pros and cons of air source heat pumps

Pros and cons of air source heat pumps

Choosing how you want to heat and cool your property is an important decision, especially regarding your energy bills. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), heating and cooling make up roughly 53 percent of energy consumption in the average U.S. home, adding up to about $93 billion per year. Because these technologies make up such a large portion of energy costs, homeowners are increasingly looking to upgrade to newer, smarter, and more energy-efficient technologies like air source heat pumps (ASHPs). In this article, we’ll dive into some of the most important advantages and disadvantages of ASHPs to keep in mind as you’re evaluating what heating and cooling technologies are best for your home.


Key takeaways


  • Air source heat pumps are a great alternative to traditional heating and cooling systems and are likely a good fit for your property.
  • Air source heat pumps are an efficient, effective, and environmentally-friendly way to both heat and cool your home.
  • Air source heat pumps typically have a higher upfront cost compared to traditional systems and can result in higher electricity bills (though other utility bills like natural gas may decrease).
  • Visit the EnergySage Marketplace to receive quotes from local solar installers and save money by pairing your air source heat pumps with solar!

What’s in this article?

Comparing pros and cons of air source heat pumps

There are several advantages to installing air source heat pumps over more traditional heating and cooling technologies; however, every home is unique, and heat pumps aren’t the best solution for every building or layout. Here are some of the top pros and cons of air source heat pumps to keep in mind while determining whether they are right for your home.

Pros and cons of air source heat pumps

Pros of ASHPsCons of ASHPs
High efficiencyHigher upfront cost than heating/cooling alternatives
May save you money overall on energy billsIncreased electric bills
Health and wellness benefitsSusceptible to power outages
Heating and cooling system all-in-one
Able to create zones to heat and cool rooms at different temperatures

Pros of air source heat pumps

There are many benefits to heating and cooling your home with air source heat pumps. Here are some of the most important ones:

ASHPs are efficient

Air source heat pumps have higher efficiencies than other heating and cooling technologies; this means that you typically use less fuel to heat or cool your home with ASHPs than you would with more conventional technologies. Over time, consuming less energy can help you reduce both your environmental impact and energy bills

Many heating and cooling technologies run on fossil fuel or electricity produced from burning fossil fuels, which releases greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. When you reduce your property’s fuel consumption, you’re helping to decrease carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere and reduce your carbon footprint. 

ASHPs usually help you save on your overall utility bills

Additionally, using less fuel helps you save on your overall energy costs. The amount you can save depends on several factors, including your existing heating or cooling source, where you live, and the fuel cost in your area. According to research from the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP), homeowners who switch to air source heat pumps in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions save roughly $459 annually compared to electric resistance heaters and $948 annually compared to oil furnaces. 

ASHPs have some health and wellness benefits

Have you ever been distracted by a noisy furnace? Air source heat pumps operate relatively quietly compared to other heating and cooling technologies, particularly if you’re using ductless mini splits.

Just how quiet are they? Sound is typically measured in decibels (dB): the lower the decibel rating, the softer the sound. Dishwashers and AC units usually run at around 60 dB; in comparison, many air source heat pumps operate at 40 to 60 dB. Keep in mind that most of this noise comes from the outdoor unit of air source heat pumps; if you install ductless mini splits inside your building, they typically only make between 20 to 40 dB of noise, which is near the sound rating of a whisper. 

In addition to increased comfortability from noise benefits, air source heat pumps help improve air quality through air filtration and reducing allergens in the air while heating and cooling your home. They also help to dehumidify your environment, making your living spaces more comfortable.

ASHPs combine heating and cooling systems into one

When you install an air source heat pump, you benefit from the heater and air conditioner in one. This means you can usually reduce costs and time associated with installing two different systems that serve separate purposes and lessen the amount of physical space required for two individual technologies.

ASHPs let you heat and cool your home in zones

Another benefit of using air source heat pumps is that you can heat or cool a specific room or zone in your home to a certain temperature. This is particularly useful if you experience persistently colder or warmer areas in their home that they’re looking to regulate. Alternatively, it’s also helpful if you want to save energy and money by keeping different areas of your home at different temperature settings. For example, if you have a multi-zone air source heat pump, you may keep bedroom areas cool at night during the summer but have a higher temperature setting in areas you aren’t using, so you’re not paying to cool those other rooms. 

Cons of air source heat pumps

While there are benefits to using ASHPs, this technology isn’t the best heating or cooling solution for every home. Here are some of the disadvantages of air source heat pumps:

ASHPs can cost more upfront than other conventional HVAC technologies

If you’re looking for the lowest upfront cost while shopping for a heating and cooling solution, air source heat pumps likely won’t be it. 

The cost of installing air source heat pumps depends on several factors, including equipment quality, installation complexity, the type of system (ducted vs. ductless), and your home’s size and layout. Including both equipment and labor, central air source heat pump installations typically cost between $12,000 and $20,000, while ductless systems cost around $3,500 to $5,000 for each indoor unit installed. Gas, electric, and oil furnaces, on the other hand, typically cost less than $5,000 to install.

To truly compare the cost of installing air source heat pumps with other alternatives, you’ll need to measure against the combined cost of installing both a heating and cooling system.

Increased electric bills

While air source heat pumps use less energy and can help many property owners save on heating bills, this isn’t true for everyone. Remember, air source heat pumps require electricity to operate. This means that, even if you use less energy overall to heat your home with air source heat pumps, you may spend more money on utility bills overall if the cost of electricity in your area is significantly higher than the cost of the fuel you’d otherwise heat your home with. 

Notably, air source heat pumps will likely save you money if you run your home on oil or propane, but you may initially spend more money heating your home with air source heat pumps if you’d otherwise use natural gas.

ASHPs are susceptible to power outages

Air source heat pumps need electricity to operate, so you can’t run them during grid outages when you lose power. However, it’s worth noting that even heating technologies that primarily run on gas (like furnaces or boilers) require electricity to run, even if only minimal amounts. 

If you experience frequent power outages, one way to increase the resiliency of your home is to install a solar-plus-storage system. That way, you can use solar electricity previously stored in your battery to power appliances (like air source heat pumps) in the event there is an outage.

Save money by pairing your heat pumps with solar panels

The best way to save on heating and cooling bills is to power your air source heat pumps with solar. By pairing these two technologies together, you can run your heat pumps on free, clean electricity generated by your home. Sign up today for free on the EnergySage Marketplace to get solar quotes, compare offers side by side from qualified, pre-vetted installers near you, or speak with an Energy Advisor to discuss which solar option is best for you. 
Curious what you could save by going solar? Check out our Solar Calculator for an instant estimate for your home. If you’re unable to install solar on your property, you can also use our Community Solar Marketplace to find solar farms near you to subscribe to and save between 5 and 15 percent annually on electric bills.


6 thoughts on “Pros and cons of air source heat pumps

  1. Bill Ward

    Development of local and individual solar and wind electricity production woulds solve many of the problems associated with a long distance grid. Every flat roof in the country should be covered with photovoltaics. Parking lots could be covered with solar panels protecting vehicles parked beneath and reducing the amount of heat build up on the pavement. This has been done in downtown Atlanta and the Michigan State University lots surrounding their stadium. It could and should be done nearly everywhere. No more money should be spent on fossil fuel infrastucture or transmission (pipelines). Look, the ocean actually caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico. What more clear signals do we need to wake up and make the changes necessary?

    Reply
  2. Gerry Houser

    Pro heat pump advocates never seem to say at what outside temperature they become extremely inefficient (35 degrees?) and then the inefficient straight electric heater kicks in, or that the outside unit coils freeze up, requiring defrosting every _________ minutes.

    Heat pumps have been around for 50 years or so – there is a reason they haven’t swamped the northern markets (see above). Why not be honest about the limitations?

    Reply
    1. Will

      Gerry, clearly you’ve done little research on recent ASHPs before you left a negative comment. They can be 100% efficient down to less than -5 deg and still operate. Yes, heat pumps 50 years ago were not efficient but technology advances just like in the solar industry. People are regularly installing these in Zone 6 climates without back up heat strips.

      Reply
  3. Brad Erwin

    I think it’s really cool that heat pumps can operate quieter than the standard dishwasher! White noise has been something that bugs me quite a bit when I start to notice it. I will be sure to keep this awesome benefit in mind while I decide on future heating options for my home!

    Reply
  4. Jeff Brown

    With the huge push here in California for all electric homes this gravely concerns me for homeowners as well as business’. When talking “More Efficiency” this may sound great but in reality not always the most economical way to go. For instance an Electric Water Heater is far more efficient than a Natural Gas or Propane water heater. In fact over 50% of all water heaters in the US are electric. But once you get into States where you have 2-4X electric rates such as California by far Natural Gas Water Heating and Home Heaters dominate.
    For a quick example here in California, take a family of 5. Your average monthly cost for natural gas water heating is $15-$20 per month. The same family with an electric water heater would be $90-$110 per month.
    Math is math. Everything can be boiled down to a KW of energy. Natural Gas is plentiful and by far cheapest method to use. Solar and Wind are making a dent but we must be realistic.
    What concerns me as a native Californian is all this talk about electric this and electric that for our future without a single damn thing being done to our grid infrastructure. It has been so neglected for decades now with not even a single hydro electric plant added our entire electric grid will now be ran just as the government, always a crisis fix.

    Reply
    1. Bill Ward

      Please cite any data on your assertion that electric water heaters take any less energy than natural gas. Electric heating uses resistance that by its definition is inefficient.

      Reply

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