Air-to-Water Heat Pump Running Costs

San Rafael

(415) 942-6565

Santa Rosa

(707) 452-3464

How does a heat pump work?

Air-source heat pumps work by taking the air from outside your house and transferring it inside to warm your home. It does the same in reverse for air conditioning, taking the warm air out of the room and transferring it outside the house. This is done through a reversing valve that transfers the warm air into or out of your house. They can also transfer this air into water since it heats by sending steam through the system to heat your home; therefore, it can work as a hot water heater as well. Because of their use of existing warm air, they work best in more mild climates and use less energy when in cooling mode. But you may be wondering how expensive these units are to run. How much energy and electricity do they use? What is the best way to use a heat pump in order to save money on energy expenses? Are there more disadvantages than advantages to owning a heat pump?

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In this article, we will describe all of the factors that go into affecting the energy usage and running costs of heat pumps, as well as how to calculate the cost of running your heat pump unit. We will also go over additional costs that can affect the operation price of a heat pump and cost comparisons between different heating systems. Finally, we will discuss the benefits of a heat pump overall and some methods you can integrate to reduce running costs.

Factors Affecting Energy Use in Heat Pumps

The main part of what will drive the cost of running heat pumps is how much energy they use to operate efficiently. A heat pump has many different aspects that all contribute to how much energy it will use for transferring heat outside or inside. These are the biggest factors that will have an impact on the energy usage level of a heat pump:

1) Size

The size of the unit will be a large deciding factor in how much energy you use to run your heat pump, since the larger the unit is, the more energy it will take. The size of our home will play a big part in this, because what size heat pump is best for you will be determined by the specific heating and cooling needs of your home. On average, a heat pump will weigh 2–5 tons. You will not want to get a heat pump that is too large for your home, but you also don’t want one that is too small, since it would have to work harder than usual to bring a comfortable temperature to your house, using more energy than is necessary.

2) Type of Unit/Installation

The type of heat pump you choose will also be related to the specific layout of your house and whatever heating and cooling necessities it may require. The type of unit will also dictate what the labor costs will look like, since some systems are more difficult and timely to install than others. The most common types of heat pumps are air-source heat pumps, ground-source heat pumps, ductless mini splits, and gas-fired heat pumps.

Air-source heat pumps and ductless mini splits work in a similar way, by taking the heat from outside and transferring it inside, and vice versa. An air-source heat pump will require ductwork, whereas a mini split will not, and mini splits will have an indoor unit in multiple rooms. A ductless mini split or air source heat pump installation is usually more affordable than other types since they are energy efficient and require less intense labor to install. Air-source heat pump units and installation costs are usually around $3,500–$7,500.

Ground-source heat pumps, also called geothermal heat pumps, draw heat from the temperature in the ground rather than the outside air. They store the temperature of the ground through a heat exchanger before sending it into the house. This heat pump will be a bit more expensive to install since it requires trenches to be dug deep into the ground to lay out the pipes, but it will be less expensive on energy bills since it will consume less energy to run. Geothermal heat pumps usually cost between $13,000 and $36,000 to purchase and install.

There are also gas-fired heat pumps, which will have a higher running cost because they use natural gas to power them but a lower initial cost. But these are good options for commercial buildings and even large homes, since they can heat larger spaces that have many different temperature zones. A gas-fired heat pump’s price and installation will typically be $4,500–$8,000.

3) Unit Efficiency

What determines a heat pump’s efficiency is the amount of heat energy it is able to supply to your home and water compared to the level of electrical energy it takes up. This can be calculated by the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER), which measures cooling efficiency, and the coefficient of performance (COP), which measures the efficiency of converting electricity to heat.

You can find the value of a heat pump’s COP by calculating the heating seasonal performance factor, which is the ratio of the total space heated by the system during an average heating season divided by the energy consumed. The COP is 29 times this rating.

4) Location and House Climate

Where your house is located and how cold your indoor and outdoor temperatures can become are very important in determining the energy costs of your heat pump. Depending on how cold your house gets, it could take more energy than usual to fully heat it to a comfortable level, and you may have to select a larger heat pump size. Also, the local climate can have a huge impact. Cold winters can make heat pumps less effective than they are in warm climates. If you live in a cold climate and outside temperatures drop below 25 degrees, this will have an effect on the heat pump’s efficiency since it uses warm air from outside to heat your house, and the less warm air there is to transfer from outdoors, the more it will have to work to effectively find that heat, increasing energy prices. The effectiveness of heat pumps in a cold climate might also vary across different types of heat pumps.

5) Electricity Price

Finally, there is the general price of electricity to consider. Depending on where you live, the cost of electricity could be one of the most important factors in determining the cost of your heat pump operation. Electricity rates are rising tremendously, and once you have calculated how much total energy your heat pump will need to effectively heat your living space, you will need to compare it with the electricity rate where you live. This is important to know, especially if you live in a cold climate and will be using more power to run your heat pump.

6) Building Envelope Leakage

Another factor in determining how much energy a heat pump will use depends on the amount of leakage and insulation in the home. In order for these high-efficiency systems to really be worth their true potential, your home needs to have minimal air leakage in both the ducting and through the building itself. Some homes see 10 or more air changes in an hour! That means the whole house is cycling air every 6 minutes. Duct leakage is also another factor that can lead to your system running for additional time and working harder to heat your home.

Insulation is the cheapest way to increase the energy efficiency of your home. Typically, this is done in walls, attics, and crawlspaces. By insulating these areas, you are preventing the air you pay for from escaping your home or from outside temperatures penetrating into your home.

Additional Heat Pump Installation Costs

Along with the above-described factors, there are a few additional considerations to make when you are preparing to install a heat pump. These may or may not apply to you, but they can often be overlooked during the process of determining heat pump installation costs.

Ductwork – If you do not already have ductwork in your home, this is a significant increase in cost if you are installing a heat pump. If you already have ductwork, it is possible you will have to have air duct cleaning done if they have not been cleaned for some time. A good method to avoid installing any ductwork if you don’t want to go through the extra costs is to install a ductless mini split system that does not require any ducts.

Permits – Your local government will most likely require a permit in order to install a heat pump in your house. It is required for the building, but you may have to obtain multiple permits if the installation will require significant land disturbance or go near pipelines. It is a good idea to check with a licensed HVAC professional and your local government to be clear about what permits you may need before beginning an installation project.

Removal costs – If you are installing a new heat pump to replace an old one, you will also have to pay to have the older unit removed from your home. When you hire a technician to install your new unit, these removal costs should be included in the estimate.

Air Source Heat Pump Benefits

With all of the costs adding up, you may be wondering if it is really worth it to install any kind of heat pump over alternative heating systems. While there are definitely some expensive downsides, such as larger upfront costs, there are many incredible benefits to your home and health from installing a heat pump as your main heating system.

Energy Efficient

Because of how they operate, heat pumps are far more efficient than traditional HVAC systems. By taking existing temperatures and transferring them to your home, they use much less energy than any other traditional furnace, especially if you live in a mild climate. Installing units such as mini splits will also reduce electricity costs since they use less.

Save Space

Heat pumps take up much less space than other HVAC systems since they are able to work as one heating and cooling unit. They are an outdoor unit that will not take up any space in a basement or closet like other furnaces.

Cost Effective

Though the upfront cost of a heat pump might be intimidating, there is no denying that heat pumps save money on energy bills significantly compared to other heating methods. Heat pumps can often pay for themselves because of the level of return on investment you will have operating them each year because of the level of heating efficiency they have. It is also possible to even receive tax credits for a heat pump installation.

Safe to Run

Because they do not use natural gas to create heat, heat pumps are much safer to use in your household compared to a traditional gas boiler or oil furnace. You will have no risk of a gas or oil leak that could instantly become incredibly hazardous for the entire household. Also, since they run by transferring air through the heat exchanger rather than burning gas, it makes them much safer for the environment as well, burning less fossil fuels and reducing your carbon footprint.

Require Less Maintenance

Since heat pumps are a simpler system, they require much less intense maintenance, saving you on labor costs. Though you definitely still want to keep up regularly with servicing your heat pump, the costs will be a lot less overall, especially with a ductless mini split system that won’t require cleaning of complicated ductwork. But any heat pump type will be a lot easier to maintain than systems such as gas and oil boilers because of how much simpler their inner workings are.

How To Reduce Heat Pump Cost

Though heat pumps are a cost-effective option for heating when it comes to utility bills, there are still ways you can reduce the annual cost even more. These are ways you can gain energy savings with most other heating systems as well.

Insulation – Make sure your house is properly insulated so that you don’t lose any heat or air that you are paying for at an unnecessarily high rate.

Maintenance – Make sure you are keeping up with all upgrades and routine tune-ups, including things like changing air filters that can become incredibly clogged with debris over time.

Adjust thermostat – Have your thermostat temperature set a couple degrees lower than your initial desired temperature during the heating season in order to reduce the running cost of the heat pump.

Size – Keep the size of your house in mind when selecting your heat pump to make sure it is not too big or too small for heating and cooling your living area, particularly if you live in cold climates.

Doors and windows – Be sure that all of the windows and doors are closed when your heat pump is running so that you are not wasting any energy.

Solar Panels and Heat Pumps

Solar panels are a great way to offset electricity consumption for heat pumps. Solar panels are able to generate energy to power your heat pump, so you don’t have to use as much electrical power to run the system. You can even use them to power other electrical appliances as well. This will allow you to use more electricity-centered systems without having to worry about high energy costs. There are many areas that will also have rebates and incentives available when installing solar panels in your home, and they can increase the value of your home in the long run. Overall, solar panels will make your home and your heat pump heating system even more energy efficient, as well as save you on electricity costs, making heat pumps an even more attractive HVAC system option, especially when natural gas is too expensive.

A heat pump’s cost depends on many different factors, such as its size, whether you live in colder or moderate climates, the cost of electricity in your area, and which type of unit you install. There are costs such as ductwork and permits to consider as well, and when comparing the installation and initial cost of a heat pump compared to other heating and cooling systems, heat pumps will be more costly. But there are many benefits that could outweigh the heavy costs, such as safety, energy efficiency, long-term running costs, and reduced maintenance, that make heat pumps valuable heating methods. And there are even methods, such as installing solar panels, that can help reduce the annual cost of electricity even more. Heat pumps use less energy than forced air or electric resistance systems and will therefore be more cost-effective in the long term.

So overall, while the initial cost of heat pumps is high and the cost to run can vary depending on multiple factors, there are plenty of solutions to finding less expensive heat pump options, as well as reasons why a heat pump works as an energy-efficient way to bring the best and most comfortable level of heat energy into your home.

Your Local Experts

Call John Owens Services if you are interested in electrifying your home with a heat pump system. When you call us, you are getting one of the best in the business at calculating your home’s heat loss and heat gain to get you the perfect-sized system. We can even give your home a Home Energy Score Assessment to check and see if other upgrades being done prior to heat pump installation would pay off within 10 years of purchase. These upgrades will lower your energy bills, and you can also decrease the size of the system needed if there is proper insulation and leakage remedies in place.

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(415) 942-6565
Santa Rosa
(707) 452-3464



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(415) 942-6565
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(707) 452-3464