Air Source Heat Pumps

Efficiently Heat and Cool with Electricity

How It Works

 

Air source heat pumps use electricity to heat and cool.

  • They work like air conditioners to cool, and work in reverse to move warmth from outside air into your home to heat.

  • They heat homes up to three times more efficiently than forced air and electric resistance heating systems.

 

Two Setups: Ductless or Central

 

Ductless air source heat pumps don’t require ductwork in your home.

  • There is at least one outdoor condenser connected to one or more indoor air distribution units.
  • Indoor units are typically mounted on the wall, floor, or ceiling.
  • The individually-controlled indoor units allow for zoned heating and cooling and maximize energy savings and comfort.

Making the decision:

  • Installed cost: $3,000-18,000
    • Depends on the number of indoor and outdoor units, which is based on home size, layout, and comfort goals.
  • A good fit when
    • Already heating with radiators, in-floor, or electric baseboard.
    • Getting rid of window air conditioning units.
    • Adding heating/cooling to unconditioned areas of your home.
 

What makes up a ductless air source heat pump system?

 

Central heat pumps use existing furnace fan and ductwork to move heated and cooled air throughout your home.

  • Unlike central air conditioning units, central heat pumps provide both heating and cooling from a single system.

Making the decision:

  • Installed cost: $4,500-15,000
    • Depends on outdoor unit's technical specifications (good, better, best).
  • A good fit when
    • Already heating with forced air (with ductwork in place).
    • Replacing a central air conditioner or adding it for the first time.
 

What makes up a central heat pump system?

What kind of heat pump do you need?

Air source heat pumps offer the same cooling benefit as an air conditioner, often at a higher efficiency.

If you want a heat pump to be your primary heating system, you’ll need a "cold-climate air source heat pump" and a secondary heating system.

  • What makes a heat pump fit for our cold climate? It heats efficiently down to 5oF and even lower in many cases.
  • What is a secondary heating system? It supports the heat pump on the few weeks a year when it gets very cold. Often, you can simply keep your existing heating system in working order.
  • Did you know? 
    • Heat pumps move heat and that takes far less energy than conventional heating systems which create heat.
    • You can even extract heat from really cold air!

If your home is currently heated with electricity, with a cold climate air source heat pump, you could see 55% bill savings. For propane, 30% bill savings or more.

If your home is currently heated with natural gas, efficient natural gas furnaces have been an affordable way to heat Minnesota homes. A cold-climate air source heat pump or one of the many other heat pump options can provide efficient cooling and economically offset your furnace operation in the in the spring and fall for heating. A household might consider an air source heat pump in a home heated by natural gas for reasons beyond cost savings — becoming a net-zero energy, solar-ready, or all-electric home.

Center for Energy and Environment research from 2018 shows Minnesota households can expect the kinds of energy and cost savings below.

Existing Heating System Energy Savings with ccASHP Cost Savings with ccASHP
Propane furnace 40% 30%
Electric resistance 55% 55%

Next Steps

 
  1. Contact your electric utility provider: Learn more about your electric utility's rebates, rate options, and requirements around participating or qualified contractors.

  2. Get 2-3 bids from skilled contractors: If your utility does not have contractor requirements, find one on the MN ASHP Collaborative Preferred Contractor Network or contact CERTs if you don't see any contractors near you.

  3. Ask contractors the right questions: 

    • Are they state licensed for HVAC?
    • Are they insured?
    • How long have they been in business?
    • If heating through winter, ask for a cold-climate air source heat pump and a technician experienced with these heat pumps.
    • Ask them to calculate your home's heating and cooling load, and evaluate your home's ductwork.
    See more tips on choosing a contractor

 

Map of Utility ASHP Rebates

This map of electric utility rebates for air source heat pumps was developed by the Minnesota ASHP Collaborative.

Success Story

 

Things I learned about heat pumps

A HOMEOWNER'S PERSPECTIVE

CERTs coordinator Melissa Birch and her family built their house in 2020-21, in north-central Minnesota. Their area did not have natural gas service. They opted for all-electric, and since she's kind of an energy nerd (and since they wanted to keep their heating and cooling costs low), she was keen on the idea of doing most of their heating with a cold climate air source heat pump. This is what she learned.

 

Success Story

 

A family’s journey to decarbonize their home

ALL ELECTRIC, POWERED BY CLEAN ENERGY

Two years after installing a cold climate air source heat pump and capping their gas line, Karie and Drew Johnson of Saint Paul couldn’t be happier with their decision to decarbonize their century-old home. We spoke to the family about their motivations for going all electric — heating, cooling, cooking, cleaning, and driving — and what steps they took to reach this ambitious goal.

 

Success Story

 

Finding success with air source heat pumps in cold climates

HOMEOWNER, CONTRACTOR, UTILITY SHARE PERSPECTIVES

We spoke with Brent Hartwig, a homeowner in Saginaw; Mitch Minardi of Brent’s Heating and Cooling and MN Ductless Solutions; and Jon Sullivan at Minnesota Power to learn more about their experiences with new and improved cold climate air source heat pump technology.

 

Download the Guide

Consumer Guide to Air Source Heat Pumps

Customize the guide

If your organization — electric utility, city or county with energy action plans, weatherization providers, community groups — would like to customize this guide for your use and educational purposes, please download it, add your logo, and make other edits to suit your needs.

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Air Source Heat Pumps are a proven energy-saving technology for heating, tested through years of practical application and multiple studies. They're a win-win for you and your customers!

The Market Opportunity

 
  1. Widespread adoption: A recent statewide study shows ASHPs as one of the primary ways Minnesota will reach its energy efficiency goals by 2029.
  2. Large market in Minnesota: ASHPs are a good fit for the 585,000 households heated with electricity and propane.
  3. Significant utility rebates: Most electric utilities offer rebates for ducted and ductless ASHPs—from $250-$2,000+.
  4. Quality installation: Trained and certified contractors will be best positioned to take advantage of this growing market.
 

Get Training

 

Technical Training & Certification:

Some electric utilities and manufacturers may offer their own training. Some utilities require that you become a qualified contractor to be eligible for rebates.

 

There’s no question whether customers are going to reap the benefits—these units have proven their efficiency over electric baseboard and propane.

MITCH MINARDI, BRENT’S HEATING AND COOLING IN DULUTH, MN

Consumer Benefits &
Satisfaction

 

Provide customers with a proven energy-saving technology:

  • ASHPs offer cost-effective heating for customers heating with electricity or propane.
  • Heat homes up to three times more efficiently than forced air and electric resistance heating systems.
  • Works for homes with and without ductwork.
  • Set it and forget it. ASHPs operate most efficiently without thermostat setbacks.
  • Great option when adding or upgrading air conditioning.
 

Heat with Cold Climate

 

When a customer wants to use an ASHP as their primary heating system, install a cold-climate ASHP and ensure back-up heating is operational.

What makes it a ccASHP?

  • Variable capacity (inverter) compressor
  • Coefficient of performance (COP) at 5°F ≥ 1.75 at maximum capacity
  • Heating season performance factor (HSPF) ≥ 10 (ductless) or ≥ 9 (ducted)
  • Sized to meet 100% of the home’s heating load at outdoor temperatures ≤ 10°F

Source: Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance and Center for Energy and Environment

 

A glance at savings from air source heat pumps

Recent research from Center for Energy and Environment shows Minnesota households can expect the kinds of energy and cost savings below.

Existing Heating System Energy Savings with ASHP Cost Savings with ASHP
Propane furnace 40% 30%
Electric resistance 55% 55%

What if you heat with a natural gas furnace? You can expect energy savings, but likely not cost savings. The current low cost of natural gas keeps heating homes in Minnesota with an efficient natural gas furnace an affordable option. A household might consider an air source heat pump in a home heated by natural gas for other reasons, like becoming a net-zero or all-electric home, or wanting to add or upgrade air conditioning.

Installation Tips

 
  1. The outdoor unit should be mounted above ground on a stand to prevent seasonal damage from ice and snow build-up.
  2. The refrigeration lines leading from the outdoor unit should be insulated with foam and covered with a plastic casing to prevent damage.
  3. The entry point for refrigeration lines into the home should be fully sealed to prevent entry of moisture, pests, and cold air.
  4. There should be adequate clearance around the outdoor unit to allow sufficient air flow.
 

Download the Guide

Contractor Intro to Air Source Heat Pumps
guide
Minnesota Power ASHP Guide
guide
Otter Tail Power ASHP Guide
guide
Todd Wadena ASHP Guide

Customize the guide

If your organization would like to customize this guide for your use, you can download it, add your logo, and make other edits to suit your needs.

Download customizable guide