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What is an air source heat pump?

An air source heat pump (ASHP) extracts heat energy from the air, even when it is cold outside, and uses it to warm your home.

A well-designed air source heat pump system transfers around three times more energy into a property as heat then it uses to extract it. As a result, ASHPs are incredibly efficient.

  • Provides heating and hot water from the energy stored in the air
  • Generates more energy than it uses
  • Qualifies for the Boiler Upgrade Scheme £7,500 grant.
Introduction to Air Source Heat Pumps

Gas boiler vs air source heat pump: which is best?

When looking at a heating system for your home, it can be difficult to decide which one will be right for you. Whilst gas boilers have historically been the answer, air source heat pumps can offer an energy efficient, low-carbon, future-proof alternative.

If you’re looking to find out more and weigh up your different options, check out our Heat pump vs boiler page.

How is a Heat Pump Different to a Boiler

The benefits of an air heat pump

ASHPs have a wide range of benefits, from reducing your carbon footprint to potentially saving money on your energy bills. Discover how an air source 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.
Renewable energy solution

Low running costs

A well-designed heat pump system can deliver low on-going running costs.
Reduced running costs

Eligible for grants

Air source heat pumps are eligible for grants of £7,500 through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.
Best value for money

Up to 400% efficient

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

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 Source Ground Source (ground loops)
Efficiency Much more efficient than boilers, but generally less efficient than a ground source heat pump Generally more efficient than air source heat pumps
Aesthetics Unit located close to the property Ground loops are invisible once fitted
Sound All produce some noise, but some are much quieter than you might expect Very quiet operation
Planning Can fall under permitted development, but also need to meet MCS020 standards Planning permission is generally not required (subject to groundworks & archaeological considerations)
Site Suitable for smaller sites Suitable for larger sites
Property suitability Suitable for most properties – number of required heat pumps is dependent upon property size Generally more suitable for medium to large properties
Example installation cost for a 250m2property £11,500 £15,000 – £20,000
Example Boiler Upgrade Scheme grant (Oct 2023) £7,500 £7,500

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.

When is a Heat Pump Suitable

5 must ask questions about heat pumps

Find out how to choose the right heat pump for your home.

Download free guide

5 must ask questions about heat pumps

Find out more about air source heat pumps

Nu-Heat’s ASHP heat pump range

At Nu-Heat, we only use the highest quality, tried-and-tested components for all our systems. That’s why we design and supply NIBE and Panasonic ASHPs as an efficient, low-carbon, solution for domestic hot water and space heating.

NIBE air source heat pumps

Swedish company, NIBE, has been manufacturing heat pumps globally for 40 years. Their industry-leading ASHPs not only look great, they also offer the highest levels of performance and functionality.

  • Incredibly quiet thanks to Owl Wing fan design, producing maximum sound power levels as low as 50 decibels
  • Intuitive control with smart connectivity
  • Compact units available from 6kW up to 16kW
  • Cascade and hybrid options to suit a wide range of properties
  • MCS approved for accessing government grants
  • 7-year warranty when commissioned by a Nu-Heat engineer
Why we supply NIBE air source heat pumps
NIBE Model 6kW 10kW
CoP at 7/35 °C* 5.41 5.33
Operating voltage 230V 50Hz
Weight (kg) 76 83
Dimensions (height includes stand) H791 x W993 x
D383 mm
H895 x W1035 x
D422 mm
Max sound power level (dB(A))** 53 53

Panasonic air source heat pumps

Another highly efficient option is the Panasonic air source heat pump range. Available as single units from just 5kW, they offer a lower initial investment for homeowners looking to make the switch to renewable, low-carbon heating.

  • 5kW – 16kW models available
  • Maximum sound power levels as low as 59 decibels
  • Simple, compact controller
  • Built-in filter and charge pump
  • MCS approved for accessing government grants
  • 5-year warranty when commissioned by a Nu-Heat engineer
Panasonic air source heat pumps

Watch Our Heat Pump and Underfloor Heating Masterclass

Learn the essentials with our resident expert Jo Snell, Self-Build Manager at Nu-Heat.

Watch masterclass

Heat Pump and Underfloor Heating Masterclass

Why choose an air source heat pump from Nu-Heat?

Because we are experts in designing and integrating heat pumps and underfloor heating – it’s what we do!

As a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) accredited company, we know what it takes to provide you with an efficient system that effectively heats a home, whilst also keeping running costs low.

We are here to provide the perfect heating package, meticulously tailored to each home. You also benefit from one point of responsibility – we will carefully design everything – for complete peace of mind.

Bespoke heating design

Seamlessly integrating the air source heat pump and underfloor heating.
Bespoke heating design

MCS accredited supplier

We design MCS compliant renewable systems that qualify for government grants.
MCS approved heat pumps

Free lifetime support

We support Nu-Heat systems for life, so you can always call on us for technical support.
Lifetime technical support

Award-winning service

We’re the only heating company to hold a Distinction from the Institute of Customer Service.
Award winning service

Commissioning support

Nu-Heat’s Field Engineers attend site to support commissioning and the ASHP system handover.
Onsite support

Long warranty

Our NIBE air source heat pumps are covered by a 7-year warranty when commissioned by Nu-Heat.
Nibe heat pump warranty

It’s definitely a far cheaper and greener option than oil. Nu-Heat were brilliant from the start; so professional and helpful.

Frieda Garrett – Homeowner

Should I use underfloor heating or radiators with a heat pump?

Whilst both underfloor heating and radiators can work with an air source heat pump, there are a few important things to consider before making a final decision.

For example, it is worth bearing in mind that as an air source heat pump produces lower flow temperatures, it will require larger heat emitters in order to work efficiently. This is why underfloor heating is such a great heat emitter for an air source heat pump.

How to Choose the Right Heat Emitter

Underfloor heating with heat pumps

Air source heat pumps are at their most efficient when producing low temperatures over a sustained period of time.

An underfloor heating system uses water that is around 40-45°C, circulating this across the entire floor area to heat your home. In comparison, a traditional radiator system needs to use water that is far hotter, around 70-80°C, in order to heat the room/s using a much smaller surface area.

This is why integrating an air source heat pump with underfloor heating is the preferred combination, ensuring you get the maximum benefit from your heat pump system.

Why you should pair underfloor heating with an air source heat pump:

  • Low flow temperature solution – maximising the air source heat pump efficiency
  • Up to 40% more efficient than a boiler and radiators system
  • Reduces carbon footprint
  • When choosing Nu-Heat, you have a fully designed and integrated heat pump and underfloor heating solution from a single supplier
Does Underfloor Heating Increase Property Value

Want help finding the right renewables solution?

We would love to speak with you to discuss your project. If you have a question about your existing Nu-Heat system, our technical support team are at hand.

Air Source Heating FAQs

Is my property suitable for an air source heat pump?

Providing the property is well-insulated, an air source heat pump is likely to be suitable. Insulation is really important because it prevents heat escaping, enabling the heat pump to work efficiently at lower flow temperatures.

The levels of insulation in new build properties, and generally those built in the last 10 years, are likely to be suitable for an air source heat pump. Older properties will require insulation upgrades like loft, cavity wall and glazing improvements.

I don’t have access to mains gas – could a heat pump be a suitable alternative?

A heat pump could be a particularly cost-effective choice if your property doesn’t have access to mains gas. This is because for every unit of electricity the heat pump uses, it typically outputs three times the amount in heat energy. You can expect a heat pump to be more efficient and cheaper to run than an electric-only heating system or an LPG boiler.

Can air source heating be installed in an older building?

Yes, it can, providing that the insulation is being improved – ideally as close to current build regulations as possible. This enables the air source heat pump to work efficiently and keeps running costs low.

Does my property need to be well-insulated to have a heat pump?

Insulation should be up to modern Building Regulation standards to ensure the heat pump both effectively and efficiently heats the property.

How efficient are air source heat pumps?

An air source heat pump is around 300% efficient. This is because for every unit of energy it uses to extract heat from the air, it typically outputs over 3 units of heat energy into the property.

How do I find a heat pump installer?

We can help you to find an installer for your heat pump through our Registered Installer Network.

If you already have an installer in mind, we can support heating engineers to fit heat pumps to Microgeneration Scheme standards, offering a range of commissioning packages.

The installer will need to have the following pre-requisite qualifications:

  • Part L Energy Efficiency
  • G3 Domestic Hot Water Systems
  • Water Regulations 1999

They will also need to hold public liability insurance of over £2million.

What are the incentives of buying an air source heat pump?

An air source heat pump is a low-carbon, efficient renewable technology. A big benefit is that it offers a cleaner and greener way to heat a home – no fossil fuels.

Aside from their eco credentials, air source heat pumps are also eligible for a £5000 grant through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

What does MCS stand for?

The Microgeneration Certification Scheme or MCS is often described as the renewables equivalent of Gas Safe. You will need your heat pump system to be MCS compliant if you wish to benefit from any government grant, like the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

Do I need planning permission to install an air source heat pump?

In the majority of cases an air source heat pump does not require planning permission, falling under Permitted Development in line with MCS020. Obviously, it is important to check this before getting started!

If the property is listed, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or Conservation Area, planning permission will be required.

Are heat pumps compatible with underfloor heating?

Yes! Heat pumps are at their most efficient when operating at lower temperatures, making this technology a perfect partner for underfloor heating (UFH), which operates at a much lower flow temperature than radiators.

Heat pumps can still be used in conjunction with radiators, but the radiators would need to be oversized in order to heat the property adequately.

How much space do I need for an air source heat pump?

Not much! The air source heat pump unit is fitted outside of the property. You will need some space inside for the domestic hot water cylinder, buffer tank and the other components.

For heat pumps up to 12kW, you need a footprint around the same size as a standard hot water cylinder – similar to a large airing cupboard.

What floor coverings should I choose with a heat pump powered UFH?

Heat pump powered underfloor heating works best with highly conductive floor coverings such as stone or ceramic tiles, vinyl or lino. If the floor covering has good thermal conductivity, the heat pump and UFH can operate at a lower flow temperature for optimum efficiency.

How far away does the heat pump need to be from my neighbour’s house?

The actual distance a heat pump needs to be from a neighbouring property depends on the unit used and any fences, hedges, walls etc. between the heat pump’s location and the assessment position. This is covered by MCS020 – something we take care of for you.

How do I control my heat pump – are they easy to use?

You can easily control your heat pump via a series of icons on the control panel that enable you to set heating and domestic hot water (DHW) schedules, as well as view live operating data and current temperatures. Every on-screen menu has a help button which provides clarification on each of the functions.

Can any plumber install an air source heat pump?

Yes. Any competent plumber can install an ASHP to MCS standards with our support.

Will my heat pump come with a warranty and how long do they last?

Yes. Our heat pump systems come with a 7-year warranty when commissioned by a Nu-Heat engineer.

How can I ensure it is installed correctly?

Nu-Heat offers a unique air source heat pump MCS support package. This includes an on-site commissioning visit from one of our engineers who will check that the ASHP has been installed correctly.

My heat pump is weather compensating – what does this mean?

Nu-Heat supplies NIBE heat pumps that offer weather compensating technology.

Weather compensation works by adjusting the amount of energy it uses to achieve the desired inside temperature, according to the outside weather conditions. For example, your heating system will not have to work as hard to achieve and maintain a set minimum inside temperature on a warm summer’s day as it would in the depths of winter.

This is a more efficient alternative to a traditional central heating schedule, which will fire up the boiler to deliver heat to your radiators at certain times of the day or night, regardless of the outside temperature, and only regulates the heat output according to the temperature of the water circulating around the system.

How long does it take to install?

Plumbing an air source heat pump takes a similar amount of time to installing a conventional boiler. Electrically, heat pumps are a little more involved, so it may take a couple more hours to wire than a boiler.

Will my heat pump system provide enough hot water at peak times?

Yes. The most efficient way to provide domestic hot water (DHW) for your home is to allow the DHW cylinder to remain ‘topped up’, with the heat pump operating to replace the used hot water.

Most heat pumps can be set to switch on a standby electric immersion heater to ensure that you always have hot water when you need it.

Are air source heat pumps noisy?

No. An air source heat pump makes less noise than the flue of a gas boiler. NIBE ASHPs are the quietest on the market thanks to their Owl Wing Technology.

Do heat pumps work in cold weather?

Yes. Heat pumps work effectively year-round.

The top 15m of the Earth’s surface maintains an average year-round temperature of 12ºC. Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) use this heat source to supply the energy required to heat domestic water, and a low temperature heating system such as underfloor heating.

Air source heat pumps work in a similar way, except they extract available warmth from passing air rather than from the ground. In theory they should be able to extract useful energy from the outside air down to temperatures as low as -15°C. The storage cylinder provides both domestic hot water and a boost of heating energy in the coldest weather.

What are the maintenance processes and costs?

An air source heat pump should be serviced yearly to maintain the warranty and to ensure the system is working as it should be. The cost of an annual service will be around £200-£300.

Can I use my heat pump 24 hours a day?

Yes, absolutely. It’s the most efficient way.

What is the lifespan of an air source heat pump?

NIBE air source heat pumps come with a 7-year warranty when commissioned by a Nu-Heat engineer but you can expect a life expectancy well in excess of 10 years.

Will an air source heat pump work with my existing radiators?

No, we would not recommend it. Air source heat pumps are at their most efficient when producing low flow temperatures. Because of this, they should be paired with low temperature heat emitters, like warm water underfloor heating.

This stops the heat pump from overworking and keeps running costs low. Radiators are still an option but they would need to be oversized to effectively heat the room/s with lower water temperatures.

Can you program an air source hear pump to provide heating at certain times?

Yes, you can, but we would advise against it. This is because an air source heat pump is designed to work as a weather compensation system, running as and when needed to heat the home, rather than at predefined times.

Is an air source heat pump just an off-grid option?

No. Well-insulated properties that have access to mains gas are still suitable for an air source heat pump. Providing it is designed and installed correctly, the running costs will be low – comparable to mains gas – but with the added bonus of lower carbon emissions.

You will find that air source heat pumps are generally more popular in off-grid areas, and this is because they offer far lower running costs in comparison to oil, LPG or electric-only heating systems.

How can I ensure my air source heat pump is running efficiently?

Making sure your air source heat pump system is set up correctly and maintained will ensure that its efficiency is maximised, keeping running costs low and improving your impact on the environment.

When using an air source heat pump system, make sure to bear the following steps in mind:

  • Before considering an air source heat pump, ensure the property is well insulated to reduce heat losses and allow the heat pump to work effectively producing low temperatures. Ideally, insulation should be as close to current building regulations as possible.
  • Air source heat pumps work at peak efficiency when gathering lower temperatures over a longer period of time. They are set up and controlled very differently to a boiler. One of our Field Engineers will ensure that the heat pump is set up appropriately during the commissioning visit.
  • Ensure the ASHP is serviced annually and in line with recommendations by the manufacturer.
  • Check that nothing impedes the flow of air into your ASHP vents.
  • Make sure that the pressure gauge on the unit falls within the correct range as specified by the manufacturer.

Where’s the best place to position my air source heat pump?

We would recommend positioning an air source heat pump in a location that minimises the pipe and cable runs from the heat pump into the plant room.

You will also need to be mindful of its proximity to bedroom windows, the requirements of permitted development/planning permission, and sound assessment (MCS020) results.

We take care of all of this as part of our air source heat pump design.

More information on heat pumps