Air Source Heat Pump Disadvantages

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Air Source heat pump

With so many people switching to renewable energy, it makes sense that you would want to do thorough research first to make sure you get the best possible solution that works for you. Your research to date has probably pointed to the many advantages of air source heat pumps, which are a great option for a range of homes and commercial premises. 

However, we believe in giving potential customers the full picture. Air source heat pumps are great, there’s no denying that. They offer a range of benefits for your home, for energy bills, and for the environment, making them a great alternative to a standard central heating system for many. But there are a few disadvantages you ought to be aware of too, so you can make an informed choice. 

Check out some air source heat pump disadvantages below so you know what to expect if you decide that heat pumps are the way forward for you. If you want to go ahead with air source heat pump installation, let Heat Pumps UK put you in touch with trusted best heat pump installers local to you. 

Why Choose Air Source Heat Pumps?

If you’re already deep-diving into the disadvantages of air source heat pumps, then you’ve probably already done your research and have some idea how air source heat pumps operate. But just to remind you about how these low carbon heating systems work:

  • Air source heat pumps use the air outside to heat up your home. 
  • Air is gathered from outside and is absorbed into a refrigerant that helps extract heat from the air. 
  • The air is then passed through a compressor, heating it up further. 
  • A heat exchanger is then used to transfer the heat through pipes to radiators, underfloor heating, and hot water tanks in your home. 

Air source heat pumps are a complete system, as they can generate heat and hot water for your home. They can also work in reverse to cool your home by extracting heat and releasing cooler air into your home – the heat pump operates much like an air conditioner. 

As a low carbon, renewable source of heating, this makes heat pump technology a much greener choice for your home than traditional oil or gas boilers or a wet central heating system. Air source heat pumps are also a less expensive option than ground source heat pumps.

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What Are The Main Disadvantages of Air Source Heat Pumps?

  • Lower heat supply = larger radiators 
  • Additional costs with underfloor heating 
  • You may require new insulation 
  • Performance starts to drop at 0℃ 
  • Noise levels 
  • High upfront cost 
  • Still relies on electricity to run 
  • Maintenance required

Lower Heat Supply 

It probably won’t come as a massive shock to hear that air source heat pumps can only heat up so much – and so when you compare them to oil or gas powered boilers (which burn fuel to produce heat), they do have a lower heat supply. 

If you think about it, that makes sense. Air source heat pumps extract the heat from the ambient air around the system outside the home. If it isn’t a particularly hot day to start with, then your heat pump will need to work extra hard and require more electricity to extract as much heat as possible, and there is only so much it can do.

Compressing that air will, of course, extract more heat from it, but it can never rival the heat produced by burning fossil fuels in oil or gas powered boilers. 

Counter: Larger Radiators

Although not ideal, there is actually a solution to the lower heat supply issue mentioned above. With larger radiators, your air source heat pump can still heat your home as well as a boiler can. 

Of course, you then have to deal with housing those larger radiators in your home, which isn’t an ideal solution for homeowners with smaller properties. Here, using an underfloor heating system connected to your heat pump might be a better option instead, but again, this comes with certain disadvantages, too…

Additional Costs 

If you opt for underfloor heating as part of your air source heat pump installation, then you’ll certainly get a more efficient heating system capable of keeping your whole home warm and comfortable throughout the year. 

However, if you need to install underfloor heating, then you’ll have to pay extra for the installation and that isn’t ideal if you’re trying to budget sensibly. It’s also worth noting that installing underfloor heating isn’t a small job, it requires a large renovation that can certainly impact living in your home whilst your installer does the work. 

Counter: Long-term cost savings

Whilst installing underfloor heating brings additional costs and a slight logistical headache for you, it’s certainly worth doing if you have the budget for it. It’s the best way to ensure your home’s new heating system is working most efficiently and keeping your running costs to a minimum

New Insulation 

Another factor you need to consider before installing air source heat pumps is just how well your insulation is performing right now? If it’s old or not performing particularly well, then you’ll need to seriously consider purchasing new insulation. With poor insulation, your air source heat pump won’t be able to perform as well as it ought to. 

In fact, if you currently have an oil or gas powered boiler, then you might want to have professionals in to check your insulation quality. You might not realise that it’s failing or not performing as it should, because oil/gas powered boilers are able to mask a lot of that heat loss due to their higher heat supply. Checking how old your insulation is and how well it’s performing is vital before installing an air source heat pump to ensure it will work as you hope. 

If you do need new insulation to make your home more thermally efficient for your new air source heat pump, then it will clearly come at an extra cost to you, which can be a significant drawback when considering a heat pump installation. 

Counter: Better Thermal Efficiency

Although it comes at an extra cost, having new insulation as well as a new heat pump system is no bad thing. You’ll save significantly on heating bills because of your house’s ability to hold on to the warmth your new heat pump is producing. 

Lower energy bills means bigger savings, which in turn means a quicker turnaround time before your annual savings eventually cover the cost of your new insulation and heat pump installation. As soon as you pass the breakeven point, you’ll be in the green financially. 

Better thermal efficiency also means a more comfortable home for you. With such little heat loss, your home will stay warmer for longer, making your home a much more enjoyable place to be during the colder months. 

Performance Dips In The Cold 

When the temperature outside drops below 0℃, the performance of your air source heat pump will start to drop off too. That’s not to say they won’t work – of course, a heating system that doesn’t work at all in the cold is no heating system at all. They will, however, not perform at their best. 

Since an air source heat pump relies on the air outside for the system to work, it makes sense that when temperatures drop below freezing your air source heat pump will have to work a little harder to extract the heat, and therefore might not be able to produce as much heat as it otherwise would. 

Whilst performance dips when temperatures drop below 0, your heat pump will still be able to provide you with a comfortable home to live in during cold winter days and nights. You may just notice an increased cost in running the system during this time, as your heat pump works harder to produce heat for your home. 

Counter: Seasonal Coefficient Of Performance (SCOP)

Now, we’re not trying to hide the fact that your heat pump’s performance will dip when temperatures are below freezing. But that’s compared to its performance when temperatures are above freezing, and when temperatures are above freezing, heat pumps work extremely efficiently. So whilst performance drops off below freezing, it still performs remarkably well. 

This is all measured through something known as the seasonal coefficient of performance, or SCOP. You don’t necessarily need to understand how the SCOP is measured, but you do need to know what the value means. 

This is best understood through an example. If a heat pump has a SCOP score of 5, then for every one unit of electricity it takes to power the heat pump, the heat pump will generate 5 units of free energy from the air for your home. 

For reference, when temperatures are around 7℃, most heat pumps operate with a realistic SCOP score of 3.2. Even in freezing temperatures most heat pumps won’t drop below a SCOP score of 2, and it will almost certainly always remain above 1, so you will still be getting ‘free’ units of energy from the air no matter the temperature. 

Our point? Even in freezing temperatures your heat pumps will be performing well, just not as well as they would in warmer temperatures.

Noise Nuisance 

Nuisance may be a harsh term to use here, since most people compare an air source heat pump in operation to the sound of light to heavy rain, but there’s no denying that it produces a noise when operating and that noise can be irritating to some people who prefer peace and quiet. 

Of course, as new technologies are developed the noise levels will drop, but it may be a while yet before we see a completely silent air source heat pump on the market. 

Counter: Carefully Consider Heat Pump Location

If you know that the air source heat pump is going to make a noise when operating, then you can plan this to some extent. Of course, the position of your heat pump needs to be led by your installer because they’ll know where it’ll perform at its best. 

However, there’s nothing stopping you sitting down with them and discussing your concerns about the noise – they may be able to help. For example, if you’re a light sleeper then you might be able to work out a plan for moving your heat pump further away from your bedroom. 

There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to move the heat pump for certain, but expressing your concerns over the noise with your installer could mean a good compromise for you. 

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High Upfront Cost 

The biggest disadvantage and barrier to installing air source heat pumps has to be the upfront cost. If they were cheaper, heat pump installers would almost certainly be run off their feet because of the range of benefits they bring. 

As it stands, though, the cost is high, and that can put off a lot of would-be buyers. It’s difficult to say how much an air source heat pump installation could cost you, because so many factors affect installation. As a rough estimate though, an air source heat pump with installation included could cost anywhere from around £8,000 to £18,000

For a more accurate estimate fill out our quick form today and compare multiple heat pump installers near you for the best possible deals. 

Counter: Energy Bill Savings

The upfront cost is a significant barrier to air source heat pumps, and here at Heat Pumps UK we would never try to minimise the extent of it.  Air source heat pumps cost a lot, but they also help you save a lot. 

If you do have the budget to invest in air source heat pumps, then it’s worth thinking about your return on investment. Over the years, the savings you’ll make in energy bills will eventually cover the cost of your installation, and after that you’re making incredible savings year on year, and you’ve made back all the money it cost to install the system to begin with. 

They’re an excellent investment option if you have the budget to begin with

Electricity Powered 

From the largest disadvantage to the smallest disadvantage now, but it’s a disadvantage all the same. It’s worth noting that air source heat pumps are electricity powered, and that electricity will most likely be provided by the grid, so it’ll cost you to run the heat pump to begin with. 

During colder months it will cost you even more to run the heat pump, and that can be frustrating to some customers who may have assumed that as a renewable heating system, heat pumps might not cost them anything to run at all. 

Of course, if you already rely on a renewable system for your electricity, such as solar panels, then the electricity used to run your heat pump could be free, but not everybody has this luxury and not everybody can afford to rely fully on renewable energy sources to power and heat their home. 

Maintenance Required

In order to keep your system running at its best, you will need to carry out regular maintenance and that maintenance won’t be free. That means yet more cost for an annual service, etc, that you might not have considered beforehand. 

Unfortunately, maintenance on heat pumps can’t be carried out yourself as they need a thorough annual service to ensure they’re working as they should – a job that’s just too big for someone without the relevant training, knowledge, and experience. 

Counter: Healthier System For Longer

This isn’t so much a counterpoint as it is just a benefit that comes out of the maintenance work – and that’s that your heat pump system will perform so much better for longer, thanks to regular services and maintenance. Up to 15 years on average.

Air Source Heat Pump Disadvantages & Counterpoints…

Lower heat supplyLarger radiators
Additional costs Long-term savings
New insulationBetter thermal efficiency
Performance dips in the coldSCOP
Noise nuisanceThink about position
High upfront costEnergy bill savings
Electricity poweredElectricity can come from renewable sources
Maintenance requiredHealthier system for longer

Air Source Heat Pump Disadvantages Summary

There’s no denying that air source heat pumps, as with everything in life, has its share of pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages. It isn’t our job to convince you one way or another, either. 

Heat Pumps UK is simply a business offering an end to end service for customers, putting them in contact with the best local heat pump installers to them. Essentially, we vet all the heat pump installers so you don’t have to, and then present you with a list of fully trained and accredited installers in your area for you to choose from. 

So, now that you know more about the disadvantages of air source heat pumps, you can make an informed decision about whether they’re the right option for you. And if you decide they are, Heat Pumps UK can help you find the best deals today.  We can’t wait to work with you. 

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Ollie Creevy
Ollie has been writing content online about home improvements for over 3 years. With a real interest and in-depth knowledge of heat pumps and ECO home improvement measures you can use to save on your energy bills. Ollie also keeps up to date with all the Government grants available for you to take advantage of like ECO4 and the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.