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Do Heat Pumps Work in Cold Weather? Our Guide

April 21st, 2023

Last updated: June 9th, 2023

Heat pumps are a popular and eco-friendly alternative to traditional heating systems in the UK. They use renewable energy sources, namely as the air or ground, to heat commercial buildings as well as homes. They can help reduce carbon emissions and lower energy bills.

Partially because of the technology not being fully understood, there is often a concern about whether heat pumps work effectively in cold weather, particularly during the winter months. In this article, we will explore the different types of heat pumps, air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps, and address the question; do heat pumps work in cold weather?

Savills reports that The Government has an installation target of 600,000 every year by 2028, and while it may be currently falling short, there is bound to be a big push towards this more eco-friendly method.

Air Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) are a very common type of heat pump in the UK as well as elsewhere around the world. They work by extracting heat from the outside air and using it to heat water, which is then distributed through radiators, underfloor heating, or a hot water cylinder. ASHPs are becoming more popular due to their cost-effective and eco-friendly nature. They require less energy than traditional heating systems and can provide both heating and cooling functions.

But how do air source heat pumps perform in cold weather conditions? The answer is that it depends on the type of ASHP and the temperature outside.

Standard air source heat pumps typically have a seasonal performance factor (SPF) of 2.5 to 3.5, or a Coefficient of Performance (COP) of around 2.5, meaning that they can generate 2.5 to 3.5 units of heat for every unit of electricity they consume. However, this performance factor can drop in cold weather conditions, particularly when the temperature drops below freezing. This is because the air source heat pump needs to work harder to extract heat from the cold air, which can result in a small decrease in efficiency.

To overcome this issue, some air source heat pumps are designed to work in colder temperatures. These are known as cold climate air source heat pumps, and they are designed to operate effectively in temperatures as low as -20°C. Cold climate ASHPs are more expensive than standard models, but they can provide reliable heating even in the harshest winter conditions, and even though the UK can get cold, it rarely gets that cold!

As a precaution you can install a backup so that in cold weather it can provide additional heating when the ASHP struggles to extract enough heat from the air. This backup system can be an electric heater, a gas boiler, or a wood-burning stove.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) work by extracting heat from the ground and using it to heat water, which is then distributed through radiators, underfloor heating, or a hot water cylinder. GSHPs are considered one of the most efficient types of heat pumps, and they can provide both heating and cooling functions.

So, how do these heat pumps work in cold weather conditions? The answer is that GSHPs are not affected by cold weather as much as air source heat pumps. This is because the ground temperature remains relatively constant throughout the year, ranging from 8°C to 12°C. As a result, the efficiency of GSHPs remains stable even in colder temperatures.

In fact, GSHPs are more efficient than ASHPs in colder weather conditions. This is because the colder the air, it may be harder it is for an air source heat pump to extract heat from it. In contrast, the ground remains a stable heat source, even in winter.

One of the benefits of ground source heat pumps is that they are not affected by weather conditions. They can provide reliable heating and cooling throughout the year, regardless of the temperature outside. However, they are more expensive to install than air source heat pumps and require a significant amount of space for the ground loop installation.


The heat pump industry is growing in the UK and while the costs are comparable with other heating methods, the systems are undeniably efficient and better for the environment than many commercial boilers. There are some great commercial boiler technologies, too, but there are plenty of reasons for the push for more heat pumps.

The technology is designed to work in cold weather, with ground source pumps being more reliable. Both are options in the UK even for the harshest conditions.

At Robinsons Facilities Services we have great industry experience in installing, maintaining and servicing air source heat pumps, so we can work with your business to find a suitable heat pump solution that is cost effective and energy efficient for the long term health of your business and the environment.

As well as installation services, we can offer planned preventative maintenance for heat pumps, and a variety of other HVAC products. With a maintenance contract you can ensure that you never make the easy mistake of forgetting to book a service or maintaining your premises. For more info, call 01423 226578 or email

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