Air source heat pumps are becoming a more and more popular way to heat and cool a home.
While air source heat pumps do have their downsides that can be a barrier to implementation into homes, the positives can outweigh the negatives and so we’ve discussed in this article why you would install an air source heat pump and the reasons behind it.
Reasons to install an air source heat pump can include:
- Air source heat pumps are energy efficient.
- Air source heat pumps can help lower the cost of energy bills.
- Air source heat pumps can both warm and cool a home.
- Air source heat pumps can help filter dust out of the air.
- Air source heat pumps rely on electricity, not oil or gas.
- You can pair them with other renewable sources of energy such as solar panels.
- There have been incentives for installing an air source heat pump.
- Air source heat pumps can work with both water and air internal heating and cooling systems.
- Air source heat pumps can be installed in the majority of properties.
- Air source heat pumps can work in all seasons and climates.
- Air source heat pumps can also provide domestic hot water.
We’ve been using our air source heat pump for over 5 years now for both heating and hot water.
While we didn’t directly choose to have this heat pump installed as it came with our new-build house, we’ve never had any problems with it and we consider it to be a great investment into the future for providing both heating and hot water for our home.
If you’re currently using a furnace or boiler instead of an air source heat pump to heat your home, you could be missing out on some great benefits.
If you’re a little hesitant about making the switch, read below to see further details on each reason to see if installing an air source heat pump is right for you.
Air source heat pumps (ASHP) can be a very efficient way of heating and/or cooling a home.
Air source heat pumps work by taking warm air from an environment and either using it to heat your home or removing heat from indoors.
In heating mode, an ASHP will extract heat energy from the outside air to be used in a home, therefore heating up the space inside a home.
In cooling mode, heat energy will be extracted from inside a home and expelled outside, thus cooling the indoors of a house.
This process requires no gas, just electricity. The Coefficient of Performance, also referred to as the COP, of an air source heat pump is typically around 2 or 3. This means that you can get 2 or 3 units of heat energy in return for every one unit of electrical energy required to power the heat pump.
In ideal conditions, an ASHP may be able to reach higher performance coefficients. For example, our own air source heat pump can reach a COP of over 4, as shown below.
As outside air temperatures lower, among other factors, the efficiency of an ASHP can lower, but even at a COP of 2, an air source heat pump can still be much more efficient on paper compared to other traditional forms of heating such as gas boilers/furnaces and electric heaters, which may not produce as much heat energy as the energy put in.
The efficiency of a heat pump can also be referred to as EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) and SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio).
These heat pumps can also help reduce greenhouse gasses and your carbon footprint. Though they still need electricity, they can still be considered a green option.
Air source heat pumps can be one of the most efficient ways of heating homes, and this includes energy usage over the lifetime of the heat pump.
Not everyone will experience the same benefits, but your home could likely spare a lot of energy with your air source heat pump, depending on the type of system you already have in place. Generally, your air source heat pump will produce 3 units of heat for every one unit of energy it’s using.
Besides reducing your carbon footprint, this will also be good for your wallet. Efficiency can translate directly into your energy bills.
Again, this will depend on the system that you already have. With rising fossil fuel prices, and with such fuels possibly being phased out in the near future, air source heat pumps can become a more and more viable solution.
Air source heat pumps can work well with most homes, but more care must be taken with the internal heating system and insulation levels of a home before installing. A poorly insulated older house with a lower quality internal heating system won’t be able to make the most out of an air source heat pump, and energy savings may not be seen.
Local electricity prices must also be considered, as air source heat pumps run solely on electricity.
Running our air source heat pump probably currently still costs the same as a gas heating system but we’ve invested into the future when this may not be the case. Furthermore, we’re not directly burning any fossil fuels to heat our home.
In addition, some homes may need to create a hybrid system should the current system fail to be compatible with an air source heat pump system.
Regardless, even though the purchase and installation costs of an ASHP system can be relatively high, you might still be able to save money in the long run.
An installer will be able to help you decide whether an air source heat pump will be the right solution for your home, when also taking into account running costs of the lifetime of the heat pump.
See our article on how much it costs to run an air source heat pump for more information.
Air source heat pumps can be a great investment into a home because they can perform two functions: they can both warm your home in the winter and cool your home in the summer.
Air source heat pumps function similarly to a refrigerator, especially when used for cool air. An air source heat pump works by pulling heat energy from the environment around it and then either providing heat into a home, or expelling heat from it.
Having your air source heat pump cover both warm and cool air has many benefits. It can mean only having to deal with one appliance for climate control in your home.
The usefulness of this benefit can depend on your home and situation, however. Just because an air source heat pump can do it all doesn’t mean it should. If you have a large home and are using a hybrid system because of your current heater, then the air source heat pump can work as more of an aid in the summer to cool your home.
You also might find that your air source heat pump is less energy efficient in the summer, depending on the configuration of your house and the climate you live in.
Our own air source heat pump is able to provide both heating and cooling for our home. The table below shows in the temperature ranges in which our heat pump is able to operate within.
We don’t however use our ASHP for cooling but for heating only. We have a couple of separate air conditioning units around our home for specific rooms as our climate rarely gets hot enough to justify whole-house cooling.
Our articles on air source heat pump cooling and comparing air source heat pumps to air conditioning explains this in more detail.
Another benefit of air source heat pumps is that they can potentially help to dehumidify your home and filter dust out of the air.
Air quality is also important for comfortability in your home. Humid air or moisture can often create mold and cause things in your home to have a mildewy scent. Furthermore, dust in the air can cause issues for asthmatics or those who have allergies.
While an air source heat pump isn’t the go-to device for improving your home’s air quality, it’s certainly an additional benefit. Dehumidifiers and air purifiers will do the trick, but they can be expensive to run. Not to mention, they’re rarely powerful enough to cover your entire home.
Having an air source heat pump take control of both means you can reap the benefits of clean air in your home and help save money doing it.
Air to air heat pumps, where heat is transferred into a home through air in vents/ducts, can have air filters that can help filter out dust, and should be cleaned out regularly as part of the maintenance of an ASHP.
Our air source heat pump is the air to water type, which delivers heat into our home through a central heating system with underfloor/radiant heating and radiators.
As a result, our heat pump doesn’t have a filter system, but can be an additional benefit of air to air heat pumps where hot air is moved around a home through vents.
5. Air Source Heat Pumps Are Powered By Electricity
Air source heat pumps are electrical appliances and use electricity as the sole source of energy, not natural gas like your boiler might.
This means that only an electrical supply is required for an air source heat pump, and this supply is typically taken from inside a home, much like our is:
This helps air source heat pumps to be more environmentally friendly compared to more traditional heating systems and can be used in places with no local gas supply. Our air source heat pump was originally installed because there’s no gas in our local area.
Renewable sources of electricity such as solar panels can be hooked up air source heat pumps to create a zero-carbon heating system.
Air source heat pumps aren’t a true “clean energy” system, though they’re much more energy-efficient than your furnace or boiler. Air source heat pumps can generally convert one unit of energy into 3 or 4 heat units. They’re still using energy, though, making them not purely green.
If you already have solar panels installed on your home or are interested, this can help to make your air source heat pump clean and green. Solar panels, which use the sun’s energy to power your home, can help power air source heat pumps.
The climate you live in, the power used by your air source heat pump, and the efficiency level of your solar panels will all determine the effectiveness of this system.
An installer will be able to help you decide whether additional renewable sources of electricity such as solar panels to power an air source heat pump can be a viable option.
For more information see our article on using solar panels with air source heat pumps.
One of the biggest cons for air source heat pump systems can be the typically higher purchase and installations costs compared to other more traditional heating systems.
Depending on the system you currently have in your home, the climate you live in, and a few other factors, the installation of an air source heat pump can be initially quite high. Even if you’re saving money in the long-term from an ASHP, biting the bullet with such a high up-front cost can be a significant barrier to their implementation into homes.
Air source heat pumps are considered so beneficial to the environment that you can earn incentives or discounts for installing one. There are also tax credits available for certain air source heat pump models.
Speak to an installer to see if there are any incentives available in your local area for installing an air source heat pump into your home.
There are two main types of air source heat pump:
- Air to water heat pumps
- Air to air heat pumps
Air to water heat pumps (like the one we own and use) transfer heat to water to be used across a home within a central heating system. They will typically be used with underfloor heating and large surface area radiators to release the heat as efficiently as possible.
Air to air heat pumps transfer heat through a home through air space heating. They can be combined with internal apparatus such as vents, ducts and air handlers to move this heated air around a home.
Air source heat pumps can also be used to heat both your water and provide air conditioning using heat pump water heaters to both store hot water and provide space conditioning.
See our article comparing air to air and air to water heat pumps for more information.
An air source heat pump can benefit from the flexibility of installation and can be small and compact enough to be installable in the majority of homes. This is in comparison to ground source heat pumps which can require a lot of land.
Air source heat pumps can also typically be retrofitted into existing homes and often made to work with existing heating systems.
The external heat pump unit of an overall air source heat pump system will need to be placed outside a home.
The ideal location for an ASHP unit can be down the side of a house. Ours is located on the side of our house adjacent to the internal garage.
Although certain factors will need to be considered when placing this heat pump appliance such as noise considerations and ensuring sufficient airflow around the unit, and installer will be able to find the right location for it.
See our article on where to install an air source heat pump for more information.
It can be possible to use an existing internal heating setup with a new air source heat pump, if suitable.
Air to air heat pumps can work with existing ducts to distribute air, while air to water heat pumps can be used within existing pipes and radiators as part of a central heating system.
All of our internal apparatus that works with our air source heat pump is located in a cupboard.
It’s from here that hot water is delivered around our home to radiators and underfloor heating.
Your home, if not heated by an air source heat pump currently, is using one of a few different options for heat. Your home may be using ducts, vents, or something else to conduct heat. You also may be using space heaters or window units. To install an air to air source heat pump, there are options for using the system you already have in place rather than completely starting from scratch.
If you have a system that doesn’t pair perfectly with an air source heat pump, you can choose to use the air source system for only a portion of your home. For example, if you currently are using a gas system, you can create a hybrid system between the two using ductwork, known as a split duct system.
Even if you decide to only use an air source heat pump in a portion of your home, you can still be saving money and be more energy efficient.
If an ASHP can’t be used with an existing system, then that internal heating system can often be upgraded or replaced to ensure that an air source heat pump will be able to effectively heat a home.
See our article on air source heat pump installation requirements for more information.
Advances in technology has allowed manufacturers to provide air source heat pumps that can work in all climates and seasons and even work down to very cold temperatures.
Air source heat pump systems can even work in the frigid climate of Alaska. Alaska, for all its cold days, isn’t the only place hopping on the air source bandwagon.
While it can seem impossible to generate heating for a home from freezing outside temperatures, there’s still sufficient heat energy within the air even at minus temperatures that can be extracted and used.
For example, the outdoor temperature operating range for our ASHP is shown below, which highlights that it can heat our home to an acceptable level even at very low temperatures.
As we live in a mild climate, outdoor temperatures never reach this low and so we can always rely on our heat pump to meet our heating needs.
An air source heat pump may need to work harder and for longer in order to provide the same desired indoors temperatures, and use more energy in the process, but it can still be done.
Air source heat pumps use refrigerant with low boiling points to be able to extract heat, and use compressors to maximize the heat gained from the outside air.
In the very coldest of temperatures, an ASHP can be paired with conventional boilers or furnaces to provide a hybrid heating system.
Air to water heat pumps can be used to provide domestic hot water as well as heating.
This means that an ASHP can provide hot water for taps, showers etc. as well as hot water for radiators and underfloor heating.
To use an air source heat pump for hot water, a hot water storage tank will be required.
See our article on using a tank with an air source heat pump.
As heat pumps can’t meet the same instantaneous hot water demand as traditional heating systems such as gas boilers, a tank is required to allow an ASHP to increase hot water temperatures over time.
Our air source heat pump provides us with hot water as well as heating. Our hot water tank is located in the same cupboard as all our other heating apparatus.
Air to air heat pumps typically won’t be able to provide hot water and so another way of supplying hot water would be required.
See our article on air source heat pumps and domestic hot water for more information.