Air-Source Heat Pumps


Keeping your home at a comfortable temperature can be expensive. A typical household’s energy bill is around $1,900 annually, and almost half of that goes to heating and cooling! To cut these costs, an air source heat pump (ASHP) can be installed and connected to the conventional forced-air ductwork system that is typical of most American homes. (For homes without ductwork, see

ASHPs that earn the ENERGY STAR label are independently certified to save energy, save money, and protect the climate. Electric ASHPs use the difference between outdoor air temperatures and indoor air temperatures to cool and heat your home. Because heat pumps move heat rather than converting it from fuel, as combustion heating systems do, an ASHP is so efficient that it can deliver up to three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy it consumes. ASHPs are also a smart investment year-round, as heat pumps serve double duty by also providing cooling in the summer months.

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An ENERGY STAR certified ASHP provides highly efficient heating and cooling by extracting heat from outside into your home in winter and pulling the heat out of your home in the summer. For some, it may be helpful to think of a ducted ASHP as a central air conditioner that also works in reverse to provide whole-house space heating in winter. The illustration demonstrates how ASHP works in both cold and warm seasons, doing double duty to keep your home comfortable no matter the temperature outside.

Ducted vs. Mini Split Systems

Ducted ASHP systems can be installed and connected to the conventional forced-air ductwork system that is typical of most American homes. A central ASHP can use pre-existing ductwork in your home to deliver heating and cooling, making installation even easier. In most climate zones, an ASHP can be installed as a drop-in replacement when either a central air conditioner or a furnace needs replacement.

If your home doesn’t have existing ductwork or you are planning an addition or renovation where running ductwork will be difficult, you can still install a heat pump to heat and cool a portion of your house. Mini Split Heat Pumps, also called Ductless Heat Pumps, do not need ductwork in order to be installed—instead they are mounted directly onto an interior wall or ceiling with an accompanying outdoor unit. To learn more about Mini Split Heat Pumps, visit

Additional Benefits of ASHPs:

  • Lower energy bills by switching from electric resistance, propane, and oil to heat pumps.
  • No combustion means better indoor air quality because there are no direct emissions such as NOx, carbon dioxide, or carbon monoxide.
  • No fuel storage or risk of running out of fuel.

Proper Sizing

Installing properly sized HVAC equipment for your home is essential to getting the best performance and comfort. A system that is either too large or too small for its intended space will struggle to meet your home comfort needs. Your HVAC contractor can help determine what size system is right for your home. Your contractor should verify the proper size system for your home using a tool called "Manual J" – a calculation of the amount of heating and cooling your home requires to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Dual Fuel

If you have a relatively new furnace with an older central AC, or if you are planning to add a new central AC to the furnace, consider an ENERGY STAR certified heat pump. This creates a dual-fuel system for a modest extra cost over an AC system. Dual fuel systems allow for the flexibility of heating with a heat pump or with a more traditional gas or oil furnace and enables you to use each system optimally based on costs and environmental benefits.

Cold Climate Considerations

Many new ENERGY STAR certified ASHPs excel at providing space heating even in the coldest of climates, as they use advanced compressors and refrigerants that allow for improved low temperature performance. If you live in a climate where winter temperatures regularly dip below freezing, talk to your contractor to choose an ENERGY STAR unit suited to your particular home. When you ask your contractor for an ENERGY STAR certified cold climate ASHP, you can be confident that your new AHSP system will deliver the heating performance and efficiency benefits you expect on even the coldest winter days. A good contractor will work with you to determine the size and potential integration with a back-up heating system that will work best for your home.

Climate ASHP technology has improved significantly over the past several years, and many ASHP systems are capable of delivering heating capacity and efficiency at low outdoor temperatures. The ENERGY STAR certification requires third-party verified performance for low temperatures, testing ASHPs down to 5°F. Testing cold climate ASHP performance at 5°F ensures that your ASHP will provide all the heat you need to keep your home comfortable all winter. Your cold climate ASHP will continue working at temperatures below 5°F, but pairing it with a back-up energy source will heat your home the most efficiently when temperatures are even lower.

Take Advantage of Incentives

Air source heat pumps that earn the ENERGY STAR are eligible for a federal tax credit up to $2,000. This tax credit is effective for products purchased and installed between January 1, 2023, and December 31, 2032. Learn more at Many utilities also offer incentives for installing ENERGY STAR certified ASHPs. Check with your local utility for more details or go to:

What else should I look for when buying an air-source heat pump?

If you've decided that you need to purchase a new air-source heat pump, learn how to hire a contractor. Remember, even though these products can be more expensive to purchase up front, the cost difference will be paid back over time through lower energy bills. Consider regular maintenance of your heating and cooling system to prevent future problems and unwanted costs. ASHPs are one of six high-impact improvements to your home that work together to deliver significant energy and cost savings. Learn more about additional improvements with the ENERGY STAR Home Upgrade.

How to Find Certified Equipment

Be sure to look for the ENERGY STAR when shopping for an air-source heat pump. Use the ENERGY STAR Product Finder to help you identify high efficiency equipment that meets the latest ENERGY STAR certification criteria and then work with a professional installer to find the model that is right for you. ENERGY STAR offers tips on how to hire a contractor.

Air-source heat pumps originally qualified for the ENERGY STAR label in April, 1995.

Current Requirements effective date: January 1, 2023

Air-Source Heat Pumps and Central Air Conditioners Key Product Criteria: ENERGY STAR

Learn How a Product Earns the Label


Utilize all year long – Your heat pump is more energy-efficient than a furnace or boiler, even during winter. If you have both, you should use your heat pump year-round.

Stick with a steady temperature – Unlike a furnace or boiler, heat pumps do not save energy by turning it down when you’re away or asleep. For best use, pick a comfortable temperature and leave it there.

Avoid Auto mode – Make sure your heat pump is set to “heat” or “cool” to avoid the system switching modes during unseasonably warm or cold days.

Optimize fan speed – Utilize the “auto fan” setting or adjust the fan to the lowest speed that will spread the heated or cooled air far enough to meet your needs.

Clean your dust filters – Just like traditional HVAC systems, heat pumps work best with clean filters. Heat pump filters should be cleaned when visibly dirty or when indicated by the filter light.

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