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All air source heat pumps (ASHP) include an outdoor unit that will look similar to the unit in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Typical ASHP outdoor unit
Ductless air source heat pumps, sometimes referred to as mini-splits, will have one or more indoor units that mount high on an inside wall. Figure 2 shows a typical air source heat pump indoor unit.
Figure 2: Typical ASHP indoor unit with remote control
Ducted air source heat pumps are connected directly to a building’s ductwork so there are no indoor wall units to be seen.
Ducted air source heat pumps – A ducted system has an outdoor unit that is connected to a building’s ductwork, much the same way that a furnace is connected to a home’s ductwork. Only with an air source heat pump the system is not creating heat, but rather moving it from the outdoor air inside so that the air handler in your ductwork can circulate it throughout the building. Cideo on ductless air source heat pumps
If you currently use electric baseboard, oil, propane or natural gas to heat your house you will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by converting some or all of your heating needs to an air source heat pump. An air source heat pump being run by electricity you buy from a Massachusetts utility will produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions per unit of heat delivered than even the most energy efficient traditional home heating system. This fact takes into account the greenhouse gas emissions caused by producing the electricity to run the heat pump and from any leakage of refrigerant while charging or operating the heat pump. If your electricity supply includes more low/no-carbon renewable energy than the standard utility mix then your greenhouse gas emissions will be even lower.
Because cold climate air source heat pumps are highly energy efficient, installing a system makes you eligible for a rebate from MassSAVE – Massachusetts’ utility-supported energy efficiency program. Depending on the type and efficiency of heat pump you install, Mass Save offers rebates of up to $500 for heat pumps. Additional information on these rebates can be found here: https://www.masssave.com/en/saving/residential-rebates/electric-heating-and-cooling/.
Mass Save also offers a HEAT Loan for efficient technologies like heat pumps. Through the HEAT Loan program, you could qualify for a 0% interest loan of up to $25,000 over a term of up to 7 years, which you could use to finance your heat pump installation. Additional information on the HEAT Loan can be found here: https://www.masssave.com/en/saving/residential-rebates/heat-loan-program/
Because cold climate air source heat pumps are considered a clean heating and cooling technology, installing a system makes you eligible for a rebate from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) – Massachusetts’ renewable energy support agency. Rebates from the MassCEC range from $625 to $6,000 per system depending on system type and your income and family size. Additional information on these rebates can be found here: http://www.masscec.com/get-clean-energy/residential/air-source-heat-pumps
Contractors selected to provide air source heat pumps through the HeatSmart Northampton program will help customers determine more exact payback times after rebates for each specific system.
To put this into context, in Northampton typical nighttime low winter temperatures stay above zero degrees Fahrenheit and generally stay above 10 degrees Fahrenheit. But on rare occasions temperatures have been known to drop well below zero. Therefore a backup system would be needed on rare occasions.