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This single appliance can reduce your HVAC's energy use by up to 50% — and the government wants to help you buy it

Most AC systems only last 10 to 15 years, getting less efficient the whole time.

Most AC systems only last 10 to 15 years, getting less efficient the whole time.

Photo Credit: iStock

When you hear the words "heat pump," it's natural to assume that this appliance is for heating. 

But in fact, a heat pump can run in both directions: It can pump heat into the home to warm it or transfer heat outside to provide cooling. That makes them an efficient and affordable alternative to traditional air conditioning.

What is a heat pump?

A heat pump is a cooling and heating unit for your home that moves heat rather than creating it. Because of that, it's extremely energy efficient. It can reduce your HVAC system's electricity use by as much as 50%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

It works by manipulating pressure. When refrigerant inside the heat pump is compressed, the refrigerant gets warmer and gives off heat. When it's allowed to expand (to lower pressure), it gets cooler and absorbs heat from its surroundings. By absorbing heat inside the home and releasing it outdoors, it can cool the house — or vice-versa for heating.

How will a heat pump save me money?

Obviously, the less energy you're using to cool and heat your home, the more you save. Efficiency Maine offers a great tool for comparing heating costs so you can get an idea of what savings are available.

But that's not the only way you save money. There are also tax credits and rebates available for homeowners who install energy-efficient appliances like heat pumps. That can help offset the cost of installation, making a heat pump an even smarter choice.

Should I replace my AC with a heat pump?

If your cooling needs are already covered by an efficient air conditioner in good condition, this might not be the time to make a switch. But it's worth checking up on your AC system before you make a decision. Most only last 10 to 15 years, getting less efficient the whole time.

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If your air conditioner is worn out, isn't cooling your home effectively, or is starting to cost more in electricity and repairs, replacing it with a heat pump could be the most cost-effective choice, as well as the best option for your comfort.

If you're looking for an inexpensive option to transition with, micro heat pumps are available for only a few hundred dollars.

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