air to be used for heating indoors.

Air Source Heat Pump Power Supply
Air source heat pumps only use electricity for heat generation

We spend just over £200 ($260) in electricity costs per month on average, which includes the running of our air source heat pump that we rely on for both heating and domestic hot water.

This is in comparison to family members spending approximately the same amount per year to run a gas central heating system for a similar sized house.

On average, you can expect that the cost of running an air source heat pump for heating will be no more or no less than a gas heating system.

While running an air source heat pump may not be cheaper or more expensive, the main benefit to many lies in using a renewable energy source to heat your home.

With rising gas prices, air source heat pumps are becoming a more affordable way to heat a home.

Electricity costs can still be high in some locations however, and so it’s always important to speak to installer to understand the real installation and running costs for an air source heat pump for your particular situation.

When Air Source Heat Pumps Can Be Less Expensive To Run

Different heating systems convert varying amounts of electricity into heat energy.

Air source heat pumps can be up to 350 percent efficient, meaning that they generate 3.5 kWh of usable heat energy for every 1 kWh of electricity consumed.

This number is dictated by the coefficient of performance (COP) of an air source heat pump.

The higher the COP, the more heat energy can be generated from each unit of electricity, meaning lower running costs when keeping home temperatures at the same level.

The COP for our own air source heat pump is stated on the information plate on the external unit.

Air Source Heat Pump Plate
Our heat pump generates over 3 units of heat for every 1 unit of electricity

See our articles on air source heat pump COP and air source heat pump efficiency for more information.

In contrast, gas heaters are around 90 percent efficient and electric heaters are one-to-one. With figures like those, there are plenty of circumstances when an air source heat pump can save on running costs.

Living in a Temperate, Steady Climate

Heat pumps can use less electricity—and therefore cost you less money—in places that already have comfortable steady temperatures. When the outside temperature is 65 °F (18 °C), and you want your home to be 70 °F (21 °C), you only need to heat up by a couple of degrees.

But if the outdoors is only 20 °F (-6 °C), your pump will demand a lot more energy to bridge that gap.

An air source heat pump will need to work harder, and use more electricity as a result, when the temperature difference between the indoor and outdoor air is higher, such as during the colder winter months.

Having an Energy Efficient Home

A home better at holding in heat will require less energy to heat up overall, no matter the system.

With air source heat pumps, you can only really save money if your home can hold onto the heat that the pump transfers.

You’re Switching from Oil or Gas

According to data from the Northeast to Mid-Atlantic region, switching to an air source heat pump from oil or electric can save you hundreds of dollars per year by cutting your energy expenditure by thousands of kilowatt-hours under the right conditions:

  • From oil displacement: The savings average $300 per year (£225)
  • From electric resistance: Savings average around $455 per year (£345)
  • From oil systems: Savings can reach $950 per year (£715)

These numbers will vary based on the climate you live in, the amount of heating you regularly use, and how many separate pumps you install in your home.

You Need Both Regular Heating and Cooling

A perk of air source heat pumps is that they can not only heat your home but can also double as air conditioners—and efficient ones at that.

Air source heat pumps can cool up to twice as efficiently as standard air conditioners, saving you on energy costs when the weather gets uncomfortably warm. It also saves you the time and labor of installing an air conditioning system distinct from your heating system.

See our article comparing air source heat pumps and air conditioning for more information.

Generating Your Own Electricity

It can be possible to pair the running of an air source heat pump with solar panel electricity generation for a self-sufficient heating system.

When Air Source Heat Pumps Can Be More Expensive To Run

There are some caveats for all the perks that air source heat pumps can bring to your home.

Unfortunately, not every household will benefit financially from installing an air source heat pump if they experience drastically variable weather conditions, have an uninsulated home, or if the system itself is installed poorly.

Very Cold or Hot Weather

In more extreme temperatures, air source heat pumps require more electricity to warm or cool the air in your home. Increased electricity usage reduces the heat pump’s efficiency and drives up the costs of running it.

Air source heat pumps transfer rather than generate heat. Below 10 to 25 °F (between -12 and -4 °C), air source heat pumps must consume substantially more electricity to warm your home because there’s less heat to transfer.

Similarly, a heat pump must use more energy to cool your home at very high temperatures.

Poor Placement & Installation

Excessive winds can interfere with airflow into the outdoor unit and impede its efficiency. If the outdoor unit is placed in an area with a lot of wind, it will struggle to get enough air to extract heat.

Air Source Heat Pump
Our air source heat pump installed down the side of the house and out of the wind

See our articles on where to install an air source heat pump and air source heat pump installation requirements for more information.

Unprepared Home Infrastructure

An air source heat pump can only run as efficiently as the rest of the home will allow.

If the house itself can’t hold onto heat, the pump will have to use more electricity to maintain the same level of warmth as a well-insulated house.

Therefore, consider doing the following before installing an air source heat pump. It will make both the installation and the long-term running of the pump less costly:

  • Pre-program thermostats: On its own, pre-setting your thermostats can save you around 10 percent on your energy bills.
  • Seal ducts, crawlspaces, and other small pathways.
  • Insulate the attic and walls.

Air source heat pumps extract and release heat more slowly over time compared to traditional gas heating systems. As a result, it can take time for a house to warm up to desired temperatures.

To help make this heat be released more efficiently, air source heat pumps are typically installed alongside larger surface area radiators and/or underfloor heating.

Air Source Heat Pump Radiator
Using modern indoor heating apparatus can help efficiency and reduce running costs

See our articles on using air source heat pumps with radiators and using with underfloor heating for more information.

A water heater tank will also be required alongside an immersion heater if using an air source heat pump to also provide domestic hot water.

Air Source Heat Pump Hot Water Tank
A heat pump will need to be complimented with a hot water tank for domestic hot water

When installing an air source heat pump, many internal components may also need to be upgraded such as radiators and hot water tanks to ensure that a house is making the most of the heat pump.

A heat pump that’s working with an outdated and inefficient internal heating infrastructure will need to work harder and be more expensive to run as a result.

Is An Air Source Heat Pump Expensive To Run?

For most insulated households, the moderate to robust long-term savings of air source heat pumps can help to cover the typically high cost of purchase and installation.

The running costs of an air source heat pump can be similar to gas and oil heating running costs, but the main benefits lie in heating a home through a renewable energy source.

As gas and oil prices continue to climb over the years, air source heat pumps will become comparatively more and more affordable to run.

Further Reading

How Much It Costs To Install And Run An Air Source Heat Pump

Air Source Heat Pumps vs Gas Boilers Compared

Are Air Source Heat Pumps Cost Effective?

Will Air Source Heat Pumps Get Cheaper?

Do Air Source Heat Pumps Run All The Time?