Are Air Source Heat Pumps Any Good?

Air source heat pumps work much like refrigerators in reverse and absorb heat stored within outside air and distribute it into an indoor space.

Unlike conventional heating systems, heat pumps generate heat from a renewable energy source, but despite their sustainable technology benefits are they any good at heating a home?

Air source heat pumps can be a great source of heat for well-insulated houses that are equipped with the necessary central heating apparatus. However, without the right internal heating setup an air source heat pump may struggle to release the heat into a home.

Our air source heat pump has been working perfecting since being installed in our home in 2017 and provides all the heat we require for both central heating and domestic hot water.

Air Source Heat Pump
Our air source heat pump does a very good job of heating our home

However, it was installed when the house was built, and so underfloor heating and large radiators were also installed to help release the heat generated by the heat pump more efficiently. Our modern insulated house also helps to keep the heat in more effectively.

We discuss more about whether air source heat pumps are any good in more detail below.

Are Air Source Heat Pumps Any Good?

Air source heat pumps (ASHP’s) are becoming a more and more popular way of generating heat for a home as traditional heating systems such as gas are looking to be phased out.

ASHP’s can help to reduce the reliance on non-renewable energy sources, and when the electricity used to power a heat pump also comes from renewable sources then an air source heat pump can be a very sustainable and carbon friendly way to heat a home.

From our experience our air source heat pump works very well in providing both central heating and hot water in the 5+ years we’ve been using it.

We live in a mild climate where heat pumps can typically perform at their best, and we’ve never had any problems with it.

Air Source Heat Pump
Our air source heat pumps generates heat even in very low temperatures but our modern house with good insulation and large radiators helps make the most of it

Air source heat pumps have a number of advantages and can be very good when installed correctly and used with the right heating setup.

However, if you’re in the market for an air source heat pump, you’ll have to factor in the downsides of owning one.

These can include the high initial cost of installation, and further increased costs if the central heating system apparatus such as hot water tank and radiators must be upgraded. It must also be understood that heat pumps need be used to provide warmth over time rather than short bursts.

Our air source heat pump was installed when the house was built and so the heating system inside the house was designed with the use of the heat pump in mind.

Air Source Heat Pump Water Heater Tank
The apparatus inside the house such as the hot water tank was designed and installed alongside the heat pump to work well together

When retrofitting an air source heat pump into an older home with existing heating setup, an installer will need to understand how well the heating system would work with the new heat pump and advise accordingly on what to also upgrade inside the house.

Without also upgrading a home with underfloor heating or larger radiators (or more radiators in general), the user may not see the whole benefits of using an air source heat pump.

Properly insulating an older home is also important when installing a heat pump otherwise the heat may dissipate too quickly for it to be an effective heating method.

According to a Global Market Insights report, the air source heat pump market was worth $48 billion in 2020 and is projected to exceed $77 billion by 2028. This noteworthy market forecast begs the question: why are more and more homeowners making the switch to air source heat pumps?

We cover factors that contribute to the growing demand for these forms of heating system in more detail below, as well as their constraints.

Energy Efficiency

Unlike traditional boilers and furnaces, air source heat pumps run solely on electricity.

Even better, they can come with a high coefficient of performance or energy efficiency.

Most air source heat pumps have a coefficient of performance (COP) of 3 or 4. For every unit of electricity that an air source heat pump consumes, it typically generates three or more units of heat energy. In other words, they produce three times more energy than what they consume.

The COP for our own air source heat pump is shown on its data plate and can generate up to over 4 units of heat energy for every unit of electricity used.

Air Source Heat Pump Info Plate
The COP for our air source heat pump is shown on the info plate on the outside unit

We explain more about air source heat pump COP here.

Cost Savings

Higher energy efficiency can mean higher cost savings over the life of an air source heat pump.

In 2017, the Center for Energy and Environment presented a report on the performance of air source heat pumps in cold climates. Compared to furnaces, they found that heat pumps offered higher cost reductions: 33% for ducted systems and 53% for ductless units.

Apart from its energy efficiency, what makes air source heat pumps better financially is that they can be designed for year-round temperature control. There may be no need to purchase both a heater and an air conditioner if you have an air source heat pump at home.

Good for the Environment

Traditional furnaces and boilers burn natural gas, which contributes to high levels of carbon emissions.

Air source heat pumps use electricity to distribute renewable heat that’s always present within the outside air, making them more environmentally friendly.

The UK government has even promoted the use of air source heat pumps. Through the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, it has subsidized homeowners who switch from fuel-powered systems to heat pumps. The current incentive is the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

Moreover, a report published in the Environmental Research Letters covered the environmental impact of residential air source heat pumps. It presented that high adoption rates of these heat pumps can significantly reduce carbon emissions.

Low Maintenance

As with most equipment, an air source heat pump needs regular service and maintenance.

However, air source heat pumps only typically require a visit from a professional technician once a year.

Cleaning and replacing filters, removing debris, and cleaning parts are only the things you need to do to keep an air source heat pump up and running. As long as you regularly maintain yours, it’ll provide you with warm and cool air for up to 25 years.

See our article on air source heat pump maintenance for more information.

Reversible Cooling and Heating Modes

Need heat during winter? There are a variety of heating systems to choose from out there. But if you need to cool down your home with just one HVAC unit, an air source heat pump will surely come in handy.

As mentioned, air source heat pumps transfer heat from outdoors to indoors. But what makes them unique is that they can come with reversing valves.

A heat pump reversing valve lets you direct the flow of the refrigerant in the opposite direction. When activated, the valve enables the unit to draw in heat from an indoor space to eject it outdoors, in turn cooling down a home.

See our article on air source heat pump and cooling.

Lower Heat Output

If you prefer instant widespread heat, an air source heat pump might not be the best investment.

Air source heat pumps feature a lower heat output than fuel-powered boilers, so they’re typically slower at warming cold homes.

A few solutions to this disadvantage are proper insulation and larger radiators, and since floors don’t need to be as hot as radiators to generate the same amount of heat, an air source heat pump is the perfect system to pair with underfloor heating.

When used with the right setup that allows the heat to be released into a home over time such as large radiators and underfloor heating, an air source heat pump can be even better than other traditional heating systems.

Air Source Heat Pump Radiator
Modern and large radiators used with our air source heat pump

Lower Efficiency In Freezing Temperatures

In places with mild winters, air source heat pumps can serve as great source of warmth.

But while they can still work within temperatures of 23 to -13°F (-5 to -25°C), they aren’t as efficient in colder winters.

As outdoor temperatures drop, so too does the efficiency of this heating system. Because an air source heat pump relies on outdoor air temperature, it’ll consume more energy to extract heat from colder temperatures.

Our air source heat pump can work at very low temperatures and we find that the house can take longer to warm in the colder months, but this just means leaving the heating on for longer and isn’t a nuisance.

Air Source Heat Pump
Air source heat pumps can work less efficiently in colder temperatures but can run for longer to provide the same heating effect over time

See our articles on how an air source heat pump works in winter and using an air source heat pump in cold climates for more information.

Higher Initial Costs

The prices of air source heat pumps can range from $5,000 to $10,000. Meanwhile, the total cost of these units and their installation can average around $9,000 to $17,000.

But while the initial cost of installing one seems high, the cost savings can be worth it in the long run.

Since this heating system has a relatively high coefficient of performance, it can still heat your home without resulting in skyrocketing energy bills.

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

Generates A Low Noise

Although air source heat pumps don’t take up too much space, they do need to be installed outdoors.

Since they operate with fans and compressors, you’ll have to consider the noise they produce and how it may affect you and your neighbors.

From a distance of 3 feet (0.91 m) away, an air source heat pump can generate noise levels of up to 60 decibels, which is as loud as a normal conversation.

If you’re planning to have an ASHP installed, it’s best to place it away from any bedroom.

Our air source heat pump is installed on the side of the garage away from any windows and doors.

Air Source Heat Pump & Air Conditioning Units
Our air source heat pump (right) is installed down the side of the house out the way

See our article on air source heat pump noise for more information.

Are Air Source Heat Pumps Any Good?

For higher cost savings, an air source heat pump is undoubtedly an excellent choice of heating system, especially if you can cover the initial cost for the installation and unit itself and understand that this cost will be repaid over time.

While it has a lower heat output than other systems and lower efficiency in freezing temperatures, its high coefficient of performance more than makes up for these drawbacks.

What’s more, air source heat pumps produce lower greenhouse emissions than other central heating systems. That means having one as your main heat source is a win-win situation for you and the environment.

Further Reading

Parts Of An Air Source Heat Pump Explained

Where To Install An Air Source Heat Pump

How An Air Source Heat Pump Works

Are Air Source Heat Pumps Cost Effective?

Air Source Heat Pump Return On Investment