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What is a heat pump?

A heat pump extracts heat energy from the air or ground, even when it is cold outside, and uses it to warm your home.

A well-designed heat pump system transfers around three to four times more energy into a property as heat then it uses to extract it. As a result, heat pumps are incredibly efficient and also have the potential to significantly lower fuel bills, particularly in properties without access to mains gas.

  • Ideal for off-grid properties
  • Provides heating and hot water from the energy stored in the air or ground
  • Generates more energy than it uses
  • Qualifies for Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments to offset the cost of MCS-compliant installation

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The benefits of a heat pump

Heat pumps have a wide range of benefits, from reducing your carbon footprint to potentially saving money on your energy bills. Discover how a heat pump could benefit you:

  • Renewable energy option As a renewable energy source, they are a great option for households looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

  • Reduced running costs Around three times more efficient than a boiler, heat pumps can significantly reduce your energy bills.

  • Eligible for RHI payments MCS compliant heat pump installations are eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive.

  • Up to 400% efficient Generating more energy than they use, heat pumps are an extremely efficient heat source.

Types of heat pumps

There are two main types of heat pump: air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps. Air source heat pumps are the most popular option as they require little space and cost less to install. Because of the land required, ground source heat pumps are generally better suited to larger sites.

Find out more about ground source heat pumps.

Which type of heat pump should I choose?

 Air SourceGround Source (ground loops)
EfficiencyMuch more efficient than boilers, but generally less efficient than a ground source heat pumpGenerally more efficient than air source heat pumps
AestheticsUnit located close to the propertyGround loops are invisible once fitted
SoundAll produce some noise, but some are much quieter than you might expectVery quiet operation
PlanningCan fall under permitted development, but also need to meet MCS020 standardsPlanning permission is generally not required (subject to groundworks & archaeological considerations)
SiteSuitable for smaller sitesSuitable for larger sites
Property suitabilitySuitable for most properties – number of required heat pumps is dependent upon property sizeGenerally more suitable for medium to large properties
Example installation cost for a 250m2property£11,500£15,000 – £20,000
Example RHI tariff payments over 7 years (Ofgem figures, Sept 2018)£8,400£17,500

Air source heat pumps

An air source heat pump is a low-carbon, renewable heat source that is suitable for a wide range of homes.

They extract heat energy from the air in order to warm your home and provide hot water. Aside from their eco-credentials, an ASHP system is also very efficient.

For every unit of energy it uses to extract heat from the air, it typically outputs three times more as heat, meaning ASHP efficiency is around 300%!

Air source heat pump benefits include:

  • Low carbon, environmentally-friendly heat source
  • Highly efficient, transferring around three times more energy into a home as heat than it uses to extract it from the air
  • MCS approved for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)
  • Little outdoor space required, meaning an air source heat pump system is suitable for most urban properties

Is an air source heat pump right for my home?

An ASHP can be installed in a range of properties, whether small or large, rural or urban.

An air source heat pump is right for you if:

  • You are looking for a low-carbon, eco-friendly and sustainable way to heat your home
  • The property is well insulated – this is important for efficiency and keeping running costs low
  • There is not enough outside space needed for a ground source heat pump – typically three times the total floor area of the property. For an ASHP, all you need is room for the unit to be fitted to an exterior wall, with enough space around it to get a good flow of air
  • You are installing, or already have, an underfloor heating system. Air source heat pumps work particularly well with underfloor heating because they are at their most efficient when producing low water temperatures

Both new and existing properties can benefit from the energy-saving capabilities of a heat pump.

Find Out if an ASHP is Right for You

Heat pump costs

In a well-insulated property, every kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity used to power the heat pump can provide around three to four kWh of ‘free’ thermal energy. This means that a heat pump’s efficiency can reach around 400% – far more than boilers that tend to run at around 92%.

In addition to reduced running costs, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) also offers quarterly tariff payments to help eligible households to offset the cost of their renewable installation.

How much does an air source heat pump cost?

You can expect a high-quality and well-designed air source heat pump system to costfrom £5,000. This includes:

  • A bespoke design, tailored to the property
  • Installation schematics
  • Lifetime technical support
  • MCS support to successfully apply for the RHI
  • The ASHP, domestic hot water cylinder, buffer tank, circulation pumps and all of the connecting brassware for the components

It’s possible to offset the initial cost of installing an air source heating system by applying for government incentives like the Renewable Heat Incentive.

To find out more about ground source heat pump costs, head over to our GSHP information page.

What are the running costs of an Air Source Heat Pump?

A correctly designed ASHP system can provide low running costs that are on par with mains gas, so you benefit from a greener way to heat your home that is also cost-effective long term.

Off the gas grid? An ASHP is even more appealing as it’s likely to offer you significant savings on running costs. Take a look at this running cost comparison:

ASHP15.0p/kWh300% efficient 5.0p/kWh
Mains Gas4.3p/kWh89% efficient 4.8p/kWh
Oil4.9p/kWh91.6% efficient 5.3p/kWh
LPG5.8p/kWh89% efficient 6.6p/kWh
Electric15.0p/kWh100% efficient 15.0p/kWh
Logs8.3p/kWh80% efficient 10.4p/kWh
Coal6.3p/kWh80% efficient 7.9p/kWh
Wood Pellet5.5p/kWh90% efficient 6.1p/kWh


How much does it cost to maintain an ASHP?

Like most heat sources, an air source heat pump should be serviced each year by a competent heating engineer.

The service will include mostly visual checks, checking settings haven’t changed and that the heat pump is still working efficiently.

Maintaining your ASHP annually is also a requirement for the RHI tariff payments.

You can expect an annual air source heat pump service to cost around £200.

Air source heat pump grants

By choosing to install an air source heat pump, you are helping the Government in their 10 point plan for a green revolution. Part of this plan is to make the move away from fossil fuels to low carbon heating, installing 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.

To encourage the uptake of heat pumps and help reduce the costs, the Government offers financial incentives.

The Renewable Heat Incentive

The Government recognises that ASHPs play an important role in reducing carbon emissions from the UK’s homes. This is why air source heat pump grants have been included in the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

To help offset the cost of installation, the RHI air source heat pump grant is set at a tariff rate of 7.3p/kWh. The exact ASHP grant amount over seven years depends on how much energy the household uses.

A typical home using around 20,000kWh per annum of heating requirement could receive around £7000 in payments over a seven-year period – a considerable sum to go alongside the savings on energy bills. Visit Ofgem to find out more about ASHP grants.

Learn More

RHI PaymentsAir source heat pump
RHI Tariff payment pence / kWh10.71p
Potential RHI payments over 7 years using an air source heat pump*£7,000

*An average three-bed house using 15,000kWh of heating per year with a SPF of 2.7 for the ASHP. February 2020.

The cost to have an air source heat pump installed varies, but as a rough estimate, it is usually around half of the cost of the unit itself.