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Can heat pumps be installed in old houses?

*$0 Diagnostic Fee with Completed Repair. CALL NOW 778-716-2498

Can heat pumps be installed in old houses?

Can heat pumps be installed in old houses?

Mar 12, 2024 | By  Right Time

Can heat pumps be installed in old houses?

Are you considering upgrading your heating system but hesitating due to the age of your home? The good news is that modern solutions like heat pumps are available and typically adaptable to all types of properties. That said, there are a couple of things to keep in mind that could prevent homeowners from installing this type of HVAC system into their older properties.

This raises the question, “can heat pumps be installed in old houses?”

Join the team from The Comfort Group as we give you the lowdown on all things related to heat pump models so you can make an informed decision about what type of heating system you should install in your older home.

Understanding how heat pumps work

Before we get into whether an air source heat pump can work well in older buildings, we think it’s important that homeowners know exactly how heat pumps work. Take a closer look below:

Heat absorption from the outdoor air: A heat pump is split into to parts comprised of an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. Unlike a traditional oil heating system or gas heating system that needs to generate heated air, an air source heat pump works by collecting thermal energy from the outside air and transferring it into your home, even on cold days where temperatures are below freezing.

Stored in this outdoor unit is a compressor, fan, and condenser which is solely responsible for drawing heat energy into the compartment.

Refrigerant evaporation: The heat energy that is absorbed results to the evaporation of the refrigerant that circulates through the outside coils stored in the external unit compartment. The compressor raises the refrigerant temperature and pressure, which aids in the evaporation process.

Transfer of hot refrigerant to indoor unit: The hot, pressurized refrigerant is then pumped into the indoor unit that is installed within your home, where it passes through the condenser coil component. At the same time, indoor air is drawn over the condenser coil by the indoor fan.

Heat exchange with indoor air: As the refrigerant releases heat to the indoor air, it condenses back into a liquid. This heat exchange warms up the indoor air, which is then distributed throughout your home. Depending on they type of heat pump you have, the heated air is either transported through air ducts, or directly from the interior unit using vents in a ductless system.

Return of cooled refrigerant to outdoor unit: The refrigerant travels back through the refrigerant lines to the exterior unit once its temperature and pressure have decreased.

Heating cycle begins again: The heat pump continuously draws heat from the outside air, transfers it indoors, and releases it to heat the interior spaces throughout your house. This process is repeated as needed to maintain the desired indoor temperature for your and your loved ones during those cold winter nights and days.

If you’ve been looking into heat pumps for a while, you’ll probably already know that they can not only operate as a heating system during the winter, but they can also operate in the summertime as a cooling system. So, how does a heat pump operate as a cooling system? Take a closer look below:

Heat absorption from indoor air: By absorbing heat from the inside of your house, the outdoor unit cools the interior air, much like an air conditioner would.

Refrigerant evaporation: The refrigerant in the indoor evaporator coil evaporates as a result of the heat absorption, taking heat from the inside air and lowering its temperature.

Refrigerant transfer to outside unit: After cooling, the refrigerant is pumped back to the outside unit and runs through the condenser coil there.

Release of heat to outdoor air: To keep the interior temperature comfortable, the refrigerant in the exterior condenser coil transfers heat to the outdoor air. This cycle is repeated until your interior becomes a refreshing oasis away from the warm temperatures outdoors.

Ultimately, an air source heat pump is a great addition to any house as it provides year-round temperature control while keeping energy consumption low and maintaining affordable energy costs.

Are air-source heat pumps suitable for old houses? 

Of course! Heat pumps are an excellent choice for older houses, given that they are versatile, energy-efficient, and increase home comfort. However, there are a few factors to take into account when determining if a heat pump is a suitable option for an older home:

Insulation and air sealing

Older houses can have less insulation and more drafts than newer construction projects that were built to prevent heat loss. To ensure your heat pump is able to work efficiently in your old house, it’s important that you conduct air sealing in any areas around your doors and windows that could be contributing to the loss of heat energy.

You may also want to add insulation to areas of your home that experience drafts, such as top floor attics and basements.

Without a properly insulated home, your air source heat pump will need to use more energy to heat and cool your interior, whereas a well insulated house saves energy usage during the winter and summertime.

Current HVAC system

If your old house still has ductwork that your existing heating system uses, it is crucial that it be inspected for any cracks, damages, or other deterioration that can prevent your new heat pump from working in an efficient manner.

Leaky or poorly insulated ducts can reduce the effectiveness of a heat pump system, leading to more electricity use and an uncomfortable house interior. Much like adding insulation to your house, your ductwork system will also need to have sufficient insulation to ensure the air source heat pump works correctly and efficiently.

On the other hand, ductless mini-split systems provide an option if ducting changes are not practical in old houses. This means that rather than having a central heating system that heats the entirety of your old house at the same time, you will have to install separate air source heat pump units in different areas of your house.

Just keep in mind that while this offers you more customization for your indoor comfort compared to central heating, having several air source heat pump units can take up more space.

Size of the old house

Air source heat pumps come in a variety of sizes. It’s crucial to select a heat pump that fits the size needs of your home and its unique features by having a professional conduct a load calculation.

Like all heating system installations whether it be a gas heating system, oil heating system, or any heating systems that operate using electricity, ensuring you have a professional load calculation performed is absolutely necessary.

The results of your load calculation will determine the size of heat pump you install, relative to the size of your house. An improperly sized heat pump will lead to the over consumption of electrical energy, increase your heating bills, and be less environmentally friendly.

Climate considerations

Where the house is located and the local climate are both crucial factors to consider. Air source heat pump units work by extracting thermal energy from the outdoor ambient air. And while they can be efficient in areas that experience mild temperatures throughout the year, as the outdoor temperature decreases, the available thermal energy will decrease.

Because of this, the air source heat pump will need to work harder to maintain a consistent and warm temperature indoors. And as you can likely guess, this will not only increase your heating bill, but also cause more wear and tear on your equipment.

As such, if you live in an area where temperatures fall below -25 degrees Celsius, you may want to consider a heat pump designed for cold climates or think about having a secondary heating system installed into your home.

In a dual fuel system, heat pumps work when the temperature outdoors is relatively mild. However, when the outdoor temperature falls below freezing, the heat pump will automatically switch off and allow the back up heating system, such as furnace or gas boiler to take over the heating cycle.

By automatically switching back and forth between the two heating systems, you can ensure that your house remains at a warm and comfortable temperature while remaining energy efficient. This can be a great option is you have a current heating system that is relatively newer in your house, but you’re still wanting to install a heat pump in your home.

Factors affecting costs

While heat pumps’ energy efficiency may eventually make them more affordable, it’s important to consider the costs associated with initial installation as well as any modifications needed for older homes.

Air source heat pump units could be an excellent alternative for older houses as they offer energy-efficient heating and cooling solutions from a single unit. Nonetheless, a comprehensive evaluation of the house’s insulation, existing systems, and climate-related aspects is required.

Consulting with an HVAC specialist will allow you to tailor your choice to the particular needs and characteristics of your older house.

It’s important to remember that installing a heat pump in a home is a complex task that should only ever be conducted by a professional HVAC company. Attempting to have your heat pump installed in your house without consulting with HVAC specialists can cause damage to your house and new system while putting your health and safety at risk.

So, before moving forward, check in your area for reputable HVAC companies who can oversee your house improvement project on your behalf for peace of mind and long-term energy savings.

What could prevent you from installing a heat pump in an old house?

While heat pumps are a great choice for many homes, there are a few unique reasons why installing one in an older home could be challenging or unfeasible. Here are a few potential issues:

Home insulation

An older house with inadequate insulation can drastically reduce the efficiency of a heat pump and other heating systems for that matter.

A house with inadequate insulation will require more energy from your air source heat pump to heat and cool your interior; on the other hand, a well-insulated house uses less energy in the summer and less in the winter.

So, make sure that your house has updated insulation so you can stay warm and comfortable all year long.

Local climate

In regions that experience prolonged spells of exceptionally low temperatures, especially below freezing point, air-source heat pumps will operate ineffectively. Luckily, you can opt to have a heat pump installed that was constructed to operate efficiently in cold climates.

You can also have a backup heater installed to maintain optimal energy efficiency levels.


The initial investment is something to consider when installing a heat pump, mainly if the home is older and may need more maintenance or modifications in order to support the heat pump. You should also take into account the average price of electricity in your area along with other fuel prices to see whether a heat pump really is the best option for your old house.

 Before installing a heat pump in your old house, consult with a certified HVAC company in your area, like The Comfort Group.

We can assess the specifics of your home and provide tailored guidance based on factors such as insulation, existing systems, and climate concerns.

What are some of the benefits of installing air-source heat pumps in old houses?

Older homes can benefit significantly from installing air-source heat pumps. Here are some of the advantages in more detail below:

Efficiency levels

One of the best qualities of air source heat pumps is their incredible efficiency ratings. They are an affordable and environmentally friendly solution, given that they transfer heat rather than produce it.

Dual function

Air source heat pumps eliminate the need for separate heating and air conditioner systems by performing both heating and cooling tasks from one unit.

No gas lines required

Because air source heat pumps operate on electricity instead of gas, they don’t need a natural gas supply, unlike certain other types of conventional heating systems, making them more versatile.

That said, if you have a gas line in your home and want to install a backup heating system, such as a gas furnace, you can utilize both.

Government incentives

Installing energy-efficient appliances, such as air source heat pumps, into your home can make you eligible for government rebates, which can help save you money on your installation. If you need help finding heating rebates, reach out to The Comfort Group for assistance.

Are there any drawbacks to heat pumps that I should know about?

LIke any home appliance, there are some drawbacks to heat pumps that we The Comfort Group believes homeowners should be aware of before having one fitted in their homes. Here is a closer look at what you should be aware of before purchasing one:

Heat pumps typically cost more to install

Unlike traditional heating systems, heat pumps tend to come with a higher price tag. That said, all HVAC system purchases are an investment. Therefore, it’s important to look at all your options available, and see if you qualify for any government rebates, HVAC company discounts, and financing options so you can get the heat pump you want for your home.

Heat pumps require more maintenance

Heat pumps typically require more maintenance than other heating and cooling equipment. Unlike other HVAC systems that need a professional maintenance appointment once a year, heat pumps will need to undergo maintenance twice a year.

Remember, heat pumps work year round to heat and cool your house. Therefore, we suggest booking a maintenance appointment with a professional HVAC company at least twice a year. Heat pumps should be serviced in the spring and fall. By doing so, you can rest assured knowing that your heat pumps are working correctly and at optimal performance levels throughout each season.

Beyond having maintenance done twice a year, make sure that you change the air filters regularly as well.

Can air source heat pumps use existing radiators?

Older homes with radiators can employ air-source heat pumps, but for best results, some modifications are required. Because air source heat pumps work at lower temperatures than conventional boilers, it’s critical that you pair the output of the heat pump with larger or specially designed low-temperature radiators.

To ensure a smooth integration with your current radiator heater, seeking advice from an HVAC specialist is essential. They will evaluate your old radiators, make recommendations for changes, and make sure everything functions properly.

With these modifications, older homes with radiators still in place can benefit from installing a heat pump. 

Where is the best place to put an air source heat pump?

A heat pump’s service life, heating performance, and heating efficiency can all be enhanced by carefully choosing where you have it installed in your house. When choosing the best location, a number of things should be taken into account. Here is a closer look at what you need to consider:

  1. Outdoor space

The heat pump’s exterior unit needs to be positioned in an area with lots of room and good ventilation. This will ensure there are no airflow restrictions that could inhibit the heat pump from gathering heating energy from the ambient air.

  1. Noise considerations

The fan and compressor can create noise when the heat pump is working. The outside unit needs to be positioned far away enough from your living spaces, bedrooms, and other areas where noise may be an issue. To prevent loud noises from your heat pump unit, make sure it is installed on a solid, concrete surface.

  1. Sun exposure

While heat pump units can operate in a variety of weather conditions, exposure to direct sunlight can impact their efficiency levels. Therefore, make sure that you have the exterior heat pump portion positioned in a shaded area or providing some form of shading can help prevent overheating and maintain optimal cooling performance, especially during those hot summer months.

  1. Accessibility

The outdoor compartment should be easily accessible for technicians performing future maintenance and repairs on the heat pump It’s essential to ensure there’s enough space around the unit and aim to keep it clean and free of obstructions that can limit airflow.

  1. Distance to the indoor unit

The outside heat pump compartment should be located near the interior one because they are connected by refrigerant lines. Basically, shorter refrigerant lines will reduce energy consumption.

  1. Local regulations

Before installing heat pumps it’s essential to check local regulations as there may be rules associated with where and where not you have install the compartments. Building codes can be daunting, which is why working with a professional HVAC company is the best way to ensure that it’s positioned correctly and in accordance to local building regulations.

Looking for an air source heat pump for your home? Contact The Comfort Group Today!

An air source heat pump can make a great addition to your home. But are you still not sure whether an air source heat pump is right for your home? If so, The Comfort Group is a leading HVAC company that specializes in keeping customers warm and comfortable during the winter months.

Our company carries an extensive range of environmentally friendly heat pump models and other heating systems that we can customize to your unique needs, property, and budget.

No matter what you’re looking for, know our team of certified and experienced technicians and home comfort advisors will work closely with you to ensure the results of your installation service exceeds your expectations.

The Comfort Group proudly operates throughout Campbell River, Courtenay, Duncan, Ladysmith, Lake Cowichan, Parksville, Port Alberni, Qualicum, Chemainus, and Nanaimo!

Book a consultation with The Comfort Group to learn more about what heat pumps we offer, along with our discounts and financing options. All consultations include a complimentary new system purchase quote as well.

Are you ready to keep your old house warm and comfortable all winter long without increasing your energy bill?

Speak with one of our team members directly to reserve your consultation appointment, or use our online booking form.

We look forward to partnering with you!

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