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Ground vs Air-Source Heat Pumps: Benefits & Drawbacks

Ground vs Air-Source Heat Pumps: Benefits & Drawbacks

Comfort is essential to a home. A heat pump helps provide that warm air in the winter and cold air in the summer. Air or ground-source heat pumps could be a viable alternative to furnaces. When a heat pump is installed properly, it can deliver up to three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy it uses. Unlike a furnace, they transfer heat from the outside air to the inside rather than combust natural gas to generate heat.

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When you’re shopping for a new system on the market, the two main types of heating systems are air-source heat pumps and ground-source heat pumps. While they both perform the essential function of keeping a home warm, each one has its benefits and drawbacks. To help you choose a new pump, we have compiled an extensive list of the benefits and drawbacks of investing in a ground-source and air-source heat pump.

Air-Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps are installed outside your home and use the heat energy from the surrounding outdoor air to heat a room or house. Depending on the size of your property, there are 3 different types of air-source heat pumps you will need to be familiar with.

3 Types of Air-Source Heat Pumps

Ductless & Ducted Heat Pumps

Ductless heat pumps require only a three-inch hole in a home’s wall to connect the outdoor condenser to the indoor heads. On the other hand, ducted air-source heat pumps are connected to air ducts and are a great choice if there is already a ventilation system in a home. Short-run ducted heat pumps use traditional large ductwork in a small portion of the house.

Ground vs Air-Source Heat Pumps: Benefits & DrawbacksSplit vs. Packaged Heat Pumps

Most heat pump systems are split. This means one part of the unit is on the inside of the house and the other is on the outside. However, the coils and fans of a packaged heat pump are all located outdoors. The only portion of a packaged pump that is located inside the home is the ductwork.

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Multi-Zone or Single-Zone Heat Pumps

As the name suggests, a single-zone air-source heat pump provides warm air to a single room in a home. On the other hand, multi-zone heat pumps feature multiple indoor heads connected to an outdoor condenser. This type of heat pump makes it easy to control the temperature of each room. For example, a multi-zone heat pump will allow you to control the temperature in your master bedroom, kitchen, dining room, and bathrooms.

How They Operate

An air-source heat pump features a compressor, two copper coils, and aluminum fins. The first copper coil is located inside the home and the other is configured outside. To heat a home in the winter, the liquid refrigerant in the outdoor coil will extract heat energy from the air. Once the refrigerant absorbs the heat, it will start to evaporate into a gas.

Next, the refrigerant is distributed through a pipe to the indoor coil. The coil will release heat energy from the refrigerant when it condenses back into a liquid. After the temperature of the indoor coil increases, a blower assembly will be activated to circulate cold air to the warm coil. The temperature of the incoming air will rise as it passes the coil. Next, the blower fan will disburse the warm air to each room in your home through a network of air ducts.

Ground vs Air-Source Heat Pumps: Benefits & DrawbacksBenefits: Efficient, Economical, Eco-Friendly

Air-source heat pumps have many benefits. They are highly efficient compared to other heating systems since they use less fuel to heat a home. Investing in a heat pump will help you save money on your energy bills each month.

Using an air-source heat pump also helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions, since they do not use fossil fuels. In addition, this type of heat pump operates quietly. It produces less noise than a dishwasher. In addition, a heat pump is integrated with an air filter that is designed to reduce the spread of allergens throughout the home.


Although it can save you money in the long run, an air-source heat pump cost more money upfront. Another thing to consider is the use of electricity. Although heat pumps do not burn fossil fuels and use electricity, the average cost of electricity can be higher than the cost of natural gas. Depending on the city or suburb you live in, it may cost more money to operate a heat pump when compared to a gas furnace.

Ground-Source Heat Pumps

Ground-source heat pumps, also known as geothermal heat pumps, utilize heat energy from the ground instead of air. If you have a large yard, there are a large number of benefits associated with this type of heat pump.

How They Work

Ground-source heat pumps work similarly to air-source heat pumps since they extract heat energy from the surrounding ground. Ground heat pumps have a pipe buried underneath the soil in your yard. A mixture of water and antifreeze passes through this loop. Next, it is circulated through a compressor that raises its temperature. Once the temperature of the refrigerant is high, it is distributed to a coil in your house. This will cause the exterior of the coil to become warm.

After the coil is hot, a blower fan is utilized to dispense incoming cold air to the coil. The temperature of the air will start to rise as it passes through the coil. Next, the blower assembly will administer the warm air to each room in your house through a network of ductwork. Once the heat is extracted from the ground-loop fluid in the coil, it will be circulated to the pipe in the ground to absorb additional heat energy. This process will continue until the temperature of the interior air in your house matches the thermostat settings.

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Ground vs Air-Source Heat Pumps: Benefits & DrawbacksBenefits

Ground-source heat pumps consume 20-25% less energy than conventional heating or cooling systems, making them a more efficient way to heat your home. This type of pump is similar to an air-source heat pump because it does not use fossil fuels, helping to decrease fuel emissions.

A big benefit of using a ground-source heat pump is that since the majority of it is underground, it is not dependent on outside weather conditions. This type of heat pump can effectively heat up a home, regardless of the temperature of the air outside. In addition, geothermal heat pumps feature a longer life cycle when compared to traditional heating systems.


The main drawback of a geothermal heat pump is that it has a high upfront installation cost, making it daunting for people to buy. They can also cost more money to install since soil needs to be dug up to install the pipe that is connected to the heat pump. An open-loop heat pump could also potentially contaminate the water that leads to your home. When it comes to choosing a heat pump, always consider the climate and environment you live in to decide which type of heat pump will pair best with your home.

Ground vs Air-Source Heat Pumps: Benefits & DrawbacksHeating & Air Conditioning Services

Have any heat pump questions? Looking for a professional to install a system in your home? Our team of technicians offer exceptional heating and air conditioning services in Brookhaven, PA and have the skills necessary to help you install a heat pump system.

Our team of licensed technicians will help you compare the advantages and disadvantages of ground and air-source heat pumps. We offer heat pump installation and replacement services for large and small homes.

We also offer other types of HVAC and plumbing services such as furnace repair, sump pump installation, boiler maintenance, and water heater repair. WM Henderson is here to help. We’ll help you out with anything you need, and provide complete customer satisfaction while we’re at it. Give our team of emergency plumbers a call at (484) 206-8594 to schedule a plumbing or HVAC service.