Answering Heat Pump Questions from Customers
“I am the owner of a single-family house with a 15-year-old heat pump. Recently the unit stopped defrosting. I had a service technician come to inspect the unit. He said the electronic board that controls the defrost cycle is not working and must be replaced. The estimated cost is about $350. However, due to the advanced age of my heat pump, the service technician recommended replacing my entire unit — inside and outside.
How much is it to replace my heat pump system?
The cost of replacement is about $5,000 to $7000.
Generally speaking, I love my current heat pump. It is very reliable and very economical. I have extremely low monthly utility bills and the unit does a good job in winter and summer.
This leads me to my two questions:
- Do heat pumps really need to be replaced at such an early age? Everyone I talk to seems to say heat pumps generally only last about 10 to 12 years. Anything more and you are on borrowed time. Everyone tells me that the service technician is right — replace the unit, don’t fix the part.
I don’t get why a heat pump should need complete replacement after only 10 to 12 years — in my case 15 years. It seems like you should be able to repair and fix the unit many times before you will ever match the cost of replacing it. I know many older furnaces would last for 30 plus years.
Our society seems to be a very “throw-away” society these days.
- Wouldn’t it be wise to invest money into repairing a heat pump before replacing it?
Do you feel that both units should be replaced as a “matching set”? Or can you just replace one unit at a time? My outside unit is the one with the problem. The inside unit is fine. Although it is even older than the outside unit — probably 20 plus years old. But once again, everyone seems to tell me the same thing — replace both units. I don’t seem to understand the logic behind replacing both units.”
ServiceMark is going to echo the advice of your service provider and the otherwise folks with whom you’ve consulted. I must tell you, however, that your 15-year-old compressor/condenser has done its job and doesn’t owe anybody anything. It has served you well but it’s time for it to go for a couple of reasons.
Sure, it seemed to you to work well and operate at a level that did not weaken your bank account, but all things are relative.
Let’s look at it in its 15-year time frame and compare it to what happens today.
In our experience, heat pumps have a reputation for lasting from 8 to 12 years. Some last longer, some less. That’s because they do double duty; both heating and cooling. Those furnaces (that you eye enviously) that last over 30 years are only working less than half the time the heat pump does — no A/C — so proportionately the heat pump’s right up with them. When I see a heat pump working well at the age of yours, I always say the good news is, it’s still working and bad news is, it’s still working. The older a heat pump is in today’s world the more electricity it will use to do its job.
There is a formula that is used in the industry to calculate the energy in against the heating and cooling that comes out of it. It’s called the SEER rating, which stands for “seasonal energy efficiency rating”. You see them written on the sides of the newer units and they are numbers that hover around 10 and up. The SEER number indicates the amount of electricity that goes into the unit against the amount of heating or cooling capacity that comes out; the higher the number, the more efficient it is.
Your 15-year-old unit is probably 10 SEER or less. Since January 23, 2006, every unit sold in the U.S. has to be at least SEER 13. That’s efficient and to do that the heat pump engineers had to go to a different coolant and had to redesign the units – both inside and out. That’s why both have to be replaced.
Is it Worth the Heat Pump Repairs?
Pouring money into your old unit is not economical in the short or the long run in view of the requirements. You could nurse your old soldier along with $350 here and $200 there for maybe a couple of years, but then the technician will come out, look at the unit and deliver the bad news, which is it’s shot and that’s all there is to it. Now, all the money you put into the older unit is money gone and you’re right back at square one with the new unit.
We would be willing to bet you’ll be pleased!
Kudos to our friends at “On The Level,” Annapolis, MD. for sharing this important information.
Please call ServiceMark with all your HVAC questions and we’ll continue to provide the proper answers and guidance.