Whether you need to replace a furnace, add air conditioning to a room or two, or fit an HVAC project in between, consider a heat pump. Sometimes referred to as mini-splits, there's a good chance these all-in-one heating and cooling systems are the most convenient choice for your home while saving you a ton of money.
Heat pumps have been common in some parts of the US for decades, and advances in technology mean they can now function year-round in even the coldest parts of the country. Because they're so energy efficient and environmentally friendly, some of the top models are now eligible for big government rebates and incentives.
Read on for an introduction to heat pumps and how to decide if one is right for your home: what they cost, how they work, who can get one, when they might not be the best choice, and the best models for your home and your climate.
Did you know?
- Heat pumps can be eligible for massive rebates and incentives in certain states -- $12,000 or more in some cases.
- Eliminating the need for oil, propane, or electrical resistance heating for a heat pump can save approximately $1,000 per year in energy costs. Compared to natural gas, the operating costs are similar.
- Not ready to fully commit to a heat pump? You can install a heat pump instead of an air conditioner and then combine it with an existing heating system to reduce your energy bills.
- Have you heard that heat pumps don't work when it's cold? That's wrong. When a heat pump can't keep your home comfortable, it's because it's installed poorly.
- EnergySage makes it easy to find verified, trusted heat pump installers through our heat pump marketplace.Find out if we know great professionals in your area.
Who is EnergySage and what do we know about heat pumps?
EnergySage has been bringing transparency to clean energy technologies since 2009 after our founder Vikram Aggarwal spent months collecting bids from dozens of installers. With funding from the Department of Energy's SunShot Awards, we opened the country's first (and now the largest) rooftop solar marketplace where vetted contractors compete for your business by submitting bids through our online platform.
Over the years we have had similar marketplaces for battery storage, community solar and – most recently –heat pumps. We want to foster a healthy, transparent market for heat pumps and other clean energy upgrades, and that starts with informed buyers.
For this guide – and all of our related heat pump guides – we have:
- Examines more than 200 heat pumps: their specifications, performance in cold weather and more.
- We analyzed dozens of real-world heat pump price quotes from verified installers on our heat pump marketplace, as well as hundreds of additional price estimates from additional sources, including government agencies, home service websites, and trusted editors.
- Found wholesale prices for a few dozen popular heat pumps (although prices were not publicly available for all brands).
- Conduct an opinion poll among potential heat pump owners.
- Spoken to experts from across the HVAC industry.
Personal: I'm a journalist with over a decade of experience writing and recommending major home appliances and HVAC equipment, including a stint at The New York Times' Wirecutter and Consumer Reports. I've also made some progress in electrifying my 100-year-old home outside of Boston. So far I've added an EV charger, an induction range (replacing gas), blown cellulose insulation, and a rooftop solar system (via the EnergySage marketplace before I worked here). No heat pump yet, but on the list.
Keep these 3 things in mind
You'll get more out of this guide — a better sense of your pros, cons, and options — if you know the following things about your home:
- What fuel are you currently using?It's probably natural gas - according to the EIA, it's the primary fuel in about 50% of homes. Electrical resistance is the second most common heating system. It could also be propane, oil, or wood. Knowing this answer can help you figure out how much money you could save (or not) by switching to a heat pump.
- Does your house have ducts and do they reach every room?If you see a series of vents around your house, you have ductwork and you probably want to use it for a heat pump. If you don't have ducts, or if the ducts aren't working well in certain parts of the house, you can consider ductless heat pumps, which are easy to install. You can also use a mixture of both types.
- What climate zone do you live in?check it outthis map. Focus on the number from 1 (Miami) to 8 (Northern Alaska). This will help you narrow down the models of heat pumps that make sense for your home based on how well they perform in the coldest temperatures you are likely to experience in your city. You can also look up your design temperatures by zip code — about 99% of the time the weather falls between the high and low design temperatures, and that's the goal that HVAC engineers design around.
What is a heat pump? And why did everyone just start talking about her?
A heat pump is an all-in-one home heating and cooling system. It's something like a combination stove and air conditioner, although it's more accurate to think of it like an air conditioner that can run backwards:
In cooling mode, it absorbs heat from your warm, stuffy house and releases it outside - just like a traditional air conditioner, using the same components and physical tricks. It also reduces humidity.
In heating mode, it works the other way round. It takes free heat from outside your home (even if it's very cold outside) and transports it inside.
This process uses less than half the energy of a conventional heating system, although it is often even more efficient. The specifics depend on the heat pump model and how well it is installed. These energy savings often translate into significant money savings, depending on what type of heating system you would be replacing.
Heat pumps are incredibly flexible. You can use them to heat and cool your entire home or just one room or some rooms but not others.
- They can be installed in almost every family home, but also in many townhouses, condominiums and apartments.
- They work with ducts, without ducts, and sometimes even with hot water radiators (although these are rare in the US).
- You can use a heat pump with or without a backup system - this is a matter of personal choice in most countries.
A bit of history: Simple heat pumps have been around for decades. About a quarter of all homes in the southern United States already use a heat pump as their primary heating and cooling system, according to the EIA. The warm climate in this region is a natural adaptation for these systems.
Technology has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few decades (since the last time most people needed to upgrade their HVAC systems). Now they make more sense in more parts of the country, including very cold regions. Heat pumps, which work well in colder climates, began hitting the US market about a decade ago after heating oil prices rose sharply. Today there are many models that work perfectly in extremely cold weather - well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some installers in the north still insist that heat pumps will not work when the temperature drops below freezing. You're wrong: heat pumps are actually more common in some of the coldest countries in the world. For example, half of all households in frosty Finland now use heat pumps.
As of 2023, interest in heat pumps in the US has reached an all-time high as the federal government and several states are now offering huge incentives to install them. It's part of efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and heat pumps can make a big difference on that front. This is also true when they run on electricity, which mainly comes from fossil fuels, because they are so energy efficient. The positive environmental impacts are comparable to driving an electric vehicle instead of a petrol car or switching to solar power. The cleaner your electricity, the greater the environmental benefits of a heat pump.
Heat pumps can make your home more comfortable
Great environmental benefits aside, a high performance heat pump rightly feels like a major upgrade to your heating and cooling system. Here are the benefits:
- They are fantastic at maintaining consistent temperatures and humidity levels.The secret is that they are designed to run best on low, constantly moving a little bit of air and heat. (Some models also have dehumidification-only settings.)
- They tend to be quieter than other systems, both indoors and outdoors.This is another advantage of the low and slow strategy. This is a huge improvement over window air conditioners or portable air conditioners in this regard.
- They produce fewer hot or cold spots.This is because the air is constantly mixing, very easily. And compared to small space heaters that you would plug into a regular outlet, mini-splits can simply generate a lot more heat.
- No need to reset your thermostat at night to save energy.You still can if you want. But high performance heat pumps actually run most efficiently when you leave the thermostat alone.
- You can improve your indoor air quality.This isn't unique to heat pumps, but HVAC systems that constantly move air - coupled with a good filter - are better at catching dust and other airborne particles. Consistent moisture control also helps. And you don't have to worry about carbon monoxide leaks or by-products of burning fossil fuels in your home.
Who benefits most from the upgrade?
Anyone replacing window air conditioners, plug-in heaters, or other noisy, heavy, underpowered, slightly dangerous devices.Even some of the simplest ductless systems are a vast improvement over room air conditioners and small heaters. They cost more than the wearables, but they save some money on your electric bills and make you feel so much more comfortable. And since they're permanently installed, you don't have to worry about safety hazards: dropping the air conditioner out of a second-story window, hurting your back lifting it onto a windowsill, accidentally burning a curtain that's a space heater touched, and soon.
Anyone who needs to heat and cool spaces that the main HVAC system cannot reach.Heat pumps are modular and relatively easy to install in spaces such as garage workshops, attic hangouts, bonus rooms, house extensions, etc. This is usually easier than lengthening ducts or a hydronic system - and again, it's far more convenient than the cheaper non-permanent alternatives like window air conditioners or space heaters.
Anyone who finds it annoying when temperatures fluctuate throughout the day.Almost all fossil fuel and electric resistance heaters have this problem. The same is true of most lower-cost central air conditioners, which can also struggle to keep humidity under control. However, high performance heat pumps have components that allow them to adjust their output on the fly to blow just the right amount of warm or cold air to keep your home comfortable.
A limitation:Simple, single-stage heat pumps behave more like traditional HVAC systems. (These are affordable, centrally managed systems - fairly common in the southern US.) That's because they're either all on or all off. But it's the status quo, not a downgrade from a traditional system.
As with any type of HVAC system, some people have bad experiences with heat pumps - including leaving their home cool in the winter or sweltering in the summer. But these "heat pump problems" are usually due to poorly designed systems, botched installations, or equipment that needs servicing (or a combination of all of these).
And there's always the possibility of an extreme cold weather event like a polar vortex or an arctic explosion that will push a heat pump to its limits. Cold climate heat pumps should not stop working in cold weather unless the outdoor unit is icing up due to sloppy installation. But they might struggle to keep your house comfortable. It happens! You should think about a contingency plan for those rare occurrences, whether it's a full backup system or some electric heaters to make up the difference - or just a few blankets.
Heat pump costs: Many save, many even cost
The numbers are a bit blurry, thoughat least a thirdof US homes will save money by choosing a heat pump over traditional heating and cooling. It's probably more than that -- we'd put it closer to 50 to 60 percent given prices as of early 2023.
The initial cost of heat pumps is generally higher than other HVAC systems. But that's not always true. And heat pumps cost so much less compared to certain types of heating systems that they pay for themselves in savings on your utility bills. Heat pumps also go very well with solar panels on the roof.
The details depend on where you live and what other heating options you have. But here are the big lines:
In warmer climates, simple heat pumps are often the most cost-effective systems to start with.That's because they can cost less than the combined price of a stove and air conditioner. They also tend to cost less than stoves or electric resistance heaters in regions with mild winter temperatures. This is how you win in the short term and in the long term. (To cover the occasional cold snap, they're usually installed with an electrical resistance heating strip built right into the condenser or air handler.) And if they're replacing an old, inefficient air conditioner, they'll lower your cooling costs, too.
Heat pumps cost much less to run than systems that run on oil, propane, or electric resistance.This is true even in very cold climates. It's enough of a discount on your energy bills — often around $1,000 a year, according to the DOE — that the heat pump almost always recoups its higher installation costs, usually within 5 to 10 years. (The industry consensus is that a heat pump should last about 15 years.)
Heating with natural gas tends to cost less, especially in cold climates — but there are plenty of exceptions, and it's not an outlier.Here's an oversimplification: On average, a cold-climate heat pump installation costs about $4,000 more than the combined price of a gas furnace and central air conditioning, even after heat pump discounts. Heat pumps also typically cost a little more than a gas furnace, something on the order of $100 or $200 per year. On paper, with all the nuances sanded away, gas stoves are a more economical option than heat pumps in cold climates.
But these are only average values. The real ranges are huge - there is a $20,000 difference between the cheapest and most expensive cold climate heat pump installations, after accounting for incentives. (The price range for an oven is much narrower). So there are many instances where heat pumps beat gas cost-wise. (Some sources even claim that heat pumps typically beat gas, although industry consensus and real-world data don't entirely support this.)
It's very much a case-by-case basis, but the more of the following that apply to your situation, the better the case for a heat pump:
- Existing sewerage, or a home that doesn't need too many ductless "zones" (more on that later).
- Good local incentives, plus honest installers who pass these savings on to their customers instead of raising their prices.
- Cheap electricity, be it from the grid (as in areas with a lot of hydroelectric power), a community solar farm or a rooftop solar array.
- Milder Winter, allowing the heat pumps to run longer near their higher efficiency.
- A well installed heat pump, used in a way that maximizes efficiency (which means you don't have to fiddle with the thermostat if you can avoid it).
Another option to consider: Hybrid systems - heat pumps and gas - can be an option that offers the best of both worlds. The heat pump takes care of your cooling and most of your heating. When it gets really cold, your gas system kicks in. Consider buying one if you need to replace your central air conditioner but still have a working heating system.
Heat pump incentives: How to get free money
Beginning in 2023, many high-efficiency heat pumps will qualify for a federal tax credit and potentially generous rebates or other incentives from state and local governments and utilities. This includes air-to-water heat pumps as well as geothermal systems. Lots of details are still up in the air, but here's an overviewwhich was to come thanks to the anti-inflation law.
And meanwhile: One of the best sources of information about heat pump discounts isATTEMPT, a database maintained by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center.
What is a mini split? And other types of heat pumps
There is an entire HVAC language to describe all the different types of heat pumps and how they work. Here are some of the terms you're likely to encounter on your journey, briefly explained.
Mini-Split:It's basically another name for a powerful air source heat pump: more efficient, more flexible and more convenient than simple duct systems.
There is some disagreement in the HVAC industry as to the exact definition. Many people use "mini-split" and "ductless" interchangeably, although that's not entirely accurate. Here's one way to think about it: ductless heat pumps are (almost) always mini-splits. But mini splits aren't always channelless; Many brands sell duct systems that they call mini-splitss too. You don't have to worry too much about the details, though. Mini-split is more of a marketing term than a technical term.
Duct heat pumps and ductless heat pumps:This tells you how a heat pump moves conditioned air in your home. They use the same underlying technology to generate heat or cooling, but they deliver it differently.
Exhaust systems are of course connected to the exhaust duct via an air manifold, which usually has a large fan.
In a ductless system, you typically have one air handler (or "head") per room, mounted to the wall or ceiling and connected to the outdoor unit by a long pipe that runs through a 3" hole in the wall.
Air source heat pumps:The most common type of heat pump that relies on the air outside your home as a heat source (or heat sink in cooling mode). It looks like a central air conditioner and is easy to install in most homes.
Geothermal heat pumps, also called geothermal heat pumps:The other common type of heat pump for residential buildings. It relies on hundreds of feet of pipes buried underground in your yard — either in trenches or drilled straight down with special equipment. Below the frost line, the ground temperatures are stable at 50 to 60 degrees all year round, which allows the heat pump to operate very efficiently. Ground systems are difficult and expensive to install, but usually pay for themselves in savings on your energy bills.
water heat pumps:Similar to a ground source system, except the long tube sits in a body of water (usually a pond or lake).
Air to air heat pumps:A type of air source heat pump that distributes heating and cooling via a forced air system - either ducted or ductless "heads". The vast majority of heat pumps sold in the US are air-to-air systems.
Air/water heat pumps:Air source heat pumps that distribute heat via hydronic (hot water) radiator systems. These are the norm in parts of Europe. So, in theory, you could get one in the US - but finding a qualified installer can be difficult. They do not work well with pedestal heaters and are not suitable for cooling.
Single zone vs. multi-zone heat pumps:These terms describe the number of air handling units or ductless "heads" connected to an outdoor unit. If it is a simple system with one head and one compressor, then it is a single zone system. When multiple air handling units are connected to a single outdoor compressor, it is a multi-zone system (sometimes referred to as a multi-split). Single zone systems are more efficient. However, if you need HVAC for multiple rooms (and don't have ducts), it's usually more practical to install a multi-zone ductless system. Most multi-zone heat pumps can accommodate up to five heads, although there is some evidence that it is better to stick to a maximum of three heads per outdoor unit.
Heat pumps for cold climates:These are heat pumps that can keep your house warm even when it's cold outside. Basic heat pumps stop working well at around 32 F - they can't generate enough heat to keep up with the amount of heat your home is losing. Cold climate heat pumps can operate at much lower temperatures. The closest thing to an "industry standard" for a cold climate heat pump is to put out at least 90% as much heat at 5F as it does at 45F. But many models operate well below zero. They still work great even in warm weather.
Backups, Heat Bars, Hybrid and Dual Fuel Systems:Different names for the same basic idea: A second heater that can replace the heat pump. Unless you live in the coldest parts of the US (like northern Minnesota or Alaska) or don't have reliable power, a whole house backup isn't essential. But you might want one for peace of mind. And combi systems can be the most economical way to heat your home, whether it's a simple heat pump plus an electric resistance strip heater, or a hybrid system (also known as a dual-fuel system) that switches to gas heating when the temperature drops below a certain threshold .
Single-stage vs. variable-speed compressors:This is the dividing line between "basic" and "high performance" heat pumps. One-tier systems can only be on or off; it's either the full amount of heating and cooling or nothing. This can work well in warmer climates, and the equipment costs less. Heat pumps with variable speed compressors cost more but work better and save energy. They can adjust their heating and cooling on a scale — sometimes in dozens of increments. Variable speed systems are necessary in heat pumps for cold climates, but they also help with cooling because they can better control humidity. Inverter driven is another common term that basically means the same as variable speed in this context.
For the rest of this guide we will focus primarily on air to air heat pumps.
Which are the best heat pumps?
Don't get too fixated on it.
There are many great heat pumps on paper. There are sure to be at least a handful of models that will work well in your home and meet your heating and cooling goals (with a few caveats).
Even if you find what you think is the perfect heat pump, it may not be available when you want to install it. Recently, there has been a supply crisis for heat pumps due to the huge increase in demand and ongoing logistical problems with the global supply chain.
Or the installer you like might have an option just as or nearly as good at a much better price. Or they'd rather work with another brand and can offer a better guarantee. (Having a great installer and a well-designed HVAC system is far more important than having the very best heat pump.)
But before speaking to an installer, it's helpful to know what makes a heat pump suitable for your home and local climate.
Heating Ability: How Well Does It Work In Cold Weather?
Any heat pump can work well on hot summer days or slightly cool days. But once the temperature drops below freezing (32 F), some models can no longer hack it. Even fewer can work down to the single digits. And only a select group is reliable at temperatures well below 0°C. Most installers will choose the right equipment for your environment, but that's not a guarantee. If you want to double-check your installer's recommendation, consult yours firstclimate zone, and then find out what 'tier' of cold-weather performance the heat pump falls into.
Heat pumps with excellent performance even at extremely low temperatures below 0 F.
If you live in:
- Climate zones 1-3: These heat pumps are overkill. Those who live here do not need such a powerful heat pump.
- Climate zones 4-5:The "Peace of Mind" Choice. It rarely gets cold enough where you live to need your full heating output. But there's no harm in having it, especially if you don't have a backup system.
- Climate zone 6:A fantastic fit for your weather.
- Climate zone 7-8:These heat pumps should be able to handle the bulk of your heating, although there will likely be a few days when a traditional stove would come in handy.
The heat pumps at the Very Coldtier include:
- Mitsubishi H2i Hyper Heat
- Daikin Aurora
- Fujitsu Airstage / Halcyon XLTH
- LG Red (except for the central channel unit)
- Carrier Infinity 38VM
- Samsung MaxHeat
Heat pumps that work almost flawlessly down to about 5F and can still emit some heat in colder temperatures.
If you live in:
- Climate zones 1-2:These are exaggerated.
- Climate zones 3-4: A great fit for your weather; It is extremely unlikely that you will need a backup heater system in these regions.
- Climate zones 5-6:Also a great fit, although you do need an extra source of heat from time to time.
- Climate zone 7:One of these could make sense as part of a hybrid system where you would expect to be running a traditional stove or boiler during the coldest weeks of the year.
- Climate zone 8:You'll probably want to upgrade to a model better suited to very cold weather.
Cold stage heat pumps include:
- Bosch Climate 5000 Maximum performance
- Mitsubishi M series and P series without H2i
- LG Red central channel unit
- LG: Most non-red models (except Mega and Standard Efficiency)
- Fujitsu: Most other Airstage / Halcyon Mini splits (except entry-level models)
- Fujitsu FO*20 mit Kanal
- Daikin MXS and RMXS
- Carrier: Most Infinity models (except 38VM)
- Carrier power 38MG
- Lennox Signature SL25XPV with duct
- Lennox MLA and MLB mini splits
- RheemPrestige RP20
- Samsung: Other models besides Max Heat
- Mr Cool Universal and Olympus Hyper Heat
Mixed climate / in between
These models can work well up to about 15F or 20F.
If you live in:
- Climate zone 1-3:A fantastic option that can probably carry you through the winter without having to switch to a backup heating strip (except for those unusual cold snaps). And since they have variable speed compressors, they ensure more comfort in your home than simple heat pumps, even in summer.
- Climate zone 4-7:They can be useful as part of a hybrid system where you would expect a backup to run at least a couple of weeks each winter, although some models are better suited than others.
- Climate zone 8:You probably want to look elsewhere.
These heat pumps include:
- Bosch Climate 5000 (non-max power)
- Trunking systems from Bosch
- Fujitsu: Entry level Halycon / Airstage mini splits
- Fujitsu FO*16 channeled
- Daikin: Other mini splits including Fit and VRV systems
- Daikin: Most duct systems with a SEER rating of 16 and above
- Trane: Most duct systems with a SEER rating of 16 and higher
- Lennox: Most channel systems with a SEER rating of 16 and above
- Lennox MPC-, MHB- und MPB-Mini-Splits
- Rheem: Most canal systems with a SEER rating of 16 and higher
- Mr. Cool DIY, Olympus and Advantage series
- Goodman: GVZC20
These are simple heat pumps that work well down to around 32 F. You spend more time in cooling mode than in heating mode.
If you live in:
- Climate zones 1-3:A solid, budget-friendly option for whole-home HVAC. They are usually installed with a backup heating strip and can sometimes turn on.
- Climate zone 4:They can make sense as part of a hybrid system paired with a gas oven.
- Climate zones 5-8:You're probably better off with a different heat pump.
Dozens of heat pumps fall into this category, and they're all centrally-ducted units (not mini-splits). If the SEER rating is below 16, it is a warm weather model.
Air handling units: with or without duct and where they fit
Most heat pumps are installed with one or both of the two most common types of air handling units:
- A large,traditional air handlerserves the central sewage system in your home – what most people refer to as a duct heat pump.
- one or morewall-mounted "heads"– those boxy units that one likes to picture when you think of ductless heat pumps.
The best heat pumps come in both variants. However, most brands offer a handful of other types of air handling units that can work with their more powerful mini-split heat pumps:
- Narrow channel or compact channelUnits sit in air ducts. They are designed for short ducts serving a few rooms - not for central ducts serving an entire house (their fans are underpowered).
- ceiling cassettesare ductless heads, but mounted in your ceiling rather than on a wall. They tend to cost more and run less efficiently than the wall units, but they're covert - they're not actually that ugly. Installation is not always feasible, especially when floor joists get in the way.
- floor consolesare channelless heads that are mounted low on a wall. They can be useful in rooms with sloping ceilings or when replacing radiators.
- "Designer" mindsare just souped up versions of wall, ceiling and floor units. A lot of people think ductless heads are ugly, but what if they got a nicer finish and a slimmer design? LG even has a set of heads that double as picture frames.
Centrally ducted units connect to a central thermostat like traditional HVAC systems.
Channelless systems are controlled by default with a simple remote control for each individual indoor head. However, there are ways to combine them into a centralized (or zoned) system.
For heat pumps with variable speed compressors, expect to use the manufacturer's thermostat - not a third-party thermostat, not even a seemingly advanced, "smart" model like Google Nest or Ecobee. As clever as they are, these thermostats don't regulate the heat pump's compressor for maximum comfort or maximum efficiency.
The industry standard specifications for measuring efficiency are (as of 2023) SEER2 for cooling and HSPF2 for heating. This topic is painfully dry, so we'll leave the nuances for another article. But the general idea is that higher numbers mean less energy use. Systems with higher SEER and HSPF ratings tend to cost more, but may pay off in energy savings and are more likely to qualify for incentives and rebates.
If you live in a warmer climate where the heat pump spends more time cooling, focus more on a higher SEER. If you live in a colder climate, a higher HSPF is more important. The two specifications tend to be correlated anyway, but there are some exceptions.
Another efficiency specification you may have heard of: number of performance or COP. This is a direct measure of how your heat pump is actually working - that is, how much heat (or cold) you're getting for the amount of electricity it's using. Your seasonal COP depends on how well designed and installed your heat pump is and how close you are to best practices for using your heat pump.
reliability and guarantee
As with any major household purchase, reliability is the big question - and no one has a good answer yet.Consumer Reports publishes some reliability data, but it only covers canal systems, and the lion's share of their data comes from warm-weather states. They don't have reviews for big mini split brands like Mitsubishi, Fujitsu, Daikin or LG.
Some brands have slightly better warranties than others, but they're all in a similar wheelhouse: they cover some or all parts for 5, 7, maybe 10 years. If you have the equipment installed by a preferred contractor, this sometimes extends to 12 years. But you're always on the hook for labor costs. (Some contractors may offer labor guarantees, however.) A longer parts warranty certainly doesn't hurt, but don't put too much stock in those numbers, even if they're several years apart.
How do I get a heat pump installed?
A good installation is the key to a great heat pump experience. Yes, you need the right gear for the right home and climate. But poor installation of even the best gear can result in suboptimal efficiency, poor cold-weather performance, and reliability issues across the board.
Choose someone who has experience with heat pumps, or at least air conditioning, rather than someone who until recently has focused on stoves or boilers. Heat pump specialists are much easier to find in the warmer parts of the country - but the market is growing fast.
There are some systems that are designed to be self-installed — meaning they come with pre-charged refrigerant lines, so you don't need a whole bagful of HVAC special tools. But there are still countless ways you can screw up the job. Proceed with caution!
What to expect when working with an installer
If this is your first time approaching an HVAC contractor they may be able to give you a general idea of what a heat pump installation might cost without having to visit your home if you can provide specifics. However, this is uncommon and the vast majority of contractors are required to conduct an on-site visit.
Website visits usually go like this:
- You make an appointment via the installer's website or by telephone. If it's an emergency - your system dies during a cold snap - you can usually find a contractor to arrive the same day.
- When the contractor arrives, they almost always start with a conversation about your expectations. Some companies will send a project consultant rather than an actual installer - basically someone trained enough to give you a quote but not do the actual work. That's okay, that's a common practice.
- Then you make a tour of your property with the contractor.
- You will want to see your existing heating system and any ducts you have installed.
- You'll also be looking for places to attach all of the new equipment: the outdoor unit, the indoor air conditioning units, and the ducting that connects the two pieces.
- They also check your electrical panel to make sure it can support a heat pump.
- You (should) take some measurements along the way - room sizes, duct sizes and so on. Most plumbers will not measure existing insulation or do a blower door test to find out how leaky your house is. To find out, you usually need a separate energy auditideal performance for your heat pump.
- Most contractors will try to design a good enough system and quote you on site, but some will go back to their office and quote later.
Do I need other home upgrades before getting a heat pump?
Usually not. Sometimes they are necessary - for example, if your control panel does not have enough free slots for a new circuit.
In other cases, upgrades aren't necessary, but would be a really good idea. Insulation and airtightness are common points of improvement, and your duct system may need maintenance. If your home feels drafty in places, or some rooms aren't getting as much heating or cooling from your ducts as they should, a heat pump isn't going to magically fix those issues.
Some incentives and rebates depend on improving your home's weatherproofing, although you can generally make these upgrades after the heat pump is installed.
The most important step you can take to keep your heat pump running at its best is to keep the filters clean. This keeps the air flowing properly, which means better comfort and efficiency. The correct cadence depends on your particular system.
Aside from good filter hygiene, heat pumps should be professionally serviced once a year, although you can probably get away with longer intervals. Different professionals have different views on what is necessary and what is useful - there is no real industry consensus. Some insist that you should check refrigerant levels every year, while others say this step only increases the likelihood of a leak later. Some suggest cleaning the drain pan and coils annually, others say cleaning them only when needed.
For what it's worth, Consumer Reports foundno correlation between regular maintenance and long-term reliability. But it's probably unwise to put it off for too long. And if you notice the heating or cooling performance dropping, contact a professional as there may be a refrigerant leak.
Often contractors offer a maintenance package that includes annual service for a fee. If you're considering this, it's worth asking about other perks, such as: B. whether you have priority with a maintenance contract in an emergency. Some installers offer quick service guarantees to contract holders, and it might be worth it for security reasons alone.
By: Liam McCabe
Air source heat pumps can experience issues such as icing in cold temperatures, which can ultimately damage the system. Although modern heat pumps do often have automatic defrosting. Their efficiency will also be lower at very cold temperatures, and use more electricity during those cold days.What do you need to know about heat pumps? ›
A heat pump extracts heat from the cold outside air and transfers it inside our home. To this end, a compressor inside the device uses electricity to increase the temperature of the heat extracted from the outside air. The heat pump can also provide cooling by transferring warm indoor air to the outside.At what temperature does a heat pump not heat? ›
Heat Pump Does Not Get To A Specific Thermostat Temperature
As soon as the outdoor temperature drops below 35 degrees Fahrenheit, the heat pump efficiency deteriorates. The system will strain to keep the home warm inside when the temperature outside falls below zero degrees Fahrenheit.
A clogged air filter is a common cause behind a heat pump not working, as the system doesn't receive adequate airflow due to this obstruction. The system often overheats and shuts down, leaving you without cooling. Or, not enough cooling makes it into your home due to the restriction.Is it OK to leave heat pump on all day? ›
While heat pumps are the most cost effective way to use electricity to heat your home during the cooler months, leaving them running day and night is not economically efficient. According to Energywise, you should switch off your heat pump when you don't need it. This is to avoid excessive energy waste.Do heat pumps use a lot of electricity? ›
One of the most popular questions we hear is, “do heat pumps use a lot of electricity?” We are delighted to answer that they do not. Compared to more traditional methods of heating, ductless heat pumps are much more energy-efficient, which means they have less impact on your utility bills.Should I turn my heat pump off in extreme cold? ›
Rebate-eligible heat pumps can reach over 400% efficiency in mild temperatures and can maintain well over 200% efficiency even into negative temperatures. This is why turning off a heat pump in frigid temperatures and opting to use a fossil fuel boiler or furnace instead is a mistake.Do heat pumps require a lot of maintenance? ›
Yes, Heat Pumps Do Need Twice-Yearly Maintenance
Each of these systems only handles one comfort function, and for the most part will only run during a single part of the year. A heating system needs maintenance in fall to ready it for winter work, and an AC needs it in spring to ready it for summer work.
How Long Does a Heat Pump Last? Because heat pumps are often relied on year-round, they don't typically last quite as long as furnaces and air conditioners. Their average lifespan is about 10 to 15 years.Can a heat pump cool a house in 100 degree weather? ›
If outdoor temperatures reach extreme highs of 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit, then the heat pump's efficiency will be affected, and it will be less able to provide comfortable cooling abilities.
In fact, heat pumps are now the best heating option just about everywhere on the planet. Below 0° Fahrenheit, heat pumps can still heat your home with more than twice the efficiency of gas heating or standard electric heating (such as electric furnaces and baseboard heaters).Will a heat pump work at 25 degrees? ›
Even at 25 degrees, your heat pump will still run. The issue at this temperature is that they system will require more energy as it runs because there isn't enough heat energy in the outdoor air for the heat pump to use in heating your interiors.Do heat pumps struggle in hot weather? ›
Heat Pumps Keep You Cool and Comfortable
But even while this high-capacity AC unit generates a more pleasant indoor air temperature compared to the typical AC unit, it still struggles to meet the setpoint temperature on the hottest day (i.e., June 28), as shown in the temperature figure below.
In most cases, heat pumps are worth it. Heat pumps are usually more expensive to install, but you end up saving more money throughout the year with low maintenance costs, making heat pumps a great investment. Additionally, heat pumps are much safer with no risks for a gas leak, which can expose you to carbon monoxide.What are pros and cons of heat pumps? ›
|Pros of ASHPs||Cons of ASHPs|
|High efficiency||Higher upfront cost than heating/cooling alternatives|
|May save you money overall on energy bills||Increased electric bills|
|Health and wellness benefits||Susceptible to power outages|
|Heating and cooling system all-in-one|
Heat pumps are more energy efficient since they pump out more cool and warm air by volume than the energy it takes to run them. Heat pumps require minimal upkeep and only require twice-a-year maintenance.