Take the heat off heat pump issues with this handy repair vs. replace guide
An efficient and powerful heat pump keeps you and your family warm all winter. Heat pumps can even keep your home cool during the summertime. Since no HVAC systems are designed to last forever, a homeowner needs to keep up on maintenance to preserve the life of the device.
Once you’re noticing issues, you may find yourself wondering whether a heat pump repair will suffice—or if a total replacement is warranted. This guide breaks it all down to help you make an informed, budget-conscious choice.
What’s the Problem With Your Heat Pump?
When maintained properly, a heat pump can last 10 to 20 years. As your device starts creeping into the twilight years of its life, you may start noticing:
Mechanical issues (like it won’t turn on, heat up, or cool down)
Broken starter capacity
Low refrigerant levels (likely due to a leak)
Circuit breaker problems
A new heat pump costs $4,000 to $7,000, depending on the model and installation costs.
Reasons to Replace Your Heat Pump
Here are some serious issues that signal it’s time to replace your heat pump.
Poses a Safety Threat
A leaking heat pump can cause carbon monoxide to seep into your home, exposing your family to poisonous gases. Address the situation immediately—and those in your home should leave ASAP until the carbon monoxide returns to a safe level. In this situation, a replacement is a no-brainer.
Slightly less of a threat but still a concern is if you live in an area with extremely cold weather. A broken heat pump in the middle of a storm or cold weather spell could be a real problem and may result in burst pipes or even having to leave your home until the issue is fixed. If your device isn’t working or keeps breaking down, it’s time to replace it.
Older Than 10 Years
A heat pump older than 10 years is already on its way out, so replacing it would make sense for both short- and long-term use. Unfortunately, the internal components wear down over time in ways that can’t be fixed permanently.
Servicing your device could buy you a couple of months or even another year. But ultimately, you’ll be purchasing a new unit in the not-so-distant future.
Costly Repair Bill
Some fixes can be quite expensive. For example, replacing a blower motor on an old device can cost as much as $1,000. As a general rule, any repair that costs 30% to 50% (or more) of the cost to replace it isn’t worth it on an older device.
Increasing Energy Costs
As innovation and technology improve, heat pumps become more efficient. If your old system is compromised or running poorly, you could be experiencing sky-high energy bills that justify replacing your system.
One telltale sign to look for is uneven heating throughout your home. If some rooms are warm while others are cold, this is a sign your system isn’t running correctly or your ductwork may need repairs.
If you’re savvy and willing, installing a new heat pump yourself could save you money. Labor usually takes 3 to 5 hours, so you could save $500 or more on installation costs.
Important note: You’ll likely need to put a circuit in for your new heat pump. Consult a professional electrical handyperson near you for safety reasons. You’ll still save money on installation fees.
Reasons to Repair Your Heat Pump
Alternatively, here are some reasons to call an HVAC repair specialist instead of replacing your unit.
Under 10 Years Old
Most heat pumps are designed with a life cycle of at least 10 to 12 years. If yours is still in the single digit, you should be able to get at least a few more years out of your device.
Check your manufacturer warranty. Certain issues may be covered and repaired for free if your heat pump is only a few years old. If you signed an HVAC service contract when you bought your pump, call the company to schedule an appointment.
Repairs Won’t Be Too Expensive
If repairs are minor or the fixes are part of your annual maintenance routine, replacement may not be necessary. After all, the average heat pump maintenance repair is usually $150 to $600, and maintaining your device is one of the best ways to reduce HVAC energy costs.
The three most common types of repairs involve the thermostat, condenser, and ductwork. Basic repairs for any of these may cost $100 to $250. Ask a local HVAC technician for a quote to see if repairing makes sense.
A Little Noise
Noise may indicate an issue with your heat pump down the road, but it may not warrant a full replacement yet. In many cases, tightening the fan blade, leveling the heat pump, and securing all the screws can eliminate the noise. Use a sound blanket or vibration dampeners to help deaden the sounds.
Heat Pump Repair vs. Replace
The heat pump repair versus replace debate can be summed up pretty simply.
Replace your heat pump when:
It’s older than 10 years.
It’s posing a safety threat to you and your family.
It’s sending your energy bills through the roof.
The repair bill is 30%–50% (or higher) of the cost to replace your device.
Repair your heat pump when:
It’s under 10 years old.
It’s covered by a warranty or HVAC service contract.
Repairs are inexpensive.
It’s just being noisy.