Heat pumps are considered one of the most efficient ways to heat and cool a home or business establishment, particularly in regions where the winters are not extremely harsh. How long a heat pump lasts depends on a variety of factors, including the type of heat pump and how well it is maintained. A heat pump usually consists of indoor and outdoor heat exchangers. The former contains a fan, while the latter includes both a compressor and a fan.
How It Works
A heat pump is essentially a fancy air conditioner capable of providing both heating and cooling. Like an air conditioner, the heat pump at its core is a refrigeration system that transfers heat from one point to another. Even though outside air may feel very cold, it contains what's known as low-temperature heat, which when passed through the device's refrigerant system can be bumped up to produce warm air to be circulated inside a structure. A key element in a heat pump is its reversing valve, which pulls hot air from inside a structure during the summer and reverses the process in cold weather.
The air-source heat pump is by far the most commonly installed type of heat pump. It transfers air from outside to inside and vice-versa. More effective but less common is the water-source heat pump, also known as a geothermal or ground-source heat pump. This device is able to tap into the warmer temperatures found underground below the frost line. Water circulated through below-ground pipes picks up the low-temperature heat available there and passes it through a system that takes the heat from the water and transforms it into warm air. Also available is the dual-source heat pump, which combines the best features of the air- and water-source devices.
Estimates of a heat pump's lifespan vary slightly. Kansas City Power & Light reports that heat pumps generally last an average of 15 years. In 2006 the National Association of Home Builders conducted a survey on the life expectancy of various products used in the home. Averaging data from all respondents, the survey came up with an average lifespan of 16 years for heat pumps.
Most Popular Brands
The RemodelHomeGuide website offers a list of the 10 most popular brands of heat pumps, as of late 2009. Although popularity does not necessarily equate with efficiency and durability, the list is worth considering before you go shopping for a unit. The top 10, in descending order, are Trane, Carrier, Goodman, Lennox, York, Rheem, American Standard, Amana, Bryant and Hayward.
Tips to Extend Life
To keep your heat pump running for as long as possible, Hannabery HVAC offers these tips: remove ice and snow buildup from around and atop the outside unit; check air filters regularly and replace as needed; keep coils clean, using a degreasing compound if they become dirty (turn off the unit first); keep plant growth 18 inches from outside unit; and have a professional service call at least once a year.