Outdoor air unit installed at a building

What Is an Air to Air Heat Pump and Is It Good for the Environment?

Rachel Lark - March 30, 2024

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Are you shopping for a reliable and sustainable climate control system for your home? An air to air heat pump offers convincing benefits for year-round heating and cooling with energy efficiency and low power consumption. Discover how they work and why they contribute to a healthier environment.

What Are Air to Air Heat Pumps and How Do They Work?

Air to air heat pumps heat and cool your home using the energy extracted from outside air. They use electricity to control indoor temperatures and are an excellent energy-efficient solution since they use significantly lower power for heating. Air to air heat pumps can also deliver up to three times more heat to any space in your home than a conventional combustion heating system.

While similar to air conditioners, air to air heat pumps can generate heat during colder months and cool air during summer. Air to air heat pumps use indoor and outdoor units fitted with aluminum or copper coils to complete the heating and cooling process. A heat valve in the outdoor unit cools the air outside, effectively removing heat inside your home during cooling mode. Air to air heat pumps reverse the process during their heating mode, extracting heat energy from the outside air and releasing it inside your home.

Multiple outdoor air units installed in building exteriors

What Are the Benefits of Using Air to Air Heat Pumps?

Installing and using air to air heat pumps or air-source heat pumps have multiple benefits. Here are some of them.

Energy-Efficient Heating

Air-source heat pumps are more energy-efficient than conventional heating systems like furnaces, water boilers, electric heaters and oil systems. They typically have a Season Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of 20, effectively tripling the heating efficiency of conventional systems. Air-source heat pumps can produce three units of heat energy with every unit of energy it uses to extract heat from the outside air.

Due to the energy efficiency of air to air heat pumps, many homes nationwide use them to provide consistent heating and cooling throughout the year. Newer, more technologically advanced heat pumps designed for colder weather provide heat better than traditional furnaces, wood-burning fireplaces and boilers.

Versatile Cooling and Heating System

You can rely on air to air heat pumps for cooling and heating for your home’s all-in-one climate control solution. Air conditioners are only good for hotter months, while furnaces are only suitable for colder seasons. Air-source heat pumps provide both and excel at heating homes with their efficient heat transfer process, making them a great choice to maximize energy savings through changing seasons.

Low Power Consumption

The average American home’s energy bill can reach over $2,000 annually — almost half of it is spent on heating and cooling. Air to air heat pumps consume less energy and reduce your house’s climate control costs. Since they are more efficient than traditional heating and cooling systems, you can use them for extended periods instead of turning them on when needed. 

This method allows you to regulate your home’s indoor temperature with minimal costs. 

Air to air heat pumps also have an “auto fan” setting that helps spread heated or cooled air in your home’s duct system to optimize temperatures in any space. Air-source heat pumps are also best paired with renewable energy, like solar, to further reduce reliance on traditional energy sources like fossil fuels.

Zero Emissions

Air to air heat pumps use outside air to regulate your home’s temperature instead of relying on burning materials through conventional combustion systems. This means heating or cooling your home produces zero emissions and better indoor air quality for your home. Other HVAC systems expel gases like nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, which can harm your health and the environment.

Longevity and Low Maintenance

Heat pumps are known for their durability and longevity and can serve your household for many years if properly installed. An air to air heat pump can last up to 15 years with regular maintenance like seasonal cleaning, periodic changing of filters and annual servicing done by professionals. You can offset your initial investment in the product and installation costs with significant savings in your yearly energy bill and long-lasting service from your well-maintained heat pump.

Row of outdoor air units with a colorful background

What Are the Disadvantages of Air to Air Heat Pumps?

Like all HVAC systems, air to air heat pumps have disadvantages to consider. Here are several of them.


An air to air heat pump uses fans and compressors that make much noise during operation. It can disturb you and your neighbors, primarily when located near windows. Installing them in strategic locations where they offer minimal noise pollution is advisable. Professional installers will guide you through the process and suggest possible areas where your heat pump will cause minimal disruption to daily activities. Choosing air to air heat systems with low outdoor sound ratings and mounting the units on a noise-absorbing base can help minimize noise.

High Upfront Investment

Every HVAC system can be expensive if you focus on the initial investment. Combined unit and installation costs can reach tens of thousands of dollars depending on the energy efficiency rating of the unit and the number of rooms it will serve. However, you can recoup these initial costs with continuous use and energy savings. Tax credit incentives for energy-efficient installations can help defray heat pump costs for qualified purchases. Check the requirements to see if you’re eligible to apply.

Requires Correct Installation

Air to air heat pumps are prone to performance issues if incorrectly installed. That’s why it’s best to leave the job to the professionals unless you are a certified HVAC installer with complete tools and know-how to get the job done. Heat pump location plays a critical role in its efficiency and performance. Heat pumps should be installed without exposure to strong winds that can cause defrosting issues. Professional installers can add separate housing to protect outdoor heat pump units from premature wear caused by environmental factors.

Air ducts installed in a building

What Is the Difference Between Air to Air and Air-to-Water Heat Pumps?

As previously mentioned, an air to air heat pump heats and cools every space in your home by extracting energy from outside air and releasing it inside your house. Air-to-water heat pumps use radiators, underfloor heating and hot water in installed central systems to provide heat to your household. Both are viable options for temperature control, but installing air-to-water heat pumps can be costly if your home has zero provisions to accommodate an entire heat distribution system.

Air to Air Heat Pumps: A Greener Alternative to Conventional Heating Systems

Living green requires everyone to make lifestyle changes. Switching from conventional boilers and heaters to an air to air heat system saves you valuable resources in the long run while helping the environment with zero emissions from continuous usage.

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About the author

Rachel Lark

Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of Environment.co. A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.