Heat Pump Frequently Asked Questions

Common Heat Pump Questions & Answers

Q: What is a heat pump? How does it work?

Heat pumps extract heat from outdoors and transfer it into your home. Even in winter, there is enough heat outside to make this process work.

In the summer, the heat pump works in reverse, like an air conditioner, exchanging hot indoor air with cool air from outside.

In Victoria, the most common heat pump systems consist of a standalone outdoor unit and an indoor unit attached to your existing oil, gas, or electric furnace, which acts as a backup heat source on those below zero days when it’s not efficient to extract heat from outside.

Because they move heat rather than generate heat, heat pumps can provide up to 4 times the amount of energy they consume, making them extremely efficient, affordable heating and cooling systems.

Q. What are the different types of heat pumps?

There are two types of heat pumps: air-source and earth source (also called ground source or geothermal heat pumps).

Air source heat pumps extract heat from the air, while earth source heat pumps extract heat from the ground or a body of water (like a pond or lake).

They can do this because the temperature underground and underwater remains relatively constant regardless of the air temperature above.

Q: What is a ductless heat pump system?

A ductless heat pump (also called a mini-split) is a type of air source heat pump that does not require the use of air ducts.

Ductless systems consist of an outdoor unit and one or more indoor air blowing units, called “heads.”

Indoor heads are typically mounted high on a wall or in a recessed ceiling fixture (looks much like a bathroom fan). Each indoor head corresponds with a heating and cooling zone that can be controlled independently.

Q: Do I still need my old heaters or furnace?

With a ductless system, we encourage you to keep your existing electric baseboard heaters as a backup source of heat on days when the temperature gets below zero or in rooms where the heads can’t reach.

Similarly, with conventional air source heat pumps, you can keep your wood stove or gas or oil furnace as a backup if it’s a newer system, or we usually recommend replacing it with a state-of-the-art electric-powered air handler (furnace).

We can explain the advantages and disadvantages of various backup heat systems for your specific circumstance.

Q. How is a heat pump installed? How long does it take?

For a standard air source system, the typical process involves installing an outdoor unit (usually at the base of your house), and indoor air handler in place of your old furnace, updates to your existing duct work, connecting refrigerant lines, electrical, and electronic thermostat(s).

The whole process usually takes 2 to 3 days from start to finish, depending on the complexity of your situation.

For a ductless system, the process involves hooking up the outdoor unit and connecting the various indoor heads with electrical and coolant lines, which can be completed in as little as one day. Ground source heat pumps take longer.

Q: How much does a heat pump cost?

The typical cost of an installed ductless system with one heating/cooling zone ranges from $4000 to $6000.

However, for smaller homes, we have all-inclusive packages that start as low as $3900. Adding more capacity to the system will increase costs, as will the complexity of your home’s layout.

For an all-inclusive installed air source heat pump, our prices range from $6000 to $12,000, depending on the size of your house, backup heat source, quality of duct work, ventilation options, and a range of other factors.

If you’re worried about the initial cost, remember that an air source heat pump will usually pay for itself (through lower energy bills) within 3-5 years.

Q: What incentives are available for heat pumps?

From time to time, various heat pump manufacturers will offer discounts or rebates, depending on what kind of system and accessories you buy.

Also, BC Hydro and Fortis frequently offer incentives.

Get in touch with us find out what heat pump incentives exist for your home.

Q: How long will a heat pump last?

With proper maintenance and care, Natural Resources Canada estimates an air source (includes ductless) heat pump will last 15 to 20 years.

However, many of the systems installed during the 1980’s are still functioning well today.

Q: What kind of maintenance does a heat pump require?

Heat pumps are complex systems, which, when not maintained properly, could require costly repairs.

Most manufacturers require an annual maintenance be performed by a qualified HVAC technician to keep the warranty valid. As well as annual maintenance checks, you can ensure the longevity of your system by keeping your furnace filters, air returns, and compressor coils clean.

Check out our heat pump inspection, tune-up and prepaid maintenance plans.

Q: Why should we hire you to service our heat pump?

Coastal Heat Pumps uses only licensed, red seal certified refrigeration and air conditioning technicians. These journeyman technicians have many years experience with air source and ductless heat pump systems.

A heat pump may be the most complex upgrade you make to your home due to the many different components that it involves — from duct work to electrical to ventilation and plumbing systems. It takes an expert skill set to properly analyze, size, and troubleshoot your home’s heating and cooling requirements.

Coastal Heat Pumps specializes in ductless systems, an affordable heat pump that doesn’t require invasive duct work.

Contact us to book a free in-home estimate.

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