Before calling a contractor/installer, here are five steps to follow. (These are taken from the “Air Source Heat Pump Buying Guide,” Northeast Energy efficiency Partnership (NEEP).
Step 1: Plan Ahead
If you wait until your existing heating system fails, you won’t be able to find the right contractor or properly plan for a heat pump installation. Most likely you’ll get an updated version of exactly what you have now, which may not be the best choice. At the same time, the full installed cost of a heat pump often isn’t justified on energy cost savings alone. If you’re planning a renovation, if you have a comfort problem, or if your existing equipment is getting older (15 years is considered a typical lifetime for most furnaces and boilers), you will soon be spending money anyway on a system; now is the time to plan for a partial or full heat pump conversion.
Step 2: Find a Quality Installer
Contact your trusted heating and cooling company and say you’re interested in a heat pump. Also, see if your local utility or rebate program has a list of qualified installers. We also maintain a list of qualified installers on the Love Electric site for your convenience. Selecting a qualified installer can help ensure you receive any available rebates. You can also get referrals from family, friends, or neighbors.
Step 3: Shop Around
Once you find an installer, ask if they’ll do a free evaluation and quote. Avoid shopping only on price; the quality of the design and installation matters just as much. Think through the section “Additional guidance to help you choose the right system size and design” below, and talk over the options with your potential contractor(s). Make sure they have a reputable track record, and can service equipment when needed. If your contractor says “heat pumps don’t really work in cold climates” or “every heat pump needs a backup system”, find someone else. Remember, the lowest bid isn’t always the best value, and a high price doesn’t guarantee competence or quality.
Step 4: Insist On Load Calculations
If you’re getting a ductless heat pump for the main living space and it’s clear that it won’t heat the whole house, it may be fine to estimate the heat pump size based on installer experience. But if you want to heat your entire home, the proposal should always start with a load calculation. This means the installer measures the rooms and window dimensions and makes a list of the insulation values in attics, walls, and basements, along with window types and direction. All are needed to calculate the amount of necessary heating and cooling to keep the house comfortable (called heating and cooling loads). This is often called a “Manual J” (the name of a widely recognized load calculation procedure). “Bigger” is not “better” when it comes to heat pumps. In fact “too big” can create real performance problems. Installers should always start with measurements of the house and avoid using additional “safety factors”; the procedures already have a healthy margin of safety built in. Also note that for multi-zone systems, it is extremely important to calculate loads correctly and avoid indoor units that are too large for the rooms they serve. Central systems and single-zone systems (ductless or ducted) are somewhat more forgiving, because they allow for a wider range of efficient operating conditions.
Step 5: Checklist of important questions to ask a contractor
Keep the following checklist of questions on hand to help ensure your contractor is prepared to correctly design and install your system:
Always ask for a quote that details the equipment model numbers and itemizes any other parts and accessories that you’ll be charged for. If possible, try to get options for two or three alternatives from the same contractor so you can consider a range of options, with some explanation of the differences and the benefits of the various options.
If you feel overwhelmed with the choices around types of heat pump systems, whether a heat pump water heater is right for your home, or how to get bids and manage the process; you might want to hire someone to help you. Here are three companies, each with slightly different business models, that can help you make informed decisions and help you manage the process.
Elephant Energy is a one-stop-shop (like a general contractor) for modernizing your home with sustainable, electrification upgrades. They help you choose a system custom designed for your needs, manage the bid process and installation, and offer you the best rebates and attractive financing packages. The scope of their work includes insulation and air sealing, heat pump systems, heat pump water heaters, electric cooking, and EV charging.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org | 720.418.8663
Helio Home is also like a design consultant and general contractor, but in their case rather than managing the process of getting bids from heat pump installers or plumbers, they do all the installation work themselves. So after settling on a design that meets your needs, they give you a single bid for completing all the work. The scope of their work includes insulation and air sealing, heat pump systems, home ventilation, heat pump water heaters, electric cooking, solar power and batteries, and EV charging.
My Electric Home
My Electric Home is a general contractor for electrification upgrades and can also do some of the equipment installation. They serve as the homeowner’s advocate and advisor, providing candid feedback on what makes the most sense for your home, and tailoring their services to suit your needs. They calculate how (and whether) upgrades pay for themselves over time and can coordinate financing. The scope of their work includes heat pump systems, heat pump water heaters, induction/electric ranges, solar, battery storage, EV chargers, and electric panel upgrades (as needed), including installation of SPAN smart panels.
Contact: email@example.com | 720.288.0064
NTS Energy will visit your home, discuss your needs/desires, complete an evaluation of your HVAC system and other energy needs, provide system design and sizing, proposal specifications for bids, and suggestions for contractors to ask for bids. After you receive your bids NTS Energy can provide bid review, recommendations, and installation check. The scope of their work includes heat pump systems (including dual-fuel systems), ventilation, heat pump water heaters, solar, electric vehicle charging, energy backup systems or other efficiency improvements to your home, with an emphasis on achieving the most comfortable, healthy, energy efficient and least polluting systems at the most reasonable cost.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org | 303.246.3372
Love Electric aims to accelerate the adoption of heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, and other efficient electric technologies in homes and businesses across Colorado, to lower consumer energy costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide improved health, comfort and other benefits. Love Electric is an initiative of the Beneficial Electrification League of Colorado (BEL-CO).