Efficiently Heat + Cool

Air Source Heat Pumps

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.

  • 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.

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 it a cold-climate air source heat pump?

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

  • 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 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%

How to get a heat pump

  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 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

How to pay for a heat pump

Tax Credits

If you have a tax appetite, you can take advantage of a tax credit of up to 30% of the cost for purchase (between Jan. 1, 2023 and Dec. 31, 2032) and installation of a heat pump, up to $2000. Learn more about these clean energy incentives on our Guide to the Inflation Reduction Act.

In addition, the Home Energy Rebates available from the Inflation Reduction Act include point-of-sale rebates for households earning up to 150% of area median income that will apply to heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, and heat pump clothes dryers. The rebate has a $14,000 cap.

The Minnesota Residential Heat Pump Rebate Program will provide a rebate of up to $4,000 for the purchase and installation of a heat pump for space heating and cooling in a home.

Utility Rebates

The Minnesota ASHP Collaborative maintains a list of utilities and the rebates they offer for heat pumps. Find out what your utility offers.

How to install a heat pump

  1. The outdoor unit should be mounted on a stand above ground at the average snow depth height.
  2. Place the outdoor unit where icicles won't form on an above roof eave and where the condensate water won't form ice on walkways or driveways. 

  3. There should be adequate space around the outdoor unit to allow for sufficient air flow.

  4. Advocate for high quality installation of your project by sharing this best practices installation guide [PDF] with your contractor.

Is a heat pump right for your home?

CERTs staff tackled some common heating and cooling situations in our Ask Alexis advice column.

Situations include: air source heat pump versus conventional air conditioner, currently heating with electric baseboard and wood-burning stove, currently using radiators and window air conditioning units, and more! 

Read Ask Alexis

Download the Guide

Guide to Air Source Heat Pumps

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