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Air Source vs Ground Source Heating Systems

Adam Cherry
By: Adam Cherry
Updated: 14th July 2021

Whether you install a heating system that extracts heat from the air or the ground, you'll be investing in a highly efficient appliance. But which one is more suited to your home?

We've compared the pros, cons and costs of air and ground source heat pumps to help you decide.

Battle of the heat pumps: Air source vs Ground source

Air source and ground source heating systems do the same job; they warm the home by extracting naturally occuring heat from outside. Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) do this using the air, while ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) get heat from underground. Both of these are renewable energy sources with low impact on our environment, especially when compared to fossil fuel heating systems such as oil and gas.

Benefits of heat pumps

As we mentioned earlier, these two different types of heat pump are highly efficient which can greatly improve your energy bills, but that's not the only benefit they can bring your home. We've separated the many benefits of each heat pump to help you decide which is best suited to your home.

Air Source Heat Pumps

  • Could receive government payments through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)
  • Operate all year round, even when it's cold
  • Easy to maintain
  • Lengthy lifetime – potentially 20-25 years
  • Generate less CO2 than conventional heating systems

Ground Source Heat Pumps

  • Quiet operation
  • Could receive RHI payments
  • Little maintenance in most cases
  • Reduce your home's carbon dioxide emissions
  • Longer lifetime than traditional heating systems

Heat pump considerations

Considering the possible downsides is important with any purchase that you'll be relying on for many years to come, even when the appliance has as many benefits as both of these heat pumps.

Air Source Heat Pump

  • Operating noise
  • Cost more to run than A rated boilers
  • Not as efficient in winter
  • You home will need to be well insulated
  • Not suitable for homes without any outdoor space

Ground Source Heat Pumps

  • Home will need to be well insulated
  • Can be expensive to install
  • Require underground pipes in the garden which can be disruptive

Something to consider with air source and ground source heat pumps is that they have low operating temperatures. Conventional radiators require high temperatures to be able to do their job of heating a room so you wouldn't get the most out of them when paired with one of these heat pumps. That's why air source and ground source heat pumps are much more suited to underfloor heating, which operates at a low temperature.

How much does a heat pump cost?

Whether you purchase an air or ground source heat pump, the price will vary depending on the model and manufacturer. To give you an idea of how much they're likely to cost, we've put rough figures in the table below.

Type of Heat Pump Air Source Heat Pump Ground Source Heat Pump
Potential Cost £4,000 – £11,000 £8,000 – £12,000

It might feel like both heat pumps have high price tags attached to them but depending on the heating system you currently have in your home, you could be making quite a saving on your energy bills. Add to that the lengthy lifetime of these appliances and you could soon be making a return on your investment.

It's worth noting that these costs don't include installation which will differ depending on the installer that's carrying out the work. For this reason, we highly recommend getting at least 3 quotes from different installers to give you the best possible chance of getting the best deal for you and your home.

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How much could I save on heating?

Thanks to being able extracting heat from renewable sources, you could be making some valuable savings on your energy bills, especially if you currently have an old oil boiler.

Existing Heating System Possible ASHP Annual Energy Savings Possible GSHP Annual Energy Savings
Old G rated Gas Boiler £400 - £465 £505 – £580
New A rated Gas Boiler Increase of £35 - £55 £65
Old G rated Oil Boiler £460 - £545 £900 to £1,110
New A rated Oil Boiler Increase of £45 - £55 £570 to £665
Coal £425 - £525 £525 to £645

This table might have helped to make up your mind about which heat pump is better for your home. If you have an A rated oil or gas boiler, then the potential savings that can be made by installing a ground source heat pump makes it well worth having one installed.

While those of you with a heating system that runs on oil or coal can make incredibly high savings during the year with either heat pump.

Heat pump installation

As these heat pumps are extracting heat from outside, you'll require some outdoor space for the installation.

Air source heat pumps don't require too much space but will need strong air flow to be able to operate which means that there will need to be ample space surrounding the appliance.

When it comes to ground source heat pumps, you'll need more outdoor space. They extract heat using underground pipes so your garden needs to be of a suitable size and you'll also need to take into account whether digging machinery can gain access.

Which is the best heat pump?

Thanks to extracting heat from renewable sources, being highly efficient and the added bonus of those RHI payments, air source and ground source heat pumps are tough to split.

When it comes to the installation, air source heat pumps are the less disruptive of the two and won't cost as much, they just need enough space around them for good airflow. Ground source heat pumps on the other hand, require the garden to be dug up so that the pipes can be installed underground.

Once installed, the larger savings on energy bills can be made with a ground source heat pump, especially if you're replacing an oil boiler. In most cases though, savings could be made with both appliances.

What is an Air Source Heat Pump?

Get to know how this renewable heating system works.

Find out more

Air Source Heat Pumps: Advantages & Disadvantages

Find out how your home can benefit from the air outside.

Find out more

Best Air Source Heat Pump Manufacturers

Make sure you install the best system for your home.

Find out more



Adam Cherry

About the author

Adam Cherry

Adam is our resident home heating expert. His experience and advice has helped millions of customers improve the efficiency of their homes and save money.

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