Having an energy-efficient heating and cooling system is crucial to keeping you comfortable. And for some, a heat pump might be the way to go. 

Get ready to buy – before it breaks

Home heating systems have a certain lifespan – furnaces last approximately 15-20 years, and boilers may last a few years longer. If you’re considering a heat pump for your home, keep in mind it’s a bit more complex than simply replacing of existing equipment. It may involve modifying duct work, possibly changing your electrical service, finding space for an outdoor condensing unit, and in some cases, running refrigeration lines or wiring into different areas of your home.

Not sure how to decide if a heat pump is right for your home? First, you need to understand the issues and ask the right questions.

What is a heat pump?

A heat pump is a machine that moves heat from one place to another, typically using an electromechanical compressor. That means it can be used to heat up and cool down a given living space. Refrigerators and air conditioners operate using the same principle.

An air-source heat pump uses outdoor air as a heat source and a heat sink, while a ground-source heat pump uses the thermal mass of the earth to extract heat and move it into your home or to take heat out of your house to cool it down.

Heat pump technology has been around for a long time and it’s constantly being improved upon. Heat pumps for space heating and cooling are gaining in popularity for homeowners.

Comparing efficiency and costs

Typically, furnaces and boilers create heat through the combustion of natural gas, oil or propane, while heat pumps run on electricity. This difference can make it difficult to compare long-term operating and fuel costs and your return on investment.

With all the different units and rates, an independent rating system such as the ENERGY STAR® Most Efficient  list can provide some projected numbers to help you make your choice.

Your HVAC contractor should also have some tools available to help you understand the life cycle operating costs. That information can be used with the ENERGY STAR® list to help make a well-informed decision on the best choice for your home.

Start with the right contractor

Replacing your home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is a big undertaking and requires expertise. The first step is to find a qualified, licensed contractor. They can help you make the best purchase decision for your home and your needs. In Ontario, HVAC contractors must be licensed and registered with the Technical Standards and Safety Authority.

It’s important to get separate written estimates from at least three different contractors. Each contractor should assess the size, construction and layout of your home and undertake a heat loss calculation when providing you with options. They should determine if the ductwork is adequate to meet the air flow needs of your new equipment. The estimate should include information on the recommended equipment, plus efficiency and warranty details. You should also ask your contractor to include the costs of removing and disposing of your old furnace correctly. After your equipment is installed, make sure you get it inspected.

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