Heat pumps are energy-efficient mechanical systems that heat and cool homes and commercial buildings. They operate by transferring heat energy indoors during the winter and transferring heat from your home to the outdoors during the summer. While they are an efficient means by which you can regulate your indoor temperature, they are subject to malfunction. Estimating the cost to repair a heat pump is challenging because there are multiple factors that can influence repair costs. Below is a look at the different types of heat pumps and how to address the most common problems that affect them.
Different Types of Heat Pumps
Heat pumps are categorized according to the source of energy used to transfer warm air. Factors to consider when choosing a pump include the homeowner’s geographical location, climate and budget. Below is a look at the three most common types along with the advantages and limitations of each type.
1) Air Source Heat Pumps: The most common type, an air source heat pump operates by transferring heat back and forth between your home and the outdoor air. While they are more prevalent in areas that are not host to lengthy periods of subfreezing temperatures, air source heat pumps have been used for decades in virtually all regions of the United States.
Advantages: Low installation costs, easy to access for repairs
Limitations: Typically not the best choice for extreme climates
2) Geothermal Heat Pumps: Unlike air source models that use the surrounding air as their source of energy, geothermal heat pumps draw energy from the ground. They are dependable and may reduce energy use by up to 60%. They are appropriate for use in nearly all climates but you should ensure that they are a good fit with your property landscape and subsoil prior to installation. While geothermal heat pumps are popular among homeowners, they tend to be the most expensive to repair because they are located underground and can be challenging to access.
Advantages: Compatibility with extreme climates, high energy efficiency
Limitations: High installation costs, difficult to access for repairs
3) Water Source Heat Pumps: A water source heat pump functions similarly to a standard air source pump except heat is transferred to and from a body of water (such as a lake, pond or ocean) instead of the air. They tend to be more costly to install but are less expensive to operate. Water source heat pumps are the least common type because many people lack access to a nearby body of water.
Advantages: Low operating costs, high energy efficiency
Limitations: High installation costs; often not an option for people located in land-locked areas
The most common heat pump-related challenges include temperature problems (the heat pump fails to sufficiently heat or cool a home), the tendency for it to “ice up” or “freeze up”, and the failure to blow warm air when the unit is in heating mode. Other signs of malfunction include strange noises and constant operation. As outlined below, most of these problems stem from defects within a heat pump’s thermostat or condenser, or from your home’s ductwork.
If your heat pump is not properly heating or cooling your home, you should first check your thermostat. Thermostat-related problems typically fall into the following three categories:
Faulty thermostat wiring: This is the least expensive thermostat-related repair because you are not replacing the thermostat in its entirety. Average costs of replacement wiring and labor range from $150 and up.
Defective standard thermostat: If replacing your thermostat’s wiring fails to alleviate your thermostat problems, you may need a new thermostat. You can expect to pay $150 to $300 for the new thermostat and labor costs.
Defective programmable thermostat: This is the most costly type of thermostat problem because programmable thermostats are more expensive and take approximately one hour longer to install. You can expect to pay up to $700 to replace this component.
Like standard air conditioning units, heat pumps have condenser systems that are located outdoors. The cost to repair condenser-related problems can range from $0 for the quick removal of an obstruction to several hundred dollars to replace a control board. Examples of specific problems affecting your condenser include the following:
Obstructions or blockages. If debris or snow has accumulated around your compressor, your heat pump’s functionality can be impeded. In some cases, homeowners can restore functionality on their own at no cost by simply clearing debris away from their unit.
Low refrigerant levels. The larger of your two refrigerant lines should feel warm while your fan is running. If not, you may need to add refrigerant or check your refrigerant lines for a leak. Homeowners can typically check their refrigerant levels on their own without having to pay a professional.
Worn or damaged defrost control boards. If your unit is “icing up” with increasing frequency, you may have a faulty defrost control board. You can expect to pay between $500 to $600 to replace this board.
Faulty timer motors. Older model heat pumps contain timer motors that control the defrost mechanism. The cost to replace this timer motor is approximately $200 to $250.
Ductwork-related problems tend to be the most costly to repair. Exact costs will depend upon the extent of the damage, but are typically less costly than replacing your entire pump. Common ductwork-related problems include poor air flow, condensation, and odd noises. These problems tend to be the result of the following:
1) How does a heat pump work? Heat pumps obtain heat energy from an outdoor source (the air, the ground or a body of water) and transfer it indoors to warm your home. They also keep your home cool during the summer by transferring warm air to the outdoor environment.
2) What are the main components of a heat pump? There are four main components:
3) How much does it cost to replace a heat pump? The price of a replacement heat pump will depend upon the size of your home and the type of pump you choose. The average cost to install a new heat pump is $5,310. Air source models tend to be a bit less costly while geothermal models average closer to $6,000.
4) What are the primary alternatives to heat pumps?
Attic fans: Affordable ($350 - $800) and effective for homes that do not get too cold in the winter
Electric baseboard heaters: A good option for small spaces and cost less than $1,000
Radiant heating systems: A bit less expensive than heat pumps and designed for homes that do not experience harsh winters
Traditional furnace: Costs average just under $4,000 but offer lower average levels of energy efficiency.
5) Are heat pumps expensive to maintain? No. Most specialists recommend they be serviced once per year. The average cost of a heat pump service visit is $170 to $190.
6) Will an air source heat pump work for me if I live in a cold environment? Air source heat pumps are ideal for environments that do not experience prolonged periods of subfreezing temperatures. However, recent advances in technology have made air source models an effective choice for people in colder environments. New ductless models and Cold Climate Air-Source Heat Pumps are two examples that work well in colder environments.
7) Does a heat pump operate as well as a furnace? Yes. Heat pumps also offer higher levels of energy efficiency and lower operating costs.
8) Can I install a heat pump in a home that is currently using a furnace? Yes. You can install a heat pump in any home that already has air ducts and any type of forced air circulation system.
9) What is the average lifespan of a typical heat pump? The Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) indicates the average heat pump is designed to last about 14 or 15 years. Newer and regularly maintained models tend to last a bit longer than average.
10) What qualities should I seek in a heat pump repair company? Ideally, your heat pump repair provider should be professional, accessible, and able to offer plenty of customer references. Additionally, your provider should possess several years of industry experience, familiarity with all three types of pumps, and have immediate access to key replacement parts.