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Energy Fixer: Ductless Heat Pump

How do you make an older house more energy efficient? This year, we’re following Sarah, a PGE employee, as she updates a 55-year-old, 1,500 square-foot, all-electric house, which she purchased in November 2014.

Needed: New heating system

Sarah’s new house still had a number of original charming features, but the radiant ceiling heat wasn’t one of them. Shortly after she moved into her house, the heat stopped working in the kitchen, living room, dining room and family room.

Although ceiling heat was popular in the 1960s, it’s not energy efficient. Plus, these systems tended to fail after awhile, and, today, there’s no one left in the area with the expertise to make repairs.

The ductless solution

As a PGE employee, Sarah was familiar with ductless heat pumps — also known as ductless heating and cooling — and she knew this would be a great solution for several reasons:

  1. Look ma, no ducts: A ductless heat pump is perfect for homes with baseboard or ceiling heat, where ductwork is absent. An outdoor compressor unit pulls heat from outside air and connects via a few small cables, rather than ductwork, to compact, wall-mounted indoor units.
  2. Bill control: Ductless heat pumps are highly energy efficient. They can save up to 50 percent on electric heating costs.*
  3. In the zone: Multiple indoor units provide zoned comfort. She could start by installing new heat units just in the areas where the ceiling heat had failed. Remote controls allow for easy adjustments by zone.
  4. That’s cool: She would get the added bonus of cooling — something the house previously lacked.

“I had one interior unit installed to heat the living and dining rooms and a second unit that covers the family room and kitchen,” Sarah said. “And I went with a larger exterior unit in anticipation of adding additional interior units to cover the bedrooms, hallway and bathrooms as my budget allows. Right now, the heat from the living room unit is doing a good enough job that I’ve been able to turn down the less-efficient ceiling heat in the bedrooms, so that should also help save on heating costs.“

Installation complete in less than a day

Sarah reports the installation process was “super easy.”

After getting a couple of bids, she chose Bruton Comfort Control, a PGE-approved contractor. The crew arrived in the morning and had the new system installed and running by the afternoon.

Incentives, tax credits help cover costs

Sarah’s final cost for her installation was reduced to $4,300 thanks to incentives, rebates and a tax credit:**

How does she like it?

“I love the efficiency,” Sarah said. “The house is warm, the heat is even and the units are quiet. And, of course, I’m really excited for the air conditioning this summer!”

Tips on using a heat pump

“To run it most efficiently, I was advised to set it and forget it rather than turning it down low at night and up again in the morning,” she said. “So I leave it at 66 all the time, and my house is super comfy. Plus, my electric bill has gone down.”

Resources for you

Interested in learning more about heat pump systems? Check these resources:

*Compared to a standard electric furnace replaced with a ductless heat pump system. Savings on a ducted system is up to 40 percent. Individual circumstances will vary. Ask the PGE Energy Experts, or your dealer, for more information.

**Incentives, rebates and tax credits are subject to change. To make sure your heat pump meets all qualifying criteria, consult with your dealer, a tax advisor and visit EnergyTrust.org.