When you start researching your heat pump options
How do heat pumps work?
Heat pumps use a highly temperature-sensitive refrigerant and a series of fans and compression and expansion valves to absorb heat and move from one place to another. Refrigerators and air conditioners use the same principles, but a heat pump can reverse the cooling process to provide heat in winter.
Can heat pumps really provide enough heat to keep us warm in winter?
Yes, many heat pump models are built to provide 100% of New England’s heating needs. When you contact installers, request a quote for a “cold climate heat pump.” These models are designed to work efficiently in sub-freezing, even sub-zero, temperatures.
How do I determine what size heat pump I need?
The size of your heat pump should be based on an accurate measurement of your home’s “heat load.” That’s the number of BTUs (British Thermal Units) of heat needed to keep the building cozy on the coldest winter nights. This measurement is called a “Manual J calculation.” When you meet with potential installers, ask them if they would perform a Manual J calculation or to explain how they would estimate your heat load.
It’s important the installers do not oversize the equipment. Oversizing not only leads to higher installation and operating costs, but also to inadequate dehumidification in summer. You may be able to estimate your home’s heat load. This short video provides an overview of CoolCalc, a free software program that makes it easy for you to estimate your own home’s heat load: https://youtu.be/fnVZ884Tvdg.
How can I find a trusted installer?
You can find trusted installers, pre-vetted by our partners, at Heat Pumps: Get Advice and Shop Installers. You can also check with your utility company to find installers that are certified to submit rebate applications.
How much do heat pumps cost to install?
The average whole home heat pump system in our region is running around $15,000 - $25,000, but the cost depends on what percentage of your heating the heat pump will provide, how large your home is, and how well-insulated it is. A heat pump for a relatively small, well insulated house might cost only $6,000, but a larger, under-insulated home might cost $45,000.
Will a heat pump increase my heating costs?
Whether you will save money on heating costs depends on what you pay for electricity and for the fuel you’re currently using for heat. If you currently heat with oil or propane, heating your home with a heat pump will likely cost less. If you currently heat with gas, whether you save money will depend on the electricity and gas rates in your area. (This study compared lifecycle costs of heat pumps to gas heat in Massachusetts in 2019: Home Heat Pumps in Massachusetts — Applied Economics Clinic.)
For an in-depth study of the relative lifecycle costs of heat pumps vs. other types of heating over the life of the equipment, see Evaluating Cold Climate Heat Pumps: Understanding How and Where Cold Climate Heat Pumps Can Displace Less Efficient Heating Sources (cadmusgroup.com). A building science expert from one of our partners might be able to help you estimate relative costs based on the individual characteristics of your home, your current fuel and electricity costs, and other factors.
My home has a hot air furnace. Can I replace this with a central heat pump?
Yes, if you already have ductwork for heating, you can plan to replace that equipment with a cold climate heat pump. The heat pump can provide cooling as well as heating, giving you year-round comfort. To read about a family that replaced its fuel oil forced air furnace HVAC system with air source heat pumps, go to Friedman Case Study_2.pdf (neep.org).
My home has electric baseboard heating and I use window units for air conditioning or have no air conditioning. Can I save money by replacing both with heat pumps?
Yes, replacing your electric baseboard resistance heating system with heat pumps will save you money in winter because heat pumps are 2 to 3 times more efficient than electric baseboards. Heat pumps also provide efficient air conditioning with the same equipment. To read about a homeowner who replaced her baseboard heating and window units with an air source heat pump, go to Nia's New Floor Mounted Air-Source Heat Pump - Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (masscec.com).
My home has central air conditioning. Can I add a heat pump?
It is often possible to use existing ductwork with a heat pump, but you will need to have a professional inspect your home to confirm if that would work in your home.
I have a boiler and central A/C. Can I replace both pieces of equipment with a heat pump?
Existing central A/C ductwork can often be used with a central heat pump, but you will need a professional assessment to confirm if that ductwork would be adequate. In some cases, you might need to augment the central heat pump with one or more ductless heads.
My home has a boiler and no ductwork. Can I replace my boiler with a heat pump?
For now, there are no simple one-for-one drop-in replacements for boilers. Your boiler system was designed to use very hot water or steam to provide the heat needed to keep your home warm in the coldest hours of winter. “Air-to-water" or “hydronic” heat pump technology is not able to heat water to the high temperatures that your boiler system is designed to use.
You can lessen or eliminate your dependence on your boiler by upgrading to ductless air source heat pumps. To read about homeowners who replaced their gas- and oil-fired boilers with air source heat pumps, go to James Heats Up His Victorian Home with An Air-Source Heat Pump System - Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (masscec.com) and Slack Case Study_4.pdf (neep.org)
I have radiant flooring/I am considering adding radiant flooring. Can I use a heat pump for that?
If you have radiant floor heating already or are considering installing it, you could consider an “air-to-water” heat pump. Expect the process to take longer and the cost to be higher than the common air-to-air heat pumps, because, for now, there are not many installers in our region with experience installing these systems. To learn how air-to-water heat pumps work, go to 4BED0381F5C1422085B90A7C8A864B4B.ashx (masssave.com).
What if I want to keep my current heating system for back up?
You can! Mass Save and other energy efficiency programs incentivize the use of a “smart control” thermostat to seamlessly toggle between the current system and the heat pump. Your heat pump installer will program the new thermostat with a specific set point – often around 30 degrees – above which the heat pump works and below which your current system turns on and the heat pump turns off.
I have an old house with many small rooms. What size heads would be appropriate?
The smallest capacity units produce 6,000 BTUs, roughly enough to heat a room about 15 ft x 20 ft., or about 300 square feet. If you have multiple small rooms next to each other, you might be able to use one head with short duct runs to serve those adjacent rooms.
What is the expected average lifespan of a heat pump?
The average lifespan of an air-source heat pump is about 15 years.
Are ground source heat pumps better than air-source heat pumps?
Ground-source heat pumps are generally more efficient than air-source heat pumps, and thus have lower energy demand and lower operating costs. But they are more expensive to install and not all properties are appropriate for ground source heat pumps. A professional would need to inspect your property to determine if the installation of a ground-source heat pump is possible. For more information on ground source heat pumps, go to Ground-Source Heat Pumps - Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (masscec.com).
What do I need to consider in the placement of the outdoor unit?
A heat pump condenser (the outdoor unit) needs air flow in all directions. It is generally placed a foot away from the house and needs a foot clearance from the ground and any landscaping. It can be placed on or under a porch. It should not be put under a roof overhang where falling snow or icicles might damage it. The condenser can be no more than 150 feet away from all indoor units.
I live in a condominium association. What are the options for siting the condenser?
You would need to work with your condo association to identify an appropriate place. Condensers can be located on or under a deck or on the roof.
How many amps do heat pumps need?
Generally, you need a 200-amp service to support heat pumps.
Will my heat pump function in a power outage?
All modern furnaces and boilers rely on electricity in some way, so those are no more reliable in a power outage than an electric heat pump would be. Heat pumps can be powered by a generator or by battery backup systems. Some consumers have chosen to have a wood stove as a back-up for power outages.
Do certain companies offer a smartphone app to control the heat pump remotely?
Most LG and Samsung equipment have wifi built in. For equipment from other companies, such as Mitsubishi and Fujitsu, a wireless module can be added to the unit, for approximately $250/unit.
Is my heat pump eligible for a federal tax credit?
Yes! A federal tax credit of $2,000 is available for installations of heat pumps made on or after January 1, 2023. You can claim an additional $600 for upgrading your electric panel. Find more details at Home Energy Tax Credits | Internal Revenue Service (irs.gov).
Is my heat pump eligible for a federally-funded rebate?
Federal rebates for heat pumps are not yet in effect but will be announced, likely in the latter half of 2023. As soon as we have more details, we will update this page. For more general information about the federal rebates, go to How much money can you get with the Inflation Reduction Act? — Rewiring America.
Are there state-sponsored financial incentives for homeowners who install heat pumps?
In Massachusetts, the whole home heat pump incentive is $10,000 per home. The partial home rebate is based on heating capacity installed and is $1,250 per ton of heating capacity. A ton of heating capacity equals 12,000 BTUs, roughly enough to heat a room 20 ft x 30 ft, or about 600 square feet. For more information on air-source heat pump incentives, go to Mass Save | Air Source & Air to Water Heat Pumps. For more information on ground-source heat pumps, go to Mass Save | Ground Source Heat Pumps. Rebates are sent to the consumer after they pay the contractor and submit receipt and other application paperwork to Mass Save.
Rhode Island’s rebates depend on the type of heating the homeowner is displacing and other factors. For more information on the incentives that Rhode Island offers, go to: https://cleanheatri.com/.
What is the process for applying for a whole- or partial-home rebate for the installation of heat pumps?
Massachusetts homeowners must fill out the rebate form, found here: >Mass-Save-Air-Source-Heat-Pump-Rebate-Form.pdf (masssave.com).
Rhode Island’s rebate forms can be found here: Heat Pump Incentives | Rhode Island Energy (rienergy.com).
If your electricity is provided by a municipal power company, check with your town about its rebates.
For Mass Save's Whole Home rebate, what evidence is needed that the heat pump system will serve the whole house?
Homeowners and installers must fill out and sign Mass Save's Whole-home heat pump verification form, found here: Mass-Save-Whole-Home-Heat-Pump-Verification-Form.pdf (masssave.com).
Do I need to use an approved installer in order to qualify for rebates?
In Mass Save territory and Rhode Island, homeowners are required to use a member of the Mass Save Heat Pump Installer Network for their heat pump projects to receive a rebate. To find installers who serve Massachusetts, go to Mass Save | Heat Pump Installer Search.
For Rhode Island, you must use one of the installers on this list of participating installers: Rhode Island Heating and Cooling Program Participating Contractor List (rienergy.com).
How do I find out what state rebate applies to my heating upgrade project?
Mass Save now has an email customer service option for HVAC rebate questions; send your question along with your name, address and electric account number to email@example.com. Feel free to cc firstname.lastname@example.org so we can learn as you do.
In Rhode Island, you will submit a proposal to CleanHeatRI before the heat pump is installed so you can know for certain what your incentive would be.
Does the 0% interest HEAT Loan program cover heat pumps?
Mass Save offers zero-interest financing opportunities for energy-efficient home upgrades, including up to $50,000 on the installation of air source and ground source heat pumps, and up to $25,000 for the installation of insulation, combustion heating systems, and more. For more information, go to Mass Save® Heat Loan | Energy-Saving Loan Program.
If you live in Rhode Island, you may be eligible for a zero-interest loan of up to $25,000 for approved high-efficiency heat pump systems that are displacing electric, oil, or propane heating systems. To start the process, you need to call EnergyWise at 888-633-7947 to schedule a no-cost home energy assessment. Go to Heat Pump Incentives | Rhode Island Energy (rienergy.com) for more information.
What is the maximum number of units in a condo association eligible for the Mass Save whole home rebate?
In a condo association with four or fewer units, each unit may qualify for the whole home rebate. Condos in larger buildings would need to apply to the multi-family program, which has a different incentive structure. See Mass Save | Multi-Family.
Are there incentives for the purchase of heat pump water heaters?
Mass Save offers an instant $750 rebate for qualified heat pump water heaters that are purchased from participating distributors. For more information on heat pump water heaters, go to Heat Pump Water Heater Rebates (masssave.com). The list of participating distributors can be found here: Master-Participant-Contact-List---HPWHs.pdf (masssave.com).
Rhode Island offers a $600 rebate on heat pump water heaters. For more information on incentives for heat pump water heaters and other appliances and equipment, go to Rebate Programs | Rhode Island Energy (rienergy.com). The rebate form can be found here: rie-2680081-rebate-form-hpwh.pdf (rienergy.com).
The Inflation Reduction Act also incentivizes heat pump water heaters. The $2,000 tax credit for heat pump water heaters came into effect on January 1, 2023, and will last 10 years. There will be federally funded rebates for heat pump water heaters too, but we don’t yet have the details. We’ll update this site when more information becomes available.
I purchased my energy-efficient appliance/equipment before January 1, 2023, but it was not delivered until after that date. Does it still qualify for a rebate?
Eligibility for rebates and incentives are determined by installation date, not purchase date.
What’s the process of applying for state rebates for energy-efficient upgrades and appliances generally?
In most cases, rebates are paid to the homeowner, not the installer, but your installer may be willing to fill out and submit the rebate application for you, if you have signed the forms yourself.
You can download the forms from Mass Save website, Residential Rebates & Incentives for Homeowners, Renters, & Landlords (masssave.com).
If you get your electricity from a municipal electric company, contact your utility for the appropriate forms.
Rhode Island’s rebate program page is here: Rebate Programs | Rhode Island Energy (rienergy.com).
After you have installed a heat pump
Does it ever make sense to turn down your heat (or cooling), such as overnight or when no one is home?
Generally, heat pumps work most efficiently at a steady temperature. Turning a heat pump down when you're away or asleep may actually use more energy than leaving it on, because it has to work harder to come back to the desired temperature than it does to maintain it. For more information and tips on maximizing the benefits of your air source heat pump, go to Getting the Most From Your New System - Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (masscec.com). This article provides a case study with some data confirming the “set it and forget it” advice for heat pumps: Set It & Forget It: How Heat Pumps Resolved a Long Term Marital Dispute - CleanTechnica
I live in Eversource territory. How do I apply for the discounted electric heat rate?
If you get your electric bill from Eversource in eastern Mass, you may request a change to a slightly discounted electric heating rate. Eversource currently has four residential rate classes:
- R1 - Residential
- R2 - Residential Assistance
- R3 - Residential Space Heating
- R4 - Residential Space Heating Assistance
The MA Department of Public Utilities (DPU) sets the rates that Eversource can charge their customers, and this changes twice a year for winter rates (January - June) and summer rates (July - December). The current Eversource Delivery charges – the lower half of your bill – are nominally lower for customers using electricity as their primary heating source. You can contact Eversource by phone or through your online account to change your rate class to reflect electric space heating; although you will only save fractions of a cent per kWh, in the future the DPU may authorize further discounts for those with electric space heating. Plus, changing to the electric heating rate class may be helpful for local or statewide data collection/analysis — to identify customers who have converted to heat pumps and those who still need to electrify.
At present, no other utility in the state offers this reduced rate. This discounted rate is not available to households that still have fossil fuel heating for part of their home.