The average life of a residential builder-grade heat pump is 14 years.
Commercial grade heat pumps tend to last a bit longer.
Less expensive, off-brand heat pumps do not last as long and tend to break down before the brand name models.
Climate and ongoing maintenance have the two most significant impacts on how long a heat pump will last. Virginia has a moderate climate, so it is possible to get by without a furnace, as long as your heat pump is equipped with some form of supplemental heat.
Doesn’t It Get Too Cold for a Heat Pump in Richmond?
According to U.S. climate data, there were only 25 days last winter in which the temperature in Richmond dropped below 25° Fahrenheit. The overall average temperature in January 2016 was 35.75°, and that was the coldest month of winter.
Modern heat pumps continue efficiently running at temperatures as low as 25 to 30 degrees. When the temperature drops below this threshold, supplemental heat from either a furnace or electric air handler must help heat the house.
Should I Install a Heat Pump or AC System?
If your family is thinking about installing central air, consider buying a heat pump instead of an AC only unit, even if your home already has a furnace. During moderately cold months, high-efficiency heat pumps generate heat more cost efficiently than most furnaces, and a heat pump system will still be able to cool the home just as efficiently as a regular AC during summer months.
Why Virginians Need Both a Furnace AND a Heat Pump
Many homes in the Richmond area have both a furnace and a heat pump, which is ideal. Installing both options is worthwhile if you can afford to do so. Heat pumps are great for mildly cold temperatures, but a furnace is the best choice for harsh winter temperatures.
As mentioned above, Virginia winters get too cold to heat a house exclusively using just a heat pump, so another heat source must be able to supplement the heat pump.
Usually, this supplemental heat comes from either a furnace, air handler, or baseboard heat. Furnaces are much more efficient at dealing with extreme cold than most air handlers and baseboard heaters, which is why many consider furnaces to be worth the extra investment.
Heat Pump Trumps Furnace in Virginia Climate
If your budget does not allow the purchase of both a furnace and a heat pump, consider installing a heat pump with an electric air handler. Air handlers run up the electric bill like crazy but come with a much smaller upfront cost than a furnace. And, you can always add on a furnace sometime in the future.
When Do I Switch from Heat Pump to Furnace?
Most modern thermostats handle this transition automatically. In Virginia, our winters are usually mild enough that heat pump can handle most of the heating. Furnaces and other supplemental heat sources do most of their heating in January and February.
My Heat Pump Warranty Is About to Expire!
When the warranty on a heat pump expires, homeowners should consider the age of the system before spending money on a costly repair. Often, customers are better off replacing the entire unit.
Most HVAC technicians can help walk you through the “replace or repair” decision-making process. Here is a simple chart that shows how customers can potentially save as much as $5,000 by deciding to replace a unit instead of repeatedly repairing old equipment.
Get Pricing for Heat Pumps in Richmond, Virginia
Have you scheduled a fall HVAC tune-up yet? It is good practice to go into the winter season with a tuned-up machine. Contact us to get a quote for a new heat pump, schedule heat pump maintenance or to learn more about our Comfort Club Maintenance Program.