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Last updated: 3 July 2024

Air To Water Heat Pumps In The UK: A Comprehensive Guide (2024)

Air to Water Heat Pumps in the UK_Hero
  • Air to water heat pumps extract heat from outside air and transfer it to water for heating and hot water in the home.
  • They can save up to 7,500kg of CO2 annually when replacing a fossil-fuelled heating system.
  • An air to water heat pump will cost between £8,750 and £14,050, but its high efficiency can lead to savings of up to £260 per year when switching from an old gas boiler.

Imagine being able to extract your entire home's heating from thin air! Well, that’s precisely what air to water heat pumps can do. These clever renewable heating systems transfer heat from the outside air into your home, using it to heat your radiators and provide hot water. 

These highly efficient heat pumps eliminate the need for traditional heating fuels like gas or coal. Not only does this mean an annual reduction in carbon emissions by up to 7,500kg, but it can also save you up to £260 per year on bills. 

If you’re unsure about how an air to water heat pump works or curious if it's the right choice for your home, we’re here to help. In this guide, you’ll discover how an air to water heat pump works, the costs and savings involved and how you can benefit from current government grants. 

If you’re ready to benefit from an air to water heat pump, we can help you get started! We know it can be a chore to search online for reputable installers, sending loads of emails, and waiting days for a reply… so we’ve created an easier way.

With just a few clicks, you can fill in our simple form and connect with up to 4 installers in your local area. They can offer you free, no-obligation quotes so you can compare prices and find the best deal – it’s risk-free and hassle-free!

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What is an air to water heat pump?

Heat pumps are a low-carbon alternative to traditional heating systems, such as combi boilers. Instead of using fossil fuels like natural gas to produce heat, they use a renewable energy source - like air, wind, or water. There are different types like, air to air heat pump, hybrid heat pumps and ground source heat pumps.

An air to water heat pump is a clever system that extracts heat from outside air and transfers it into your home. The heat captured is used in your central heating systems to heat your radiators and supply your taps with hot water.

How does an air to water heat pump work?

Air to water heat pumps extract heat from the outside air, even in cool weather. This is done with an outdoor unit that contains a fan to draw in the air. Ambient outdoor air contains a level of heat that can successfully heat a liquid called ‘refrigerant’. 

Refrigerant absorbs this low-level heat and is then compressed, significantly raising its temperature. This hot refrigerant can then transfer its heat to the water in your central heating system through a heat exchanger. 

The warmed water is then circulated throughout your home to heat radiators and hot water outlets. Once the refrigerant begins to cool, it is cycled back through the system to start the process again.

An air to water heat pump can also be used to cool the home, if the model is set up to do so. It works by reversing the refrigerant cycle, so rather than extracting heat from the outside air to heat your home, it can extract heat from inside your home to cool it down.

Air to Water Animation

Air to water heat pump costs and savings

Air to water heat pumps offer significant potential for energy savings compared to traditional heating systems. They can be highly efficient, reaching efficiency ratings of up to 400%. This means that they offer up to 4 times the heat output per 1 unit of energy they consume (depending on the model). 

However, it's important to be aware that air source heat pump prices can be higher upfront for installation than a traditional boiler. While the long-term savings can be substantial, the initial investment needs careful consideration.

We’ve outlined some of the estimated costs involved in the table below:

Heat Pumps Costs per House Size
House SizesHeat Pump Size
(kilowatts)
Typical Unit Cost 
(inc. installation)
1 bedroom8kW£8,750
2 -3 bedrooms12kW£11,500
4+ bedrooms 16kW£14,050

An air to water heat pump's high efficiency and renewable fuel source can translate to significant savings. In addition, a heat pump can last 15 to 25 years with the right care and maintenance, creating an opportunity to recoup your investment over time. Below are some estimated examples of the average running costs and savings you might expect from an air to water heat pump.

Running Costs and Savings per Heat Pump Size
Heat Pump Size
(kilowatts)
Annual running costsAnnual Savings Potential
8kW£816 - £731£14
12kW£1,132£182
16kW£1,379 - £1,793£166
Figures based on the efficiency of the heat pump being COP 3 or COP 3.5. Savings figures are based on upgrading from a G-rated gas boiler to a COP 3 or COP 3.5 heat pump. All figures based on current fuel prices as of April 2024.

Please note these figures are just estimates, and the actual cost can vary depending on several factors, including the size and efficiency of the heat pump you choose, the complexity of your existing heating system, and the installation costs in your area.

Air to water heat pump grants

The initial costs of installing an air source heat pump can seem high, but the good news is that there are ways to offset this initial expense. Currently, government support is available through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS). 

Boiler Upgrade Scheme
This initiative was launched in 2022 to encourage homeowners to replace their existing fossil fuel heating systems with more energy-efficient, low-carbon alternatives. As part of this, it offers heat pump grants of £7,500 towards the cost of installing an air source heat pump - helping with a significant part of the total. 

Air to Water Heat Pump Boiler Upgrade Scheme BUS

Eligibility criteria do apply, however, for example:

  • your property must be in England or Wales; 
    • you must have a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC); 

      The scheme is installer-led, meaning certified installers can apply for the grant on your behalf and deduct the grant amount from the installation cost. 

      Air to Water Heat Pump 0% VAT

      0% VAT

      In addition to the BUS, further savings can be made. As of April 2022, the VAT on most energy-saving products - including heat pumps - was dropped to 0%. This will run until March 2027 to help more people access these technologies and contribute to the UK’s net-zero emissions target by 2050. 

      The Energy Company Obligation (ECO4)

      Air to Water Heat Pumps in the UK_ECO4

      There is also a government scheme in the UK, ECO4, to help low-income households upgrade their homes with energy efficiency measures. This scheme puts an obligation on large energy suppliers to ensure they provide (and cover the cost of) these upgrades, including a heat pump, new boiler, or insulation. 

      Warmer Homes Scotland Scheme

      Air to Water Heat Pump Warmer Homes Energy Scotland

      If you’re living in Scotland, there are some slightly different schemes available. Through Home Energy Scotland, you can access funding up to £10,000 to install an air to water heat pump or insulation. If you require additional funds, they also offer an interest-free loan that you can apply for.

      Warm Home Programme Wales

      If you live in Wales, you could benefit from the Warm Homes Programme (which replaced the Nest Scheme). For eligible low-income households and those living in fuel poverty, energy efficiency improvements can be made to homes. These include installing heat pumps or solar panels, with costs covered by the scheme.

      Air to Water Heat Pumps Warm Home Wales

      To take advantage of these schemes (while they’re still live!), it’s best to speak to qualified installers. They can offer you the best, most up to date advice and tailored quotes for you to compare. 

      Forget spending hours researching though, and avoid scrolling through lists and reviews for days. Instead, choose the easier route! In a few clicks, you can fill in our simple form and get connected with up to 4 local installers (all vetted and highly-reviewed) who can help you in no time! 

      Get your free, no-obligation quotes by clicking the button below!

      Get your best deal
      Quickly compare 4 FREE quotes
      • Quotes from local installers
      • Payment by finance available
      • Save £7,500 with BUS grant
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      We will get you the best deal

      Pros and cons of an air to water heating system

      Air to water heat pumps offer the perfect solution for eco-conscious homeowners seeking energy-efficient heating. However, like any technology, they have both advantages and disadvantages. Let's weigh the pros and cons to help you decide if an air to water heat pump is the right choice for your home.

      Advantages of an air to water heat pump

      Air to Water Heat Pumps in the UK_4x efficiency
      • Energy efficiency
        Air to water heat pumps are significantly more efficient than traditional gas boilers. A new gas boiler can reach efficiencies of up to 94%, but an air to water heat pump can achieve up to 400%  making it over 4 times more efficient. In addition, they can extract heat even from cool outside air, resulting in lower running costs and reduced energy consumption.
        Air to Water Heat Pumps Solar panels
        • Renewable energy integration
          Combining an air source heat pump with solar panels is an option you can consider. By generating your own electricity to fuel your air to water heat pump, you can further reduce your reliance on the grid and minimise your carbon footprint.
          • Reduced emissions
            Switching to a heat pump can drastically reduce your carbon emissions, as you no longer need to burn fossil fuels for heat. This can result in a reduction of up to 7,500kg of carbon emissions each year.
            Air to Water Heat Pumps in the UK_lifespan
            • Safer operation
              Eliminating the need for gas or oil use makes an air source heat pump a much safer way to heat your home than a boiler.
              • Longevity
                Heat pumps typically last 15 - 25 years, which is much longer than the 10 - 15 you can expect from a gas boiler.

                Disadvantages of an air to water heat pump

                Air to Water Heat Pumps in the UK_Upfront Cost
                • High upfront cost
                  Installing an air to water heat pump typically costs more upfront than a traditional boiler. While long-term savings are possible, the initial investment can be a significant hurdle for some homeowners.
                  • Needs insulation
                    A heat pump will only work at optimal levels if your property is well-insulated. Lack of insulation will mean it has to work twice as hard to maintain temperatures, resulting in a lower efficiency and performance output.
                    Air to Water Heat Pumps in the UK_Space requirements
                    • Lower heat output
                      Compared to high-powered boilers, air to water heat pumps might have a slightly lower overall heat output. This might not be ideal for very large homes or those requiring significant heating power.
                      • Space requirements
                        The outdoor unit of an air to water heat pump can be quite large and require proper placement for optimal performance. It's important to consider available space on your property.

                        Is an air to water heat pump suitable for my household?

                        Air to water heat pumps offer a combination of energy efficiency, environmental benefits, and potential cost savings. If you're a homeowner looking to reduce your reliance on fossil fuels and minimise your heating bills, an air to water heat pump could be a fantastic option.

                        It’s important to remember, however, that every home is unique. Factors like house size, existing heating systems, and physical outdoor space will all influence the suitability and potential benefits of an air to water heat pump.

                        The best way to determine if an air to water heat pump is the right choice for you is to consult with a professional installer. They can assess your specific needs, recommend the most suitable model for your home, and provide a clear picture of the air source heat pump installation process and the potential costs and savings involved.

                        We understand though that finding a reputable installer and requesting quotes can take forever! Spending hours online and making endless phone calls can all be a hassle - that’s why we’ve created a simpler way. 

                        In just a few clicks, you can give us a couple of details and we’ll do all the hard work for you. We’ll find you up to 4 installers in your local area who can provide you with free, no-obligation quotes for you to compare - it couldn’t be easier! (and costs nothing). 

                        Get started now by clicking the button and filling in the form below.

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