An air source heat pump sources heat from the air outside your home and delivers heat to your radiators, underfloor heating and hot water circuits.
If you’re looking for an efficient way to generate your own heat, an air source heat pump can be an attractive option. In addition to being energy-efficient and cost-effective, air source heat pumps are fairly easy to install and they can help you to reduce your energy bills. But the benefits don’t stop there. One of the great things about installing air source heat pumps is that you could receive payments based on the amount of renewable heat made by your system through the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, provided you meet the eligibility criteria.
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How Do Air Source Heat Pumps Work?
An air source heat pump works similar to a fridge but instead of extracting heat from its
inside using refrigerant, the heat pump extracts heat from the outside air. Put simply, an air
source heat pump operates like a fridge in reverse. The heat pump is installed outside,
usually at the back or side of a property so that it can absorb heat from the air. It absorbs
heat from the air at a low temperature and transforms it into a fluid, and this fluid is then
passed through a compressor where its temperature is increased using electricity. When the
fluid is warm, heat is sent to radiators or underfloor heating and the hot water circuits of a
We should mention that there are two different types of air source heat pumps to consider,
- Air-to-Water Heat Pumps: These systems take heat from the air outside and
distribute the heat via a wet central heating system, and this heat can be used for
heating a property or as a hot water supply. Air-to-water heat pumps are extremely
efficient and they can even extract heat from the outside air at sub-zero
- Air-to-Air Heat Pumps: One of the main differences between air-to-water heat
pumps and air-to-air heat pumps is that air-to-air systems are not suitable for
producing hot water, however, they are ideal for properties with large radiators or
underfloor heating systems. They absorb heat from the outside air and convert the
heat into warm air, which is circulated around a home using fans.
Air Source Heat Pump Prices
You can expect to pay anything between £5,000 and £11,000 to have an air source heat
pump installed at your home, which is much cheaper than other types of heat pump
systems like ground source heat pumps for example. As prices vary, we recommend you get
a least a few quotes from different installers before agreeing to any work.
The running costs will depend on multiple factors, such as the age and size of your property
and the insulation of your home. What we can tell you is that you can save money on your
energy bills by installing an air source heat pump, depending on the fuel you are currently
using to run your existing heating system. If you want to replace an oil, coal or electric
heating system, your fuel bills will be lower when you switch to an air source heat pump
system. However, if you use an efficient gas boiler at the moment, an air source heat pump
won’t save you much money but it can still help to lower your carbon footprint.
It is important to note that you could get paid for the heat you produce if you have an air-
to-water heat pump installed, thanks to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). This scheme is
a government incentive that is designed to reward people in the UK who heat their
properties using renewable energy and certain heating systems. Those who qualify for the
Renewable Heat Incentive receive payments for every kWh of renewable energy produced,
and RHI cash payments are made on a quarterly basis over 7 years.
The table below enables you to see the potential savings that could be obtained when you
switch to an air source heat pump.
|Existing System||Annual Energy Savings or Increase in Bills|
|G-rated gas boiler||Saving of £395 to £425|
|A-rated gas boiler||Increase of £95 to £100|
|Old electric storage heaters||Saving of £920 to £1,000|
|New electric storage heaters||Saving of £520 to £560|
|G-rated oil boiler||Saving of £500 to £550|
|A-rated oil boiler||Increase of £80|
|G-rated LPG boiler||Saving of £1,200 to £1,300|
|A-rated LPG boiler||Saving of £380 to £410|
|Coal system||Saving of £315 to £350|
The figures in the above table have been sourced from the Energy Saving Trust website and
are based on fuel prices as of April 2020.
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Air Source Heat Pump Maintenance
A good quality air source heat pump requires very little maintenance and it should operate
efficiently for well over 20 years. You can do some simple checks to ensure the pump is in
good working order, like changing the filters and removing leaves and debris from the
pump. It’s important to check your heat pump often and perform regular maintenance to
prolong the life of your system and to minimise the risk of problems.
Your air source heat pump also needs to be serviced by an accredited engineer to keep your
warranty valid and to ensure your system keeps running safely and effectively. Make sure
your heat pump is serviced regularly according to not only the manufacturer’s guidelines but
also the conditions of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).
Are Air Source Heat Pumps Suitable For All Homes?
The short answer is no, but an air source heat pump is a great option for most properties
including new homes. There are, however, a few things to consider before you get one
Is there enough outside space at your property?
Air source heat pumps need to be placed outside, so you must have enough free space at
the back or side of your property for it to be installed. A nice sunny area is best, but be sure
to get advice from a qualified installer.
Do you have a well-insulated home?
If you live in a well-insulated home, an air source heat pump is a great option for you. These
heat pumps will be more effective if you have a draught-proofed home where energy
efficiency measures have been implemented, like fitting double glazing windows and
installing loft insulation.
Which heating fuel are you replacing?
Installing an air source heat pump can significantly lower your fuel bills, depending on which
heating fuel you’re looking to replace. As we mentioned earlier, the financial benefits should
be high if you’re replacing LPG, oil, electric or coal but not so great if you have a heating
system that runs on gas.
Air Source Heat Pumps and Planning Permission
Planning permission is not usually required if you live in England, Wales, Scotland or
Northern Ireland, provided numerous limits and conditions are met. If you want to install an
air source heat pump on a conversation area, non-domestic land or on land within a listed
building or World Heritage Site, you are likely to need planning permission.
As separate acts apply to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, we recommend
you get in touch with your local planning authority for advice before you make a final
decision on whether to get an air source heat pump installed.
Advantages of Air Source Heat Pumps
Air source heat pumps offer an eco-friendly way of heating your home, and installing one
can help to reduce your carbon footprint. Other advantages include:
- A reduction in your energy bills
If you want to switch from a coal, LPG, oil or an electric system, an air source heat
pump could help to reduce your heating costs.
- Easy to install and low maintenance
A typical air source heat pump installation takes just a couple of days and is often
much easier than a ground source heat pump installation. Air source heat pumps
also have very few moving parts, so minimal maintenance is required and there’s
less chance of you having to deal with breakdowns.
- Free up more interior space
Since an air source heat pump is installed outside, you don’t need to find any space
for it indoors.
- No fuel deliveries and no fuel storage
Some boilers, such as oil-fired and biomass boilers, require fuel deliveries and
enough space at your home to store the fuel. With an air source heat pump, you
don’t have to worry about deliveries or storage as it only needs outside air and
electricity to do its job.
- Can last for more than 20 years
Modern air source heat pumps have a long lifespan, typically lasting for 20 to 25
years. Yes, the initial cost can be expensive, but you can get some of your money
back through the RHI scheme.
- Qualify for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) Scheme
If you have an air-to-water heat pump installed, you might be able to earn back
money on your system with the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). By joining the
scheme, you’ll receive quarterly payments over 7 years, making an air-to-water heat
pump an attractive investment.
Disadvantages of Air Source Heat Pumps
Even though air source heat pumps are highly efficient and can help to cut the cost of your
bills, they do have some drawbacks. The disadvantages of installing an air source heat pump
- Take longer to heat up than conventional boilers
Although intelligent and able to check the temperature inside and outside to ensure
each room is at the correct temperature, an air source heat pump can take more
time to heat your home than a boiler. Air source heat pumps work more efficiently
at a lower temperature, so your installer might advise you to install bigger radiators
to achieve a comfortable temperature in each room.
- Important to have a well-insulated home
As mentioned above, air source heat pumps emit low temperatures consistently,
which means your home needs to be draught-proofed and well-insulated for the
heat pump to be effective.
- You may need to apply for planning permission
Having said that, you might not. The only way to know for certain and to make sure
you don’t break any planning rules is to contact your local planning authority.
- Can be unattractive
Air source heat pumps are a similar size to an air conditioning unit, so they aren’t
huge but they must be installed outside, usually at the back or side of a property. As
these systems are not particularly attractive, placement needs to be considered