We talk a lot about how efficient heat pumps are and how much money they’ll save you, but we rarely touch on the finer details of actually installing one of these machines in your home.
There are very few barriers to installing a heat pump in your home, the biggest is usually your electrical panel and service.
To be more exact two issues can arise.
- You lack the physical space on your panel to fit the breakers for a heat pump
- You lack the available service space to run a heat pump
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In this post, we’ll cover what we look at during our in-home estimate appointments to determine if you can indeed fit a heat pump both on your panel and on your electrical service. We’ll then look at what options exist if we run into either of these issues.
Your Homes Electrical Service
The electric service in your home is measured in amps. Most homes today have either a 100 amp or 200 amp service. Some older homes may still have a 60 amp service, however a good majority of those have been upgraded to 100 amps.
How do you know what service you have? You can look at your main panel and the master breaker will have a number on it. It is likely 100 or 200. This denotes your homes total service.
Also, as a rule of thumb, oil heated homes usually have 100 amp service, while electrically heated homes have 200 amp.
When in your home, we will inspect your panel and if needed complete a load calculation to determine what percentage of your total service you’re using right now. The percentage of service remaining must be adequate to install a heat pump system.
How much service space do you need?
A single zone needs somewhere around 15 – 20 amps. While a dual or tri-zone will require 20-30+ amps.
Physical Space on your Panel
Physical space on the panel is the second check. If you have open slots than you are probably ok. It’s when the panel is totally taken up that we need to look a little closer.
Some brands of panels have what are called mini breakers. These allow us to free up space for a panel that is otherwise full. We will be able to let you know during your appointment if this is the case.
If your panel is full and mini breakers are not an option then we most often will install a pony panel. This is a smaller add-on panel to your main one. We move some of the circuits in your main panel and run them through this add-on, including the heat pump.
The other option is to change your entire panel, but a pony panel is substantially less expensive.
Type of Electrical Panel
If your home is of the age where the panel is fuses rather than breakers then a pony panel may be required to install a heat pump, pending there is adequate service available. Generally, new circuits are not run from older fuse panels.
Options, if you’re Service, Can’t handle a Heat Pump
There are two options if your electrical service is over load or nearing load capacity and cannot fit a heat pump.
- A service upgrade from 100 to 200 amps
- Removal of some circuits on your current panel
We do not encourage the removal of circuits, although it is possible n order to free up service space.
More often you would be looking at a service upgrade from 100 amps to 200 amps. This is a large project and generally not one someone is willing to undertake for a single mini split heat pump.
However, for a home that is considering a dual or tri zone split heat pump or removing oil altogether and getting an electric ducted heat pump system a service upgrade can make sense.
Costs for a service upgrade will run from $3,500 and up and do require at least a full day to complete. Our sister company, Oickle’s Electrical, performs this type of work. We are able to provide a quote for this project at the exact same time.
To arrange for an in-home appointment to discuss the right heat pump solution for your home and complete an electrical inspection please give us a call or submit the form on this page.