Air source heat pumps are becoming a more popular way to heat or provide hot water to a home. While heat pumps aren’t new, most homeowners aren’t likely to have used an air source heat pump before or had one installed.
Air source heat pumps are more cost effective over the long term and so understanding how long you can expect a heat pump to last for can help to work out whole-life costs.
Air source heat pumps can last up to 10 to 20 years, depending on factors such as the make and model, maintenance and servicing, and how hard the heat pump has had to work. In general, heat pumps can last longer than most other conventional heating appliances.
Our own air source heat pump was installed when the house was built in 2017 and so has had 5+ years of use for providing us with both heating and hot water.
As this is a fairly modern unit and we get it serviced every year, we expect it to last for at least another 10 to 15 years.
However, the actual life expectancy of any air source heat pump can depend on a number of factors such as the make, model, age, usage, maintenance record and more.
In this article we’ll be covering more about air source heat pumps (ASHP) and their expected life and what maintenance can be done to help maximize how long an ASHP can last for.
Air source heat pumps need to be considered as a long-term investment to be as cost effective as possible.
The typically higher purchase and installation costs for air source heat pump systems (see our article on how much air source heat pumps cost to install) compared to other more traditional heating systems means that they may not be very cost-effective in the short-term.
The life expectancy of an ASHP system is therefore important when considering whether air source heat pumps are worth it in the first place.
Air-source heat pumps typically require less maintenance than combustion-based heat sources like furnaces and boilers, meaning they can typically last longer.
According to the McWilliams and Son HVAC company, newer air source heat pumps will last around 10-15 years with regular maintenance. However, older models tend to be less efficient and poorly designed, so they may last only ten years at most.
Some models may last longer than this however, but the actual life expectancy can depend on a number of factors.
For example, though they may not need a lot of maintenance, air source heat pumps can stop working much sooner if you don’t care for them at all.
Factors that can affect how long an air source heat pump lasts for include:
- Build quality of the heat pump.
- Efficiency rating of the heat pump.
- The age of the heat pump and the technology used.
- Whether the heat pump was installed and set up correctly.
- The demand for heating and/or hot water and therefore how often an ASHP needs to be operating.
- The local climate.
- The temperature difference between the outside and inside air and therefore how hard an ASHP needs to be working.
- Whether an annual maintenance regime has been followed and whether any worn parts are replaced ahead of failure.
- The level of care provided by the owner in between services.
Our air source heat pump was installed when the house was built in 2017. It’s therefore a relatively modern unit and was professionally installed to the highest standard.
It’s also been serviced regularly in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines and so it has been maintained as best and often as possible. Our demand for heating and hot water is also relatively low and so our heat pump isn’t operating all the time.
As such, we expect our heat pump to last 15 or more years before it needs to be replaced. It has now been working well over 5 years and hope that it lasts another 10 or more.
When the time comes to replace our ASHP, it may simply be the case of replacing the external heat pump unit as all the internal apparatus is already set up for use with a heat pump.
Air source heat pumps are a becoming more common place in homes and are designed to provide an alternative method of heating a home.
Where other systems use electricity or energy sources (gas, oil) to generate heat directly, air source heat pumps don’t generate their own heat.
Instead, air source heat pumps act as reversible heat sinks with some extra steps and move heat energy stored naturally in outside air into a home for use as heating, and domestic hot water if needed.
How these pumps work is a fairly complex process that takes a few steps:
- Liquid refrigerant absorbs heat energy from the outside and due to its low boiling point turns into a gas.
- The gas is compressed, and the increased pressure makes it proportionally hotter.
- This hot compressed gas is run through a heat exchanger, making the air or water hot.
- Fans distribute the newly heated air throughout your home, or heated water is distributed depending on the type of heat pump (air to air or air to water).
If you’re unfamiliar with this type of heating system, it’s essential to speak with the installation professional and ask questions so you know what you should be doing at home. For example, if you don’t know how they work, you may not know what parts to focus on when cleaning.
Although they typically need less maintenance than furnaces or gas heating systems, air source heat pumps are still electrical appliances and therefore need to be taken care of to ensure that they continue to work effectively for as long as possible.
Neglecting maintenance can reduce a heat pump’s efficiency and lifespan.
While professional servicing is typically necessary, there are some things you can do yourself to help keep your heat pump working for as long as possible.
Maintenance of ASHPs can include:
- Get your heat pump serviced once every year by qualified professionals – before winter and before summer can be the best times.
- Regularly check and replace any air filters – once a month is standard.
- Keep the pump unobstructed by leaves, cobwebs, dirt, dust, and other debris.
- If the outdoor unit is very dirty, hose it down and wipe external grills.
- Keep coils free of ice, dirt, and dust that reduces the pump’s ability to produce heat.
Like any heating or cooling source, air source heat pumps have pros and cons. It’s essential to consider both of these to make an informed buying decision.
Air source heat pumps only use electricity to generate heat, typically making them more energy efficient than other heating systems.
Air source heat pump systems may not need as regular servicing compared to traditional heating systems, but should still be checked by a professional at least once per year.
Most units will last as long as 10 or 15 years, or even more, depending on the range of factors we’ve discussed above.
Unlike other boiler or furnace heating systems, there is no combustion in an air source heat pump.
Unlike other heating systems, air source heat pumps are also capable of cooling.
Getting a pump that also cools can be a cheaper and more efficient option than installing a separate system just for cooling. Keep in mind that they may not be as effective if you live in an area with extreme temperatures.
For all their good qualities, ASHP’s won’t be ideal for all situations. As mentioned, they don’t work as effectively in extreme temperatures.
When it’s freezing, or below zero outside, air source heat pumps need to work harder to get the same effect, thus using more electricity.
Increased pressure on a heat pump to produce the same desired level of heat can also reduce its life expectancy.
If your home is drafty or otherwise poorly insulated, an air source heat pump may not be for you.
For optimal performance, these heat pumps need good insulation to begin with. During consultations, contractors can evaluate if your home’s insulation is up to the right standard.
Otherwise, you may need to pay for remodeling to ensure heat pumps can work as effectively as possible.
Air source heat pumps don’t generate as much heat, or even the same instantaneous heat, as combustion-based or other systems.
Air source heat pumps therefore need to be paired with the right internal heating setup, such as large radiators and underfloor heating, and be left on for longer periods of time to get the same desired internal temperatures.
Air source heat pumps can cost more to install than combustion-based heating systems, and that’s not even factoring in whether you’re having underfloor systems or ductwork installed as well.
While the money saved in the long run may be worth it, you should be aware of the increased upfront cost.
See our main article on all of the pros and cons of air source heat pumps.
Air source heat pumps are great heating systems for mild climates or as supplementary heating sources in colder places. With regular care, they can last as long as 10 or 15 years.
Some air source heat pumps can last for even longer than this, depending on a range of factors including how hard they have needed to work, how often they have been operating, and the maintenance and servicing procedures followed.