How long does a heat pump last?

Who can forget the classic jingle to promote heat pumps? These systems hit the market hard in the late 1980s because they heated, cooled, and saved. However, what the marketing ploy didn’t tell people is how long these comfort systems would last. The longevity of a heat pump is dependent upon a few factors, though the average is around 15 years.


Since putting in an HVAC unit is a sizable investment, it’s essential to extend the lifespan to maximize its use. To understand these systems fully and determine their lifespan, it’s critical to know how they work.


Understanding A Heat Pump

A heat pump works by regulating the temperatures in a home. It acts as a transporter because it is continuously moving hot air from one location to another. Even cold air has some heat energy.


During cold weather, the HVAC unit takes the heat from the air and relocates it to the inside. When the temperatures rise, it pulls the coolness from the air and brings it inside the home. Because these units use existing heat and don’t generate it, they save money.


It sounds like these systems are amazing by extracting what’s needed from thin air. However, they don’t work well in climates where the temperatures fall below 35 degrees as they are unable to keep up with the heat loss. An option is to have them paired with a furnace so it can use it as an emergency heat source.


The furnace can supplement when the temperatures fall into extreme levels. Another consideration is when the temperatures are at extreme highs. An HVAC system is only meant to cool a space about 20 degrees below the ambient temperature.


So, if an area is experience weather over 100 degrees, then it might not be the best option.

Calculating A Heat Pump’s Life Expectancy

It’s difficult to say exactly how long a unit will last, as there are so many variables. Typically, statistics show that the average unit will make it 10-15 years. However, you may only get seven years out of your unit, while another family may get 25 years. What makes the difference in an HVAC’s lifespan?


Newer units have much better technology than the ones created a decade ago. So expect to get a longer life out of the new systems. Also, maintenance seems to be a critical factor in the equation.


A unit that is properly maintained will last at least three years longer on average than one left to time and chance. The final thing that dictates lifespan is the climate. Let’s examine these three variables.


Maintenance Is the Key to Longevity

Heat pumps are machines that work hard to provide your comfort. They have intricate pieces like your automobile. Could you imagine going years without changing the oil or air filter in your car?


You wouldn’t dream of neglecting your engine as you know that it will lead to a mechanical breakdown. Your HVAC system requires similar attention. It’s best to have them serviced at least once a year, but it’s preferred to get a “tuned-up” in the spring and again in the fall.


Why is preventative maintenance so essential? First, it alerts you to any mechanical issues before they become a service interruption. Second, you will get better efficiency on a fully functional unit with a clean filter than one that is lagging.


A highly trained technician can quickly identify problems with electrical or mechanical components and fix them before they become an issue. Many people take the stance that their heat pump is out of sight and out of mind. If it isn’t broken, then why would they fix it?


Well, those are the people that will only give their unit attention when it’s not working. Statistically, their unit won’t last as long as someone’s that has been adequately maintained.


Whether You Should Worry About the Weather

Weather is one of the most significant factors in the longevity of a heating/cooling system. Areas where the winters are cold and long cause a heat pump to work harder, which means it’s always running. Thus, a heat pump that is continuously running has a shorter lifespan.


These systems are ideal for areas where the weather is typically moderate. It’s one of the most energy-efficient systems around, but it doesn’t work for every space. Another significant factor that determines system longevity is your proximity to the ocean.


While the ocean breezes are heavenly, the salt can corrode your HVAC unit and cause substantial repairs and a reduced lifespan. A system that is in coastal areas must be adequately serviced, or it will surely have issues due to the climate.


Newer Systems Are Better and Will Last Longer

Twenty years ago, you didn’t consider SEER ratings and energy efficiency when shopping for an HVAC unit. Today, the law dictates that the minimum SEER rating must be a 10, and it’s about to be increased to a 13.


So this means that the new systems are made much differently than the relics that many people have in their homes. The units no longer devour your electricity and break the bank. An older system would take about 6,000 watts per hour to heat/cool a home, but today’s system uses about 1,700, which is a massive difference.


Saving your money is good, but energy savings means that the unit is not working as hard as previous ones. Remember, a unit that isn’t continually running is going to last longer. Another factor in the new systems is they generate less noise.


The rumbling condenser unit, which sits outside your home, has been quieted by exceptional blade designs and compressor technology. Refrigerant changes have also made a significant difference. All systems require R410A refrigerant, which protects the ozone layer.


The old R22 is outlawed because its chlorine levels were damaging to the atmosphere. The new refrigerant allows a sleek condenser design that is quieter.


Predicting A Lifespan

There are many other factors, such as having the right ton unit for your load size and making an investment based on functional abilities rather than the price. No one knows how long your unit will last.


If you properly maintain it, take care of repair issues sooner rather than later, and don’t set unrealistic expectations for your thermostat, then you should have the longevity that you deserve. Units of today truly heat, cool, and will save you a great deal of money.