With the rise in energy consciousness and the pursuit of more sustainable and efficient heating and cooling methods, electric heat pumps and ductless mini-splits have gained immense popularity. Especially in areas like Boston, where the climate can be particularly chilly in the Winter and sweltering in the Summer, homeowners are on the lookout for efficient heating solutions. This guide aims to answer the most pressing questions about these newer HVAC technologies.

Table of Contents:

What is a heat pump for heating and cooling a home?

A heat pump is a device that transfers heat energy from one place to another. In the context of a residential HVAC system, it can be used to extract heat from the outside air (even when it’s cold out) and bring it inside to warm the house, then when it is warm out, the pump can be reversed to remove heat from the inside of the house and expel it outside to cool the house.

How does a heat pump work in a residential HVAC system?

A heat pump works by using refrigeration principles, similar to an air conditioner. It consists of two main components: an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. These units house coils that the refrigerant moves between. By changing the state of the refrigerant between liquid and gas through compression and expansion, the heat pump can move heat from one location (outside) to another (inside) or vice versa.

In the winter, a heat pump will extract heat from the outside air (even if it’s cold) and release it inside your home. During summer, it works in reverse, removing heat from your home and releasing it outside, thereby cooling the interior.

What is the difference between a heat pump and a furnace?

A heat pump uses compressed refrigerant to transfer heat from one place to another, while a furnace generates heat by burning a fuel (like natural gas, home heating oil, or propane). In this way furnaces directly produce heat, whereas heat pumps transfer existing heat. As such, heat pumps are often more energy-efficient than traditional furnaces, since they don’t need to burn fuel.

In particularly cold climates, a furnace can be used to supplement the use of a heat pump on the coldest days.

What is the difference between a heat pump and a mini-split?

A mini-split system is a type of heat pump, but it’s designed without the need for ductwork. Traditional heat pumps usually connect to duct systems to distribute air throughout the home. Mini-splits, on the other hand, are “ductless” and comprise an outdoor unit and one or more indoor units that are installed in specific rooms or areas of the house.

What are the benefits of installing and using a heat pump?

  • Energy Efficiency: Heat pumps transfer heat rather than generating it making them more energy-efficient than traditional heating systems.
  • Dual Functionality: They can both heat and cool a home.
  • Safety: There’s no combustion, reducing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and fires.
  • Potential Cost Savings: Due to higher energy efficiency, users may experience lower energy bills.
  • Environmentally Friendly: They reduce carbon emissions compared to fossil fuel-based heating.

How much money can I expect to spend on purchasing and installing a new heat pump for a residential home in the Boston area?

The cost of purchasing and installing a heat pump in the Boston area can vary widely based on the size of your home, the specific system you choose, and installation complexity. In 2023, you can expect to spend between $5,000 to $15,000, with higher-end models and installation factors increasing costs. However, prices may change, so it’s crucial to request a quote from a HVAC installer near you.

What are the most popular manufacturers of heat pumps?

Some leading manufacturers known for producing reliable heat pumps that Bigelow has experience with include:

  • Rheem/Ruud
  • Mitsubishi Electric
  • Carrier
  • York
  • Bryant
  • Trane
  • Lennox
  • American Standard

When choosing a manufacturer, it’s wise to consider factors like warranty, efficiency ratings, and customer reviews.

What are the most popular models of heat pumps?

This changes as new models come out, but some historically popular models include:

  • Carrier’s Infinity Series
  • Trane’s XV20i
  • Lennox’s XP25
  • Mitsubishi’s Hyper-Heat series

Is a ductless mini-split the same thing as a heat pump?

A ductless mini-split often uses a heat pump mechanism for its operation. However, not all heat pumps are part of ductless mini-split systems. So, while a ductless mini-split incorporates a heat pump, they are not the same thing. A ductless mini-split is a type of HVAC system, and a heat pump is a component that can be part of various systems, including mini-splits.

What are the most popular manufacturers of ductless mini-splits?

Mitsubishi, Rheem/Ruud, American Standard, Carrier, Trane, Bryant and York are among the most recognized brands Bigelow Oil & Energy install & service.

What are the most popular models of ductless mini-splits?

Again, specifics can change, but some historically popular models include:

  • Mitsubishi’s MUZ series
  • Rheem® Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pump Systems
  • American Standard Platinum and Silver Series
  • Trane XR/XV/XL Series

Would purchasing and installing a heat pump for a home in the Boston area be a good investment?

Deciding on purchasing and installing a heat pump in the Boston area is a good investment depends on several factors. Here are some considerations to help you determine if it’s the right decision for your home:

Climate Considerations:

  • Winter: Boston experiences cold winters, with temperatures often dropping below freezing. However, with advancements in technology, modern air-source heat pumps, especially those designed for cold climates, can operate efficiently even in lower temperatures. Still, for the coldest days, supplementary heating might be needed.
  • Summer: Boston has warm summers, and heat pumps can be very effective for cooling, operating in a manner similar to air conditioners.

Energy Costs and Savings:

  • Electricity vs. Gas: If your home currently uses natural gas or residential heating oil, which are often less expensive than electricity, the cost savings of switching to a heat pump might not be as significant.
  • Efficiency: Heat pumps can be two to three times more efficient than conventional electric resistance heaters.

Incentives and Rebates:

  • Massachusetts is currently offering up to $16,000 per home in rebates for purchase of qualified heat pump. These rebates are offered on a first come first serve basis and so please check local programs and federal tax incentives to see what might apply to your situation before you purchase.

Environmental Considerations:

  • If reducing your carbon footprint is a priority, heat pumps can be a greener alternative, especially if your electricity comes from renewable sources.

Upfront Costs vs. Long-Term Savings:

  • Heat pumps, especially ground-source or geothermal systems, can be expensive to install. However, the potential energy savings over time might offset the initial investment.
  • It’s essential to calculate the return on investment by estimating yearly savings and comparing that to the upfront costs.

Home Comfort:

  • Heat pumps often provide more consistent and even heating and cooling compared to traditional systems. Heat pumps are not ideal for erratic use though, or use with a setback thermostat as their efficiency and heating consistency is drastically reduced unless they are simply left on. They can also improve indoor air quality by reducing the need to open windows in pollen-rich seasons.

Home’s Infrastructure:

  • If your home lacks ductwork, ductless mini-split heat pumps might be an excellent option, saving you the expense and hassle of installing ducts.
  • If your home already has ductwork in place, it may be compatible with a ducted heat pump system, though an assessment by a professional would be necessary.


Heat pumps and ductless mini-splits offer a versatile and efficient solution for homeowners seeking both heating and cooling options. For many homeowners in the Boston area, especially those currently relying on electric resistance heating, a heat pump can be a good investment. The potential for energy savings, increased comfort, environmental benefits, and available incentives can make them an attractive option.

If you’re considering installing a heat pump or mini-split in the MetroWest area of Boston, it’s vital to research and choose a reputable installer to ensure you get the best system for your needs.

Contact Bigelow Energy & Oil today to consult with one of our experienced HVAC professionals and request a cost-benefit analysis tailored to your home’s specifics.

Call 617-964-1600 and mention this blog for a complimentary consultation!