Air Source Heat Pumps And Boilers: Balancing Efficiency!

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By Debarghya Roy

Air source heat pumps have gained immense popularity in the past few decades as a more efficient, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective alternative to traditional boilers.

But with fluctuations of fuel prices, energy efficiency regulations, and environmental constraints becoming stricter these days, the air source heat pump is stealing the show when it comes to home heating solutions.

Key Takeaways

  • Air source heat pumps offer significantly improved energy efficiency compared to traditional combustion heating systems like boilers, with the potential to save between 40 and 70 percent on annual energy consumption.
  • Heat pumps require minimal maintenance, leading to fewer expensive repairs or replacements over time.
  • Boilers typically have lower upfront costs but are not as efficient in the long term and can produce more greenhouse gas emissions than air source heat pump systems.
  • To maximize savings and reduce environmental impact, installing an air source boiler or heat pump is recommended when combined with smart insulation efforts and other renewable sources of electricity such as solar panels.

Definition Of Air Source Heat Pumps And Boilers

Air source heat pumps are a modern, energy efficient form of home heating and cooling. They use renewable air sources to extract and transfer heat into a building or hot water supply at higher efficiency than traditional fossil fuel systems such as gas or oil-fired boilers.

Functionality Of Air Source Heat Pumps And Boilers

Heat pumps work by extracting thermal energy from the outside environment, usually through an array of coils containing refrigerant liquid that evaporates and condenses on contact with the ambient temperature outside and inside your home respectively.

This process requires electrical inputs but are less expensive to run compared to traditional fuels due to their low running costs when drawing energy from natural air temperatures above zero degrees Celsius.

In most cases this means you will be able to benefit from greater savings over time while still maintaining warmth even during colder months or extreme weather conditions.

The significantly lower carbon footprint associated with air source heat pumps make them particularly appealing for homeowners looking for more sustainable ways of heating their homes.

How Does Air Source Heat Pumps Work?

Air source heat pumps are HVAC systems that use renewable energy to generate heat and coolness. 

Heat pumps have a variety of components such as an evaporator, compressor, condenser, expansion valve, reversing valve and thermostat.

  • These pumps are designed to extract available energy from the outside air, using a process called the reverse refrigeration cycle.
  • It works by evaporating a special chemical fluid at low pressure, causing it to absorb heat from its surrounding areas. 
  • The fluid is then compressed which turns it back into liquid form and releases the absorbed heat inside your home or business premises.

How Does Boilers Work?

Boilers are devices that transfer fuel sources such as natural gas, oil, or propane into energy that is used to heat either hot water or air. 

air source heat pump and boiler

Boilers operate by harnessing large heat exchangers along with burners and controls which direct the heated substance through pipes throughout the home to where it’s needed.

For example, 

While a condensing boiler makes use of two separate chambers in its heat exchanger one for combustion exhaust from burning natural gas and another for extracting residual heat from this exhausted air.

Comparison Of Air Source Heat Pumps Vs. Boilers

Air source heat pumps and boilers offer different benefits and drawbacks for homeowners. 

The following table highlights the differences between each option,

FeaturesAir Source Heat PumpsBoilers
Energy EfficiencyHigher efficiencies, leading to reduced energy consumption and lower utility bills.Lower efficiency compared to air source heat pumps, resulting in higher energy consumption and utility bills.
Operating CostsLower operating costs due to higher efficiency and minimal maintenance requirements.Higher operating costs due to lower efficiency and potential need for frequent maintenance.
Carbon FootprintReduced carbon footprint as they do not produce carbon emissions during operation.Higher carbon footprint due to the production of carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.
Upfront CostsHigher upfront costs, but the potential for long-term savings from lower energy consumption.Lower upfront costs, although long-term savings may be minimal due to higher energy consumption.
Climate ConsiderationsMay not be as effective in extremely cold climates, requiring a backup heating source.More effective in colder climates due to their ability to provide high-temperature heating.
VersatilityCan provide both heating and cooling, making them suitable for a variety of climates.Primarily for heating, with no cooling functionality.
Maintenance RequirementsMinimal maintenance required, saving time and money on repairs and replacements.Regular maintenance may be necessary, leading to potential repair and replacement costs.

Advantages Of Air Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps offer high energy efficiency and potential cost savings, while also reducing your carbon footprint and helping protect the environment.

Higher Energy Efficiency Of Air Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps offer significantly improved energy efficiency compared to traditional combustion heating systems like boilers. 

Heat pumps work by transferring, rather than generating, heat from one environment to another; this makes them up to three times more efficient than combustion-based systems, 

It provides money-saving benefits and reduces greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.

For example, 

According to research conducted by Sustainable Energy Ireland, homeowners may be able to save between 40 and 70 percent on their household’s annual energy consumption when switching from other types of home heating such as oil or gas boilers.

This can amount considerable savings over time due to enhanced operating costs associated with air source heat pump technology.

Lower Operating Costs Of Air Source Heat Pumps

  • Air source heat pumps are a great way for businesses and homeowners to reduce energy bills over the long term. 
  • These systems contribute to savings by providing highly efficient heating coupled with reduced maintenance requirements.
  • As compared to traditional boilers, air source heat pumps consume less natural resources while producing more heating output during any given cycle.

Reduced Carbon Footprint Of Air Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps and boilers are an eco-friendly way for professionals to reduce their carbon footprint while providing efficient and effective heating in their home or workplace.

By choosing clean energy alternatives, such as air source heat pumps and boilers, professionals can help reduce the environmental impact of traditional gas appliances which emit higher levels of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

Furthermore, these systems require less electricity to operate than traditional furnaces or boilers, leading to a significant decrease in long term energy costs.

LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification requires that buildings use low carbon methods of powering air-source heat pumps when seeking certification.

Versatility Of Air Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps are a highly versatile heating and cooling solution for all kinds of properties, from residential to commercial.

Unlike traditional boilers, which only supply warm air in winter, an air source heat pump can move warm or cool air throughout the property depending on your needs. 

It uses renewable energy sources such as the outside air as its power source, these versatile systems are much less expensive to operate than gas-powered solutions like boilers.

They also require fewer maintenance costs since there’s no need to continually buy fuel or replace parts over time.

Air Source Heat Pumps Are Better For The Environment

Air source heat pumps offer a more sustainable way to heat homes compared to traditional boilers. 

Heat pumps extract energy from the air and use it to warm standing water, meaning they consume less energy than conventional heating systems such as boilers which rely on burning gas or oil.

Homeowners can benefit financially from switching their boiler system to an air source pump due not only to reduced operating costs but also government incentives such as tax credits or rebates.

It made available for transitioning up-to-date green technologies into existing homes.

Advantages Of Boilers For Air Source Heat Pumps

It includes availability of natural gas or oil, high temperature heating for larger properties, lower upfront cost and climate considerations.

Availability Of Natural Gas Or Oil 

Boilers have long been a popular method of heating homes as they offer access to natural gas or oil, both of which can generate heat at a much higher temperature than air source heat pumps.

Natural gas is the most common form of fuel for home heating boilers, but homeowners in some locations may need to use oil if they are not connected to the natural gas network.

Boilers tend to require less upfront investment initially due to their relatively low cost and availability.

However, over time costs will likely increase due to high energy costs associated with burning fuels such as natural gas and oil.

On the other hand, an air source heat pump offers an eco-friendly alternative that has certain advantages compared with boiler systems powered by fossil fuels. 

High Temperature Heating

High temperature heating is a type of heating that operates beyond the traditional water boiling point and can provide home comfort in areas with cold winter temperatures.

Heat pumps are well suited for higher temperature applications compared to traditional boilers. 

Traditional gas or oil boilers struggle to maintain temperatures in cold weather due to their low COP, whereas heat pumps generate better efficiency due to their high COP ratings which incorporate an additional energy source from outside air or ground sources.

This allows them to extract large amounts of heat from the environment even on very cold days creating warm air at considerably higher temperatures than that produced by conventional boilers.

For Larger Properties

Boilers are a popular choice for larger properties due to their ability to provide high temperature heating and the availability of natural gas or oil. 

Boilers also typically have a lower upfront cost than heat pumps, making them an economical solution for many homeowners.

On average, boilers can operate with 90 percent energy efficiency while heat pumps typically clock in at 300 percent efficiency.

Lower Upfront Cost

Boilers offer a lower upfront cost than air source heat pumps due to the cost of installation, equipment, and maintenance. 

Depending on the size of your property and the type of heating system you require, installing a boiler can be up to half as expensive as an equivalent air source heat pump set-up.

In certain circumstances, boilers may also hold advantages over overheating pumps in terms of long-term costs and benefits.

Climate Considerations

Climate plays an important role in determining the type of heating system to choose for a home or building. 

For example, higher temperatures require more cooling power, which may make an air source heat pump a better choice than a boiler in warmer climates.

In cold climates, boilers can offer high-temperature heating and are usually cheaper upfront but have generally lower energy efficiency ratings compared to air source heat pumps.

Additionally, electricity is usually less expensive than natural gas and oil in colder regions and hence, opting for an electric-powered air source heat pump can be cost-effective over time.

Choosing Between An Air Source Heat Pump And A Boiler

When deciding on a home heating system, it is important to consider the special requirements of your region and your needs.

Evaluating The Needs And Budget Of Choosing Boiler For Heat Pump

  • Assess the size and insulation of the property for efficient air source heat pump or boiler installation.
  • Consider Energy Star efficiency ratings when choosing between air source heat pump or boiler.
  • Research power consumption cost and estimate potential savings with a new heating system.
  • Consult with an expert to select the technology and size that meet specific needs.
  • Analyze long – term costs such as maintenance, fuel, repairs, and replacement parts.

Considering Long-term Costs And Benefits Of Using Boilers

When choosing the right home heating system, it is important to consider both initial installation costs and long-term costs. 

Air source heat pumps are a relatively new option for heating homes that can offer energy savings of up to 30 percent compared with traditional boiler systems.

These systems use electricity as their main power source which eliminates any need for fuel delivery or storage but tend to carry higher upfront purchase and installation prices than boilers.

Boilers are more affordable upfront but less efficient, usually depending on natural gas or oil to function, making them more costly in terms of operating over time due to fossil fuel prices constantly fluctuating.

Consulting With A Professional

Consulting with a professional before deciding on an air source heat pump and boiler is essential to get the best value for money

Professionals can help you evaluate your needs, such as sizing, climate as well as energy efficiency based on the property.

They will factor in all possible aspects like running costs, potential government incentives or discounts available that could reduce total market cost of equipment needed.

Professionals ensure correct installation of the system by properly assessing the area around it taking into account environmental factors which could be affected by downdrafts due to prevailing winds.

Affordable Air Source Heat Pump Boiler Options For Small Homes

  • Air source heat pump boilers come in a wide range of sizes to fit the needs of smaller homes.
  • In general, these systems offer comparable performance and efficiency as conventional heating systems at a fraction of the cost.
  • Three main types are available: air‑to‑air, water source, and geothermal.
  • Air‑to‑air pumps use outdoor air to generate warmth indoors with electric resistance elements or hot water coil inside the unit that generates heat for distribution within the home via ductwork.
  • Water source pumps utilize ground or lake water as their energy sources for heat transfer through pipes that circulate it from outside to inside your house.
  • Geothermal options use underground temperature levels to warm up cold water passing through it and then circulating heated liquid throughout your property’s piping arrangement for efficient climate control.
  • Typically speaking, an air source system will cost customers between $3,500 and $7,500 inclusive of its unit plus professional installation fees whereas either type could be directly replaced with a gas boiler specialized in hydronic heating applications when feasible on site requirements insist so.

Energy-saving Benefits Of Using An Air Source Heat Pump Boiler

Air source heat pumps are an ideal heating and cooling solution for both new construction projects and existing homes. 

Heat pumps use renewable energy like the sun, which helps reduce electricity usage for heating up to 50% compared to electric furnaces, resulting in significant energy savings when used effectively.

Air source heat pumps can provide even consistent heat with higher efficiency than boilers powered by natural gas or oil.

In addition to providing substantial savings on utility bills, air source heat pump systems also offer environmental benefits related to reducing our homes’ carbon footprint.

For example, 

Using an air source heat pump year round results in better efficiency than traditional heating methods such as furnaces or boilers even during winter months because they make use of highly efficient materials that generate three times more output than the energy input needed from fossil fuels like natural gas or propane.

Consequently, homeowners enjoy considerable reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions simply by cutting out sources of combustible fuels and investing in an eco-friendly alternative instead.

How To Select The Right Contractor For Air Source Heat Pump Boiler Installation?

The following ways to be followed to select the right contractor for air source heat pump boiler installation:

  • When selecting a contractor for air source heat pump boiler installation, homeowners should ensure the contractor is licensed and insured in their state.
  • It is important to verify that the contractor has experience and specific knowledge when working with a particular type of system such as an air-source or mini-split model.
  • Examples of industry certifications necessary to demonstrate expertise include North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certification and EPA certification.
  • Homeowners should also ask if they are able fill out any warranty information required by the manufacturer when installing the heating system on their property.
  • Interviewing potential contractors ahead of time can help determine if they possess appropriate qualifications and familiarize them with project scope ahead of time.

Comparison: Air Source Heat Pump Boiler Vs Geothermal Heat Pump

When comparing air source heat pump boilers to geothermal heat pumps, it is important to note that both technologies utilize the heat extraction process to provide heating solutions. 

The table below offers a detailed comparison of the two technologies, highlighting their respective pros and cons.

Air Source Heat Pump BoilerGeothermal Heat Pump
More affordable upfront costs compared to geothermal systemsEasier and quicker to installCan provide both heating and cooling solutionsEfficiency can reach up to 400% in ideal conditionsReduced carbon footprint compared to traditional boilers
Higher efficiency ratings (up to 600%) compared to air source heat pumpsReliable and consistent performance, as ground temperature is more stableLonger lifespan (up to 50 years) with lower maintenance requirementsCan also provide both heating and cooling solutionsGreater reduction in carbon footprint compared to air source heat pumps and traditional boilers
Less efficient than geothermal heat pumpsPerformance can be affected by fluctuating outdoor air temperaturesMay require auxiliary heating systems in colder climatesShorter lifespan (approximately 15-20 years) compared to geothermal systems
Higher upfront costs and longer payback periodMore complex and time-consuming installation processRequires adequate land space for installationMay require additional permits and permissions due to drilling and excavation


Air source heat pumps and boilers are both viable options for home heating. When deciding between the two, homeowners should consider their budget, energy efficiency needs, climate preferences and installation costs.


What is an air source heat pump?

An air source heat pump (ASHP) is a heating and cooling system that uses the outdoor air to transfer energy from one place to another. It takes energy in from the outside and converts it into useful heat for your home or building, using refrigerant technology similar to a refrigerator or air conditioner.

What advantages does an ASHP have compared with other heating technologies?

Air source heat pumps are highly efficient as they use renewable energy sources like solar radiation to generate warmth rather than burning gas or oil for fuel, reducing both carbon emissions and electricity costs over time. 

How do I decide which type of boiler best suits my needs?

The type of boiler you should choose typically depends on several factors including how large your property is, how many occupants will be living there, what kind of space insulation you currently have installed as well as any particular preferences when it comes preferences when it comes to size & style options available depending upon manufacturer/installer considered.

Is installing an air source heating system expensive? 

Yes, installation costs for AST systems can often be quite steep due complexity involved requiring skilled contractors sourced so job completed safely & reliably within agreed budget parameters despite being more cost-effective in long run thanks relative efficiency level attained through process followed operationally moving forward after full implementation completed properly by competent professionals .


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