pros and cons of air source heat pumps

Pros and cons of air source heat pumps

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Choosing how you want to heat and cool your property is an important decision, especially in regards to energy bills: according to the Department of Energy, heating and cooling make up roughly 48 percent of energy consumption in the average U.S. home. 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 heating and cooling technologies for your property. 

Pros and cons of air source heat pumps: overview

There are a number of advantages to installing air source heat pumps over more traditional heating and cooling technologies; however, every property is unique, and heat pumps aren’t the best solution for every building. Here are some of the top pros and cons of air source heat pumps to keep in mind:

Pros and cons of air source heat pumps

Pros of ASHPsCons of ASHPs
High efficiencyUpfront cost
Health and wellness benefitsIncreased electricity bill
Heating and cooling system in oneSusceptible to power outages

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 (which helps the environment and saves you money)

Air source heat pumps have high efficiencies compared to 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 to reduce both your personal environmental impact and energy bills

Many heating and cooling technologies run on fossil fuel or electricity produced from burning fossil fuels, which releases greenhouse gases 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 own carbon footprint. 

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

ASHPs have a number of associated health and wellness benefits

Have you ever been distracted by a noisy furnace? Compared to other heating and cooling technologies, air source heat pumps operate relatively quietly. This is particularly true 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 quieter the sound. Dishwashers and AC units typically 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, reducing allergens in the air while heating and cooling your home. They also help to dehumidify your environment, leaving living spaces 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 that you can reduce costs and time associated with installing two different systems that serve separate purposes, as well as lessen the amount of physical space required for two individual technologies.

Cons of air source heat pumps

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

ASHPs can cost more money upfront than more conventional technologies

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

The cost of installing air source heat pumps depends on a number of factors, including quality of the equipment, installation complexity, type of system (ducted vs. ductless), and more. 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.

ASHPs may increase your heating costs

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 fuel overall to heat your home with air source heat pumps, you may spend more money on energy 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 given its current low cost.

ASHPs rely on electricity

ASHPs need electricity to operate. This means that, during grid outages when you lose power, you can’t run your air source heat pumps. 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 resiliency in your home is to install a solar plus storage energy system. That way, you can use solar electricity previously stored in your battery to power appliances (like air source heat pumps) should the grid shut down.

Pair your heat pumps with solar panels

The best way to save on heating and cooling bills is to install air source heat pumps with a solar energy system. By pairing the two technologies together, you can run your ASHPs on free, clean electricity generated right at your property. When you join the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can receive up to seven solar quotes from local installers. If you’re interested in pairing your solar energy system with new air source heat pumps, simply note it in your account so that installers can quote the appropriate sized solar panel system for your anticipated electricity needs.

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?

  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?

    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.

  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!

  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.

    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.


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