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Air Source Heat Pumps

There are plenty of ways to use renewable energy to your advantage, and the technology is ever-growing. If you care about the environment and climate change, then one of the biggest things that you can look at reducing is your heating and cooling.

However, this doesn’t mean you have to install expensive solar panels. Instead, look at using an air source heat pump. They are a lot cheaper and more compact than things like solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling.

While they aren’t necessarily strong enough to use for a commercial office or an industrial building, they can work just fine for homes.

What Is an Air Source Heat Pump?

An air source heat pump is a way to bring heating and cooling into your home that is efficient and cost-effective. A simple air source heat pump can take the electricity and make it three times more efficient. It works by transferring heat instead of making heat. 

They take the heat from outside and pass it into a liquid, which is then used to heat your floors and water for your homes. 

It is important to note that an air source heat pump does not generate heat. All it does is move the heat from one area to another. In the summer, it works like a traditional air conditioning, using refrigerant to transfer heat out of your home. 

Why Should I Consider an Air-Source Heat Pump?

While not as efficient as other options, an air source heat pump can help you save on your monthly energy bills involving heating and cooling. They are also very affordable, and versatile. It can heat up both your home and your water. 

air source heat pump

It is also useful even in the winter. There are a lot of misconceptions about whether or not air source heat pumps can be useful in colder temperatures, but research is showing that they stay useful, even in negative temperatures.

They can last twenty years and only take a day or two to install.  

How a Heat Pump Works

Components of Air Source Heat Pumps

There are four main parts of a heat pump. They are a compressor, a condenser, and an evaporator. These are the parts that work together to pass the liquid into a gas and move the heat around to the right place. 

Evaporator

First, the air goes into the evaporator. Here is where the heat is absorbed by the liquid. The liquid is some sort of refrigerant that is usually far cooler than the air outside. When the heat is taken in by the refrigerant, it is then transformed from a liquid to a gas.

Once that process is done, the gas is moved on to the next stage, which is the compressor. 

Compressor

Once the gas is warmed, it is moved to the compressor. The compressor’s job is to compress the air or reduce the volume of the gas. This causes the temperature to increase significantly. 

As the heat rises, it is then drawn into the next step, the condenser. 

Condenser

In the condenser, the heat is pulled out of the refrigerant gas and is extracted to heat the home. Since the refrigerant is now cooler, it turns back to a liquid state. 

Types of Air Source Heat Pumps

Ducted Air Source Heat Pumps

As the name suggests, the ducted air source heat pumps have ducts that go throughout your house. This works similarly to ducted AC or heating. They are the most common forms. They can reduce the humidity or maintain it in a home. In fact, they reduce the humidity even better than traditional air conditioners do. 

For these, you can either use ducts already in your home, or have someone install ducts. 

Ductless Air Source Heat Pumps (Also Known As Mini Splits)

These are also known as mini-split heat pumps, and these are options for homes that don’t have ducts or for people that have a little versatility. These are kind of like space heaters, so they can work for a small group of rooms or an individual room. 

Short-Run Ducted Air Source Heat Pumps

An option between a ducted and a ductless air source heat pump is the short-run air source heat pump. The ducts only run through a portion of the home, instead of the entire home.

air source heat pump

Then, you can supplement the rest of the home with ductless air source heat pumps. 

Multi-Zone Air Source Heat Pumps

Multi-zone pumps connect to multiple coils that connect to one condenser. This allows for multiple air pumps that can run with one condenser, instead of one condenser to one air pump. 

Replacing Your Current HVAC System With an Air Source Heat Pump

It is overall fairly easy to replace your current HVAC system with an air source heat pump. The most important part though is that you work with a professional who is able to get you the right size for your home.

Though you may be tempted to get the same size as your current HVAC system, this can cause problems if it isn’t a good size for your whole home. 

Advantages of Air Source Heat Pumps

Low Carbon Footprint

Since the air source heat pumps use the outside air to heat and cool your home, you don’t have to use as much electricity and natural gas to heat and cool your home. Usually, for every 3 or 4 units of energy produced by a heat pump, you only need one unit of electricity, which cuts your carbon footprint. 

Save Money on Energy Bills

Since you aren’t using as much electricity or natural gas, your utility bill will also decrease. Most people find that they can decrease about 20% to 70% of their heating and cooling bills by using an air source heat pump. 

Eligible for Incentives

Like with many green and cleaner energies, there may be local, state, and federal tax breaks or tax credits. For example, as long as you get a heat pump that is ENERGY STAR certified, you are eligible for federal tax breaks. 

Can Be Used for Heating and Cooling

Air source heat pumps can be used for both heating and cooling, instead of just one or the other. Sometimes, you can even get underfloor heating as well. 

Can Be Used for Space Heating and Hot Water

In addition to heating and cooling your home, you can get smaller ones that just handle a room or two, and they can even be connected to your water tank to heat your water. 

High Seasonal Coefficient of Performance (SCOP)

There is a big myth that air source heat pumps cannot be used in colder weather. However, thanks to an outstanding SCOP, they work well in both winter and summer in different climates. SCOP is adjusted to seasonality and allows the pump to work efficiently year-round. 

Easy Installation Process

Unlike ground source heat pumps, you don’t have to dig into the ground to get your heating and cooling. It can take as little as two days to install an air source heat pump. Sometimes, though, that can be longer, especially if you are installing ducts. 

Low Maintenance

The only maintenance that is generally required is a check by a certified technician once a year. You can also clean filters and keep an eye on leaks to make sure your system works for a longer time. 

Long Lifespan

Most warranties for these systems are about five years. But, with proper care and maintenance, they can easily last about 20 to 25 years!

No Fuel Storage Needed

Since there is no heat generated, there is no need for fuel to help heat up air or a liquid, so your only ‘fuel’ is the air itself.

Disadvantages of Air Source Heat Pumps

Lower Heat Supply than Boilers

Since the heat isn’t generated, only moved around, the heat supply is often a lot less than that of traditional heat pumps. If you like higher temperatures and don’t have a well-insulated home, you may find yourself not getting a lot of benefit from the air source heat pump. 

Extra Spending to Install Underfloor Heating

Since the heat supply is lower, it is usually recommended that you get heated floors. This helps reduce the temperature you need and stops your floors from freezing your toes when you walk. But this can be a huge added expense. 

Your Home Must Be Well-Insulated Already

The low cost of the system is often promoted as one of the reasons why one should get this system, but with the need to pay for proper insulation and underfloor heating, the price can quickly rise to high costs. 

Lower Efficiency Below 0°C

While the air pumps do still work in colder temperatures, once it gets below 32 degrees F, or below freezing, the system doesn’t work as well. They can potentially go as low as -4 and still work, but the efficiency decreases dramatically. 

Lower Savings Compared to Low Price Mains Gas

You would expect there to be a cost incentive for switching, as many green energies do. While there are tax reliefs, the amount you save compared to gas isn’t all that much. While you do make money, the buyback time is pretty long. 

ASHPs Can Be Noisy

Like traditional ACs, ASHPs can be very noisy. They have a condenser outside that is loud, and is comparable to an AC, or heavy rain. So if the condenser is close to your home, it may make things hard to hear sometimes. 

FAQ

Are air source heat pumps efficient?

Air source heat pumps are very efficient compared to some older, traditional ways of heating and cooling houses. Estimates for air source heat pump efficiency often run around anywhere between 50% to 300%.

This is because an air source pump produces more heat energy than the equivalent amount of electrical energy it consumes among other reasons.

How much do air source heat pumps cost?

Typically, a ductless air source heat pump installation costs somewhere between $3,500 and $6,000 for a single unit. This sounds like a lot [and it is] but when you compare that to the cost of installing central heating systems that involve ducts, the cost increases to $12,000 to $20,000!

The tradeoff is that you only need one central heating system for the whole house while you may need multiple air source heat pumps depending on how much time you spend in various rooms of your house.

How long do air source heat pumps last?

Most air source heat pumps will easily last for about 15 years in moderate climates. If you properly maintain the unit and use it relatively infrequently, a single air source heat pump can last for another 5 to 10 years.

Some climates, especially ones near the coast, may only be able to get 10 years of useful operation from an air source heat pump.

Are air source heat pumps reliable?

Air source heat pumps are generally considered to be a reliable alternative to central heating systems with ducts. Because they can last for so long, they can easily make your money back in savings and have little to no maintenance issues during their useful lifespan.

Even though they are less efficient in cold weather conditions, they are still reliable and efficient. 

Are air source heat pumps easy to install?

While a professional has to install a heat pump, and you can’t do it yourself, it is relatively easy to install. This is especially true compared to other methods of heating and cooling that are green, such as ground heating and cooling, where installation can take 2 months with ease.

Unless you have to install ducts, flooring, and insulation, you can expect it to take about 2 days. 

What are the maintenance requirements for air source heat pumps?

Yearly maintenance by a specialized technician is all that is required. However, if you want to keep your unit around as long as possible, you can also look out for leaks every few months and have filters changed regularly.