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air source heat pump

Air Source Heat Pump: Operation and Benefits

The air source heat pump is the technical term for referring to conventional air conditioners. Basic concepts for design and sizing

The heat pump represents a very effective and convenient means of providing heating for spaces and water to be used as a fluid for radiators and domestic hot water. Depending on the energy source from which they draw energy, heat pumps are differentiated into 4 types: air-air, air-water, water-water, ground-water.

In particular, the air source heat pump utilizes external currents to heat or cool the air to be introduced into the living spaces.

To identify the most suitable heat pump to increase the energy efficiency of the building, you may find useful a thermal software through which you have at your disposal a vast library comprising over 1000 BIM objects, accurately defined by properties and technical characteristics, including heat pump structures directly defined by manufacturing companies.

Let’s analyze in detail the operation of an air-to-air heat pump and the advantages of its installation.

What is an Air Source Heat Pump?

The air-to-air heat pump is nothing more than the technical name for air conditioners, the most widespread system for air conditioning.

It is called a heat pump when, in addition to circulating cold air for cooling, it also emits hot air to heat the house.

The efficiency of air-to-air heat pumps can vary depending on outdoor temperatures. Generally, these pumps work optimally in temperate climates, where outdoor temperatures do not reach extreme levels.

However, in the presence of very high or very low temperatures, the performance of air-to-air heat pumps may decrease, resulting in lower energy efficiency.

Air Source Heat Pump: How Does It Work?

The air-to-air heat pump operates by exploiting the external air. Whether it’s an air-to-air heat pump, air-to-water, water-to-ground, or water-to-water, the operating principle is always the same: the system converts the natural source into thermal energy.
Air-to-air heat pumps consist of:

  • compressor;
  • refrigerant circuit;
  • evaporator;
  • hot water storage tank (optional).

The air-to-air heat pump is composed of 2 main units:

  • outdoor unit: this unit is installed outside the building and absorbs the thermal energy present in the surrounding air. This energy is used to vaporize a heat transfer fluid, generating heat;
  • indoor unit (split): this unit, commonly known as a split, is positioned inside the room and is responsible for distributing hot or cold air. The produced heat is further increased through the action of a compressor, which compresses the volume of the heat transfer fluid using the supplied electrical energy.

Subsequently, the vapor thus generated is released through the split mounted on the wall of the room, contributing to the heating of the building. In the process of cooling the environment, on the other hand, the procedure is reversed and similar to that used in refrigeration systems. The split extracts heat from the indoor air and releases it outside through the outdoor unit.

air to air heat pump scheme

air to air heat pump scheme


Air Source Heat Pump: Pros and Cons

The main advantages of an air-to-air heat pump are:

  • energy efficiency: these systems can be highly energy efficient compared to traditional heating methods. This is due to their ability to harness the naturally occurring thermal energy in the air to heat spaces;
  • air conditioning: many air-to-air heat pumps also offer cooling functionalities, providing an integrated heating and air conditioning system during warmer months;
  • ease of installation: since they do not require connection to a fuel source such as gas or oil, air-to-air heat pumps can be relatively easy to install. Usually, the installation process is quick and does not require significant structural modifications;
  • reduced greenhouse gas emissions: thanks to their electric operation, these heat pumps contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, compared to systems using fossil fuels.

The cons of an air-to-air heat pump are:

  • dependence on weather conditions: as they rely on the thermal energy present in the outdoor air, the efficiency of air-to-air heat pumps can be influenced by seasonal variations in outdoor temperatures;
  • noise: some air-to-air heat pumps, especially older ones, can be noisy. In particular, the outdoor unit may emit annoying noises during operation;
  • costs: despite a decrease in costs in recent times, air-to-air heat pumps can still be expensive compared to other heating and cooling solutions;
  • impact on the external microclimate: poor installation design of the outdoor unit could cause disturbances in the microclimate of the surrounding area due to air currents produced during the operation of the heat pump.

Air Source Heat Pump: Costs

The costs associated with air-to-air heat pumps can vary considerably depending on the brand, model, and heating capacity.

Moreover, it is important to keep in mind that, in addition to the initial cost, the energy savings that a heat pump can provide in the long term must be considered. Thanks to higher efficiency, these pumps can significantly reduce heating costs compared to other traditional solutions, offering a long-term economic advantage.