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Can Heat Pumps be Installed in Old Houses?

Heat pump

Heat pumps are quickly becoming a popular HVAC system amongst homeowners throughout British Columbia, and for good reason. Not only do they offer dual heating and cooling from a single unit, but they are also highly energy efficient. Have you been curious about whether your older home can benefit from the efficiency of heat pumps?

We're here to answer that question. The team at Moore and Russell Heating and Air Conditioning is taking a closer look at the compatibility and considerations when it comes to installing a heat pump in older houses. Let's uncover whether these modern solutions can seamlessly integrate with your older property.

Get 24/7/365 Service on Heat Pumps

At Moore and Russell Heating and Air Conditioning, we understand that your heat pump can break at any moment in time throughout the year, which is precisely why our team of certified and experienced HVAC technicians are available 24/7/365 days a year, including after-hours, weekends, and holidays at no additional cost for all repair and maintenance services.

Further, if you're looking to upgrade your home comfort by installing a brand-new heat pump in your home, our team of home comfort advisors is here to guide you through the process of choosing the right system for your needs and budget! Because costs can be a concern, know that Moore and Russell offer an array of discounts and financing options that can help you save big on your new equipment!

We encourage you to book a consultation appointment with us if you live in Hope, White Rock, Chilliwack, North Delta, North Vancouver, Walnut Grove, Maple Ridge, or any of the surrounding areas throughout the Lower Mainland and North Shore to learn more about the options available to you! All consultations include a complimentary new system purchase estimate!

How does a heat pump work? 

A heat pump is an HVAC system that transfers heat, primarily for the purpose of heating or cooling a home. It functions on the basis of moving heat energy through a refrigeration cycle from a lower temperature area to a higher temperature. Let's take a closer look at what this means below:

  1. Collecting heat energy from the outdoor environment: A heat pump compartment is located outside of a home and has an evaporator coil. This element efficiently captures thermal energy even in situations where the outside temperature of the air is relatively low.
  2. Refrigeration transfer from liquid to gas: The heat that is absorbed causes the refrigerant fluid inside the evaporator coil to undergo a phase change that turns it into a gas.
  3. Gas compression: Next, the gas is compressed in the compressor unit of the heat pump. This compression action raises the gas's temperature considerably.
  4. Heat transfer: The condenser coil transfers the gas, which is now at a higher temperature, to the interior of your home through your ductwork. Thermal energy is released within this indoor coil, warming the living area in the process.
  5. Restarting the cycle: After losing some of its heat energy, the gas returns to a liquid inside the condenser coil, ready for the start of the next process.

So, how exactly does a heat pump cool your home? Well, in a nutshell, it cools your interior, similar to how an air conditioner system works, by removing warm air within your home and expelling it outside to cool down the interior. Therefore, the heat pump does the exact same process mentioned above, but in reverse! Pretty cool!

How often should a heat pump be serviced? 

Like any HVAC system, a heat pump requires professional upkeep throughout its service life to ensure it remains efficient and functional. Ideally, you want to schedule maintenance for your heat pump no less than yearly. That said, the following is a general maintenance guideline for heat pumps:

  • Yearly professional inspection: Make time for a minimum of one annual professional review and service. Doing this in the fall, before the heating season starts, is ideal. You may also choose to do this in the springtime as well if you're going to use the appliance in the summer to cool down your home.
  • Seasonal examinations: Every season should begin with a few simple inspections. Make sure the heat pump is clean and in good working order before the heating and cooling seasons begin.
  • Replacement of air filters: Usually, every one to three months, check and change the air filters. The heat pump runs more effectively when the filters are clean and free of dust, hair, dirt, and other debris.
  • Examine the outdoor unit: Make sure there are no leaves, debris, or other obstructions around the outdoor unit on a regular basis. Ensure that there is adequate room for adequate ventilation surrounding the unit. This prevents damage and ensures that the heat pump appliance is able to function correctly. 

In addition to keeping your heat pump operating at peak efficiency, routine maintenance also helps spot possible problems early on and fix them before they become serious ones. It's essential to follow these maintenance guidelines and don't hesitate to call in an experienced technician for help if you have any strange noises, lower efficiency, or other problems.

What should I know before installing a heat pump? 

Installing a heat pump is a big choice that will affect the comfort levels and energy efficiency of your house. Prior to installing a heat pump, bear the following points in mind:

  • Home suitability: Determine whether a heat pump is a good fit for your house. Mild environmental conditions are ideal for heat pump operation. You may require a backup heating source if you live in a frigid climate where temperatures fall below -25 degrees Celsius throughout the winter.
  • Choose the right size unit: Make sure the heat pump is the right size for your house based on its size. While an enormous unit can result in inefficiency and higher energy expenses, an undersized unit can find it challenging to meet your needs for heating and cooling during the year.
  • Inspect current ductwork: Get an inspection for any existing ducting you have in your home. The efficiency of the heat pump may be impacted by leaks or deficiencies in the duct system. If making ductwork adjustments is not feasible, think about ductless mini-split systems.
  • Energy efficiency ratings: Seek heat pumps with high Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) and Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) ratings. Higher scores correspond to increased efficiency.
  • Installation costs and rebates: Get quotations from several reliable HVAC companies to get an idea of installation costs. Additionally, as these can help offset early costs, look into any available rebates or incentives for installing energy-efficient heat pumps that are available through local and federal governments.
  • Maintenance requirements: Recognize the heat pump's maintenance requirements. For optimum performance and to ensure an extended lifespan, routine maintenance is essential. Get familiar with the suggested maintenance schedule provided by the manufacturer and a local HVAC company.
  • Expert Installation: Employ a qualified and seasoned HVAC specialist, like Moore and Russell Heating and Air Conditioning, to complete the installation. For the heat pump to operate as efficiently as possible, proper installation is essential.
  • Future plans: Think about your long-term plans for your home. Since a heat pump is a long-term investment, think about whether you're going to move in the next five to ten years.

Before installing a heat pump, take these factors into account so that you may make well-informed decisions that will improve the durability, efficacy, and efficiency of your HVAC system.

Are heat pumps good in old homes?

Absolutely! Heat pumps are an excellent option for older homes and can provide benefits in terms of comfort, energy efficiency, and adaptability. Nonetheless, there are a few things to consider when deciding whether a heat pump is a good choice for an older house:

  • Air sealing and insulation: Compared to newer buildings, older residences may have more drafts and less insulation. Improving insulation and fixing air gaps are crucial for optimizing a heat pump's effectiveness.
  • Existing ductwork: It's crucial to examine the ductwork if it's still there in the old house. A heat pump system's efficiency may be decreased by ducts that are leaky or inadequately insulated. If ducting adjustments are not possible, there is a solution in the form of ductless mini-split systems.
  • Size of the home: There are many sizes for heat pumps. Selecting a heat pump that is suitable in size for the home's heating and cooling requirements is essential. To find the appropriate size, a load estimate can be carried out by an HVAC company. 
  • Climate considerations: The local climate where the house is situated is essential. In severely cold temperatures, air-source heat pumps without a backup heater may not be as efficient, necessitating the need for additional heating sources, which will add costs.
  • Cost factors: Although heat pumps' energy efficiency can make them cost-effective over time, it's essential to take into account the expenses of initial installation and any adjustments that are required for older homes.

In truth, heat pumps, which provide energy-efficient heating and cooling options, might be a terrific choice for older homes. It is, however, essential to do a thorough assessment of the home's insulation, current systems, and climate-related factors. Getting advice from an HVAC professional will enable you to customize your decision to the unique requirements and features of your older home.

What is the best heating system for an old house?

The ideal heating system for an older home will depend on a number of factors, such as the size of the house, the condition of the insulation, the climate, and your personal preferences. Here is a closer look:

  1. Furnace: 


  • Used by the majority of homeowners
  • Relatively simple to install using the ducting already in place
  • Reliable heating system for all types of homes


  • Changes to the ductwork might be required.
  • Can result in uneven heating if not taken care of correctly.
  1. Boiler


  • Ensures uniform and comfortable warmth
  • Can be adapted with little ductwork into existing homes
  • Operates well in below-freezing temperatures


  • Baseboards and radiators might not be as visually pleasing.
  1. Heat pumps


  • Does not require ductwork 
  • Highly energy efficient
  • Long lifespan
  • Offers heating and cooling from a single unit


  • In frigid climates, air-source heat pumps are less efficient, requiring a backup heater, which adds costs.

The ideal heating system for your older house ultimately comes down to a thorough evaluation of the features of your home, your preferred method of heating, and your budget. Speaking with a qualified HVAC specialist can help you customize a solution to fit your unique requirements and offer helpful guidance on how to move forward.

Does a heat pump run more efficiently than a furnace?

There are a number of variables that affect how efficient a heat pump is in comparison to a furnace, and each system has advantages and disadvantages. Let's take a closer look:

Efficiency of Heat Pumps:

  • Energy source: Rather than producing heat, heat pumps are made to transfer it. When in heating mode, they bring heat from the outside air into your home. This is a very effective process, particularly in regions with mild temperatures throughout the year. If you live in an area where the temperatures throughout the winter fall below -25 degrees Celsius, it's recommended that you consider installing a backup heater like a furnace or boiler to heat your home during these frigid periods, as heat pumps will not be able to sufficiently heat your home given the minimal available heat energy in the outside air.
  • Year-round comfort: Heat pumps have the capacity to function in both heating and cooling modes, which can result in major energy savings when compared to separate HVAC systems.
  • HSPF and SEER ratings: Heat pump efficiency is measured using two metrics: the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) and the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). Greater efficiency is indicated by higher SEER and HSPF ratings, so it really depends on the type of heat pump you want installed in your home and how much you are willing to spend.

The efficiency of a furnace:

  • Energy source: Fuel, usually natural gas, oil, or propane, is burned in furnaces to provide heat. An efficient furnace is determined by looking at its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating, which shows what proportion of fuel is turned into heat. Because furnaces produce heat, homeowners will not have to worry about whether this type of heater is able to provide sufficient warmth during below-freezing temperatures.
  • Quick warm-up process: Furnaces can swiftly warm a house, especially in colder climates, and offer instant comfort when needed.

The difference between the price of fuel used by a furnace and the cost of electricity can have an impact on total running costs. As we previously indicated, some homeowners choose hybrid systems, which combine a heat pump with a backup furnace. Based on the outside temperature, the system automatically alternates between the two, using the most effective setting for the given circumstances, which can help homeowners save money on their utility costs.

That said, the local climate, utility rates, installation expenses, and the particular heating requirements of your residence should all be taken into account while choosing between a heat pump and a furnace. Therefore, we suggest booking a consultation appointment with a local HVAC company that can help you decide on a good unit for your home.

Can I use existing ducts for the heat pump?

In many cases, existing ductwork can be used for a heat pump installation. However, there are several things homeowners need to consider before moving forward:

  • The current ductwork should be in a good condition. The effectiveness of the heat pump system may be impacted by leaks, insufficient insulation, or significant impairments.
  • The ductwork's dimensions and layout must match the heat pump's specifications for air circulation.
  • In order to stop air leaks, duct joints and connections must be adequately sealed. Energy loss and decreased system efficiency can result from leaky ducts.
  • Modifications may be required to meet the unique needs of the heat pump, depending on the type and configuration of the current ducting. This may entail adding or moving vents or modifying the size of ducts.

It is strongly advised that you have a qualified HVAC professional inspect the current ductwork and provide advice based on the particular needs of your house and the heat pump. If significant adjustments are needed, or the current ducting is unsuitable, ductless mini-split heat pump systems may be an option. Homes without existing ductwork may find these systems to be a more flexible option because they don't need ducting to operate.

Can a heat pump be fitted to an existing heating system?

It is possible and easy to integrate a heat pump into an existing heating system, although there are a few aspects to consider. Here are some crucial things to remember:

  • The type of your present heating system: Depending on what you currently have, a heat pump may or may not work with your current heating system. Heat pumps are compatible with boilers, radiant heating systems, and furnace systems.
  • Ducted or ductless configuration: An air-source heat pump can often be fitted into a ducted system if you already have ductwork. As ductless mini-split heat pumps can be installed separately in each room, they're an excellent choice for homes lacking ducting.
  • System sizing and capacity: The heat pump size must be appropriate for your house. A load calculation can be carried out by an HVAC professional to find the suitable capacity. Both under sizing and oversizing can cause discomfort and inefficiencies.
  • Home efficiency and insulation: Make sure your house has adequate insulation and energy-saving features. The heat pump system's total efficiency may be increased with improved insulation.
  • Local regulations and codes: When adding a heat pump to an existing heating system, make sure it complies with all of the local building codes and requirements.

In the end, even if a heat pump can be installed into a current heating system, a seamless and efficient integration requires careful thought and expert advice. The best course of action will ultimately be determined by a professional evaluation that takes into account your unique situation and heating needs.

What can stop me from installing a heat pump in an old house?

Although heat pumps can be an excellent option for many homes, installing one in an older home may be more difficult or impractical due to a few specific factors. Here are a few possible problems:

  • Insulation quality of the home: An old house with inadequate insulation can significantly lower a heat pump's effectiveness. Since heat pumps transfer pre-existing heat, having enough insulation in the home is essential to keeping that heat inside.
  • Local climate: Air-source heat pumps may perform less effectively in areas that experience prolonged periods of extremely low temperatures, particularly below the freezing point. Additional heating sources may be required in these situations.
  • Physical layout: Installing a heat pump in an older home may be impacted by its physical layout and available space. Certain kinds of heat pumps need exterior units, and where these are placed has to take into account both homeowner preference and municipal regulations.
  • Costs: One thing to think about when installing a heat pump is the upfront expense, mainly if the house is older and may require more work. Prices can be reduced by evaluating your budget and looking into any possible rebates or incentives.

It's recommended to speak with a licensed HVAC professional before installing a heat pump in an older home. They can evaluate the unique circumstances of the building and offer customized advice based on things like insulation, current systems, and climate considerations.

Are you considering an HVAC update in your older home? If so, we encourage you to reach out to the team at Moore and Russell Heating and Air Conditioning to schedule a consultation appointment with one of our home comfort advisors!

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