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Air source or ground source: what's the difference?

When it comes to finding a renewable resource to heat your home or business, heat pumps are an excellent option. They are suited to a variety of different building types and locations, and can offer a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way of keeping your home, office or other business premises warm. 

 

Heat pumps are typically available in two varieties - air source heat pumps, and ground source heat pumps. So how do you choose which one’s right for you? And what’s the difference between the two?

 

Check out our handy information below to help you decipher the difference between these two types of heat pumps.

Air source heat pumps

As the name suggests, air source heat pumps take heat from the air in order to pump it through a building. This works in a similar way to a refrigerator, which extracts heat from the inside, although air source heat pumps take heat from outdoor air. Not only can they provide hot air, but they also offer an effective way of providing hot water.

 

As a low-carbon heating method, air source heat pumps are an excellent solution to minimise harmful impacts on the environment. They are unobtrusive, looking similar to an air conditioning unit, and often sit outside the property - so you don’t have to worry about where you’re going to put it. Plus, the great British weather won’t be a problem - they can take heat from the air even when it’s cold outside.  

Ground source heat pumps

Similar to the naming concept of the air source pumps, ground source heat pumps work by taking heat from the ground or bedrock. The naturally-occurring heat in the ground enables the ground source heat pumps to create heat and hot water to distribute to properties of a variety of shapes and sizes, although they work best with underfloor heating or larger radiators.

 

Ground source heat pumps are widely recognised as being an excellent alternative heat source, replacing old fashioned harmful fuels such as oil and gas central heating - generating lower amounts of carbon dioxide. These heat pumps do require a small amount of electricity in order to work, but this is less than the amount of heat that they generate. You also don’t have to worry about maintenance, as ground source heat pumps are relatively self-sufficient.

 

Although typically more efficient than air source heat pumps, ground source options can be a more expensive option upfront. This is due to the groundwork required to fit the pipes in horizontal or vertical trenches or boreholes.

Which heat pump is right for you?

Both air source and ground source heat pumps have their benefits, with both options being popular in countries throughout the world. Whatever type of heat pump you choose, you will be benefiting from environmentally friendly energy and even the potential to save money on your utility bills.


Choosing which heat pump type is best for you depends on many factors, including the size of a property or building and what it is used for. The process is also a factor, with ground source options proving popular for new build properties where they can be fitted during the building process, and air source models being a less intrusive option for existing homes.

 

If you’d like to know more about heat pumps, and how they could help you find a renewable way to heat your home or business, contact one of our knowledgable members of staff. Alternatively, take a look at our comprehensive guide to heat pumps for more detailed insights into these energy solutions.

 

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