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What are air source heat pumps?

Air source heat pumps could lower your heating bills and help you do your bit for the environment. They could even earn you money, too. Here’s the lowdown on this sustainable form of heating.

Air source heat pumps could lower your heating bills and help you do your bit for the environment. They could even earn you money, too. Here’s the lowdown on this sustainable form of heating.

Sofia Hutson
From the Energy team
minute read
Do you know someone who could benefit from this article?
Posted 15 JANUARY 2021

What are air source heat pumps?

Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) use heat from the air outside to warm up your home and hot water. And the good news is that you don’t need to live in Barbados for them to work! By some miracle, ASHPs manage to heat up your home even when the temperature outside is as low as -15 degrees.

There’s a buzz about air source heat pumps right now because people are looking for alternatives to gas central heating. If we can use more sustainable sources of heating, we can help the UK lower its carbon emissions and stave off climate change.

How do air source heat pumps work?

ASHPs work by taking heat from the air, which is then used to warm a liquid refrigerant. That fluid passes through a compressor, which uses electricity to raise the temperature. That heat then moves through your heating and hot water pipes.

Although air source heating runs on electricity, it’s still an energy-efficient way of warming up your house. That’s because it produces more heat than the electricity it uses.

What are the benefits of air source heat pumps?

Air source heat pumps have a few major benefits. For instance, they could:

  • Reduce your fuel bills
    Looking to lower your energy bills? Air source heat pumps could be one way to do it. If you’re currently using electric heating, you’ll probably see a big decrease in your fuel bills.
  • Lower your carbon emissions
    ASHPs are way more energy efficient than traditional gas or electric heating. It’s estimated that the average total CO2 emissions from domestic energy use can be reduced by up to 40% following the installation of an ASHP.
  • Earn you money
    The government has a scheme encouraging people to switch to more environmentally friendly types of heating. This means they’ll give you money if you install a renewable heat technology, like a biomass boiler or an air-to-water heat pump.

    Interested? There’s even a calculator so you can see how much you could earn
  • Low maintenance
    Once your heat pumps are installed, you don’t need to do much else.

What are the downsides of air source heat pumps?

As with anything, air source heat pumps come with disadvantages, too.

ASHPs work in temperatures as cold as -15 degrees. But the colder it is outside, the harder your heat pump has to work to produce heat. So you’ll find it uses more electricity during winter.

How much are air source heat pumps?

Installing an air source heat pump can be a pretty big investment – it could set you back around £10,000. But you’ll probably find they’re much cheaper and easier to install in a new-build or self-build property.

How much do air source heat pumps cost to run?

How much your air source heat pumps cost to run will depend on a few things, including how big your house is, its insulation and how high you like to have the thermostat. These will also affect the running costs.

What types of air source heat pumps are there?

You’ll find there are two types of ASHP:

  • air to water
    Air-to-water heat source pumps heat air from the outside and channel it into your radiators and hot water. These qualify for the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which means you could get money back for investing in them.
  • air to air
    Air-to-air heat source pumps work almost like a fridge in reverse, transferring heat to your heating and water supply.

How do I have air source heat pumps installed?

You’ll need to speak to a central heating or boiler installation specialist. Look for recommendations online – you should be able to find someone local to you without too much trouble.

How efficient are air source heat pumps?

Some air source heat pumps work better in colder temperatures than others. While they should cover all your heating needs here in the UK, it’s worth doing lots of research to check which particular model will work best for your needs.

Air source heat pumps: what to consider

Sold on the idea of getting an air source heat pump? Before you take the plunge, there are a few things to think about, like:

  • Have you got somewhere to put it?
    The heating units are usually fitted to a wall or on the ground outside your house. An airy space on a sunny wall is perfect.
  • What type of heating have you got?
    ASHPs operate at low temperatures, which mean they’re great for underfloor heating. If you haven’t already got a central heating system in place, then you’ll need to install one for the heat pumps to work.
  • Is your home properly insulated?
    The more insulated your home is, the cosier it’ll be.
  • What kind of heating are you replacing?
    You’ll find you make bigger savings if you’re replacing electric heaters, which aren’t very economical.

Do I need planning permission for my air source heat pumps?

You shouldn’t need planning permission, but your ASHP may be visible from the street, so it’s worth double checking with your council. ASHPs make noise a bit like that from an air-conditioning unit, so you’ll also want to keep it somewhere where it won’t bother your neighbours.

What alternatives are there to air source heat pumps?

If air source heat pumps aren’t right for you, there are other ways to generate your own heating. These include solar panels and wood-burning stoves.

If you have a big garden, you could look into getting a ground source heat pump. These cost a bit more to install, but are better at heating your home. For you, this means lower fuel bills. It’s great news for the environment, too.