You’ve decided to buy an air source heat pump to compliment your HVAC system. Maybe it’s because the central furnace has seemed a little overwhelmed lately. Or maybe you’re keen on upgrading to a more efficient heating solution.
However, you’re not completely convinced yet. In particular, you’re wondering if the air source heat pump is durable enough. For instance, can it last as long as the furnace? Or will you need to replace it every few years, which can be both costly and inconvenient?
Below we discuss everything you need to know about the air source heat pump’s lifespan, including how long you should expect your unit to last and factors that determine the average lifespan of a heat pump today.
We’ll also discuss how to know that it’s time to replace your heat pump and tips to prolong your heat pump’s longevity.
How Long do Heat Pumps Last?
New air-source heat pumps can last at least 15 to 20 years while older heat pumps last between 10 to 12 years. The health and efficiency of your heat pump depend on how often you use and maintain your unit. Completing annual maintenance and being diligent with repairs can extend its life even longer.
Heat pumps are a great heating and air conditioning option for your home. Heat pumps are more efficient than air conditioners because they both heat and cool your home and there is no need to install a heating and cooling system. While you may notice how loud your furnace or air conditioner is, you likely won’t hear any noises coming from your heat pump.
These HVAC systems are very energy efficient and can provide significant energy savings. Just like any other HVAC system, though, they have a limited lifespan and will eventually need to be replaced.
The surveys and studies of the Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) put the average heat pump life expectancy between 14 and 16 years if it’s regularly maintained.
But, a few heat pumps can last up to two decades, while others rarely last seven years. However, an average lifespan of a heat pump is 12.5 years. Most air conditioners will last 15 to 20 years, though some may last closer to 10. In coastal areas, they typically last only seven to 12 years due to salt exposure.
The “End of Life” Question: A Recap
Perhaps we should begin with why heat pumps, air conditioners,s or furnaces reach the “end of life.” Why can’t the heat pump last a lifetime, for instance?
The two main issues are wear and tear and, more recently, technology. Wear and tear is a natural and straightforward process. The more you use an electrical appliance, the more it wears.
This is known as surface degradation. Surface degradation primarily results from corrosive and mechanical wear, including adhesion, abrasion, surface fatigues, and erosion.
Eventually, surface degradation can lead to functional obsolescence, which refers to the loss in machine efficiency. A time comes when it’s more cost-effective to replace a faltering machine than maintain it.
Similarly, as new technologies replace older ones, a time comes when it’s more cost-effective to replace old technologies than continue patching things up. Therefore, a manufacturer might discontinue or stop supporting a heat pump model if the technology is obsolete and too costly to maintain.
Determining Factors in a Heat Pump’s Life Expectancy
The manufacturer will typically indicate the estimated life expectancy for each heat pump system based on research and historical data. However, the appliance may exceed or fail to reach this “target” based on several factors.
Generally, whether or not your appliance lasts the ten-to-fifteen-year-average life of a new heat pump depends on the following;
As the famous saying goes, you get what you pay for. A cheaper heat pump system often has cheaper components for short service life. Alternatively, the unit may feature inferior technologies that may break down sooner.
Additionally, cheaper products are characterized by poor post-sales support. This makes everything worse as you may not get the quality support necessary to get the best out of the appliance and properly maintain it for maximum durability.
Therefore, two factors are important here. First, always purchase your appliances from well-known brands with a strong reputation in the industry.
Secondly, don’t skimp on quality to save a few dollars. A quality product typically repays the extra costs through a long service life of reliable use.
Quality of Use
How often do you use the pump? How long do you run it? Granted, you’re at liberty to run your heat pump around the clock, especially on a very cold day.
Heat pumps work best when the outside temperature is around 50 degrees. However, don’t forget that the longer you run the unit per day, the faster you’ll get to the equipment’s life expectancy.
It’s not too different from cars and other motor-driven machines. The longer you drive it per day, the closer you get to the engine’s lifespan.
This doesn’t mean that you should stay in the cold to prolong the life expectancy of a heat pump. However, it tells you to avoid preventable overuse of the HVAC system.
For instance, why keep the thermostat at 72°F even when it’s only mildly cold outside? It unnecessarily puts a lot of strain on the heater. It’s best to handle the unit strictly according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
External factors include weather and technology changes that may render your heat pump “obsolete” sooner than anticipated.
For instance, a strong storm sweeping through your neighborhood can damage the refrigerant line connections, necessitating immediate repairs. Storms can also dent the outdoor unit, potentially impacting its internal components. If this happens more than a few times, you may eventually need to replace the outdoor unit.
Similarly, acidic rain can accelerate corrosion inside and outside the heat pump’s outdoor unit, potentially causing critical parts to fail sooner than anticipated. If this happens repeatedly, the heater may eventually fail, necessitating early replacement.
Other external factors that may affect the life expectancy of a heat pump include direct exposure to sunlight (UV) rays and extreme freezing that causes constant freezing/frosting.
Additionally, air conditioners or heat pumps in coastal areas will also see significantly reduced life spans due to salt corroding the condenser unit.
It’s important to have your heat pump installed by a professional with experience. Improper installation can cause significant problems and shorten the lifespan of the unit. The quality of care determines how long your heat pump lives.
If you take good care of it throughout, it will live longer. However, if you rarely care about maintenance, don’t expect the unit to last more than a few years.
Scheduled professional maintenance is particularly crucial to prolong the life of your appliances. Make sure to have a licensed HVAC professional inspect and fine-tune the heat pump at least once a year, ideally at the end of spring.
Similarly, keep the heat pump clean at all times and change the filters promptly as the manufacturer recommends. Clean the fins on the outside condenser unit. Keep coils clean.
Do not allow plant growth within 18 inches of the outdoor unit Otherwise, the dirt buildup can cause overheating, damaging the heat pump’s internal components.
Can You Repair a Heat Pump?
Yes, you can repair a broken heat pump. In fact, if you have a relatively new unit, ideally nine years or less, you should consider repair before replacement.
Common heat pump repairs and maintenance tasks include;
- Fixing line and system discharge pressure
- Locating and fixing refrigerant leaks
- Cleaning indoor coils and draining pan
- Diagnosing and sealing leaking ducts
- Fixing or replacing loose/missing electrical wiring
- Troubleshooting and fixing thermostat damages
- Replace loose or worn bolts, belts, and others
How do I Know if my Heat Pump needs Replacing?
Unfortunately, you cannot keep repairing your heat pump forever. A time comes when it’s more beneficial to replace the unit with a new one.
The following are telltale signs that it’s time to replace
Needs Frequent Repairs
Although it’s normal to repair the heat pump, too frequent repairs are usually a sign that maybe the unit should give way to a new replacement. Generally, your heat pump should not need more than two outside services per year.
If you find yourself calling the HVAC technician four times, something isn’t right. If this happens and the unit is more than ten years old, it may be time to replace it.
Sudden Spikes in Utility Costs
Heat pumps are one of the most energy-efficient ways to heat your home. The units don’t use any power to produce heat and draw very little electricity to keep the parts moving.
For instance, it costs about $164 to keep the heat pump running nine hours daily for six months. Therefore, if your utility costs jump significantly, something is not well. If it’s an old unit (10 years or more), it may be time to replace it.
It’s Producing Less Heat than Before
A heat pump’s capacity to extract heat reduces with age. For example, according to one TermoPlus report, a 99% efficient heat pump is down to 95% after 20 years and can easily drop to about 80% efficiency by the time it reaches 25 years. An 80% efficient heat pump is no longer cost-effective, thus not worth keeping.
Sometimes you may notice condensation on the outside unit. Usually, it appears as a small pool of water that gives the impression of a leaking outdoor unit. Condensation is a sign of a condenser problem.
The condenser is probably not working correctly. This is a big problem because a bad condenser is a sign of imminent heat pump failure. Additionally, it creates the risk of water damage.
How Long Does a Heat Pump Last?
The average life expectancy of a heat pump is 10 to 15 years. Most manufacturers guarantee at least 15 years of reliable use, while a few go up to 25 years. However, rarely will you find a manufacturer promising more than thirty years.
On the other end of the scale, many heat pumps will give you at least ten years of reliable use.
It’s also important to note that all HVAC systems become less efficient with age, and many homeowners choose to replace their HVAC systems due to decreased efficiency and performance before the system has stopped working entirely. However, a few manufacturers only guarantee eight years or thereabouts.
Do Heat Pumps Lose Efficiency with Age?
Yes, heat pumps become less energy efficient with age. Whether it’s a mini-split or out-and-out heat pump, the capacity to produce heat without wasting too much energy reduces with age. This primarily results from natural wear. As moving parts lose their “cutting edge,” efficiency reduces.
Studies show that the average heat pump drops from 99% efficiency when new to about 95% efficiency at 20 years and 80% at 25 years. Remember that you can always request an energy audit if your energy bills skyrocket abruptly.
How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Heat Pump?
Heat pump installation produces significant savings on your energy bills, in addition to providing both heating and cooling to all areas of your home.
When you install a heat pump, you don’t need to worry about having two different systems to supply your home with heating and cooling. The average cost to replace a heat pump with a new energy-efficient unit is $3,875 to $10,000.
Actual costs vary depending on size (BTUs) and brand, among other factors. For example, a tiny one-ton (12,000 BTU) heat pump typically costs $2,945 to $4,897. Meanwhile, a most two-ton (24,000 BTU) unit rarely costs below $10,000.
How to Prolong your Heat Pump’s Life Expectancy
If you’re wondering, yes, you can prolong the life of your heat pump. The following are several tips to consider;
- Schedule professional maintenance
- Change the air filter regularly
- Consider setting the unit to auto
- Take great care of the condenser (outdoor unit)
- Improve your home’s insulation to reduce the load on the heat pump
- Upgrade to a smart thermostat
- Manually turn on the emergency heat (e.g gas furnaces) when necessary
- Regular maintenance
How Long Do Heat Pumps Last FAQs
Can a Heat Pump Last 25 Years?
Yes, heat pumps can last up to 25 years. Although most units only last 10 to 15 years, a few models are so good they can last 20 or even 25 years. However, it also depends on the quality of maintenance.
What’s the Most Reliable Heat Pump Brand?
TempStar, Goodman, and Daikin are considered the best heat pump brands in the industry. However, Maytag, York Heat Pumps, and Carrier are other very good brands.
What Heat Pump has the Longest Warranty?
Fujitsu is the brand with the best heat pump warranties. It offers ten years on the parts and ten years for labor. Few brands come close. Next in line is Mitsubishi, with a 10-year warranty on parts and a 6-year labor warranty. All other brands offer five years or less for labor warranty.
Does a Home Warranty Cover the Heat Pump?
Yes, the vast majority of home warranties cover heat pumps. However, beware that the details are in fine print. For instance, most home warranties won’t repair or replace your heat pump if it’s more than ten years old.
What’s the Average Lifespan of Water Source Heat Pumps?
Water source pumps generally last 24 years on average. Hot water heat pumps are also more energy-efficient than air-source alternatives and tap into warmer temperatures underground. You can also opt for a dual-source pump if you wish.
Heat pumps are generally very durable. The units often last at least ten years with proper maintenance and can live for 25 years. However, the average lifespan of an average heat pump is 10 to 15 years. This information should help you plan accordingly when buying your next heating system.