Why Multifamily Properties Should Consider Heat Pumps

Why Multifamily Properties Should Consider Heat Pumps

When it comes to heating and cooling homes in PG&E service territory—which mostly features a mild, Mediterranean-type climate—heat pumps are a great alternative to air conditioners (AC) and furnaces. Heat pumps provide exceptional efficiency, can enhance safety, and improve indoor air quality.

What is a heat pump?

Heat pumps are a single piece of equipment that can provide both heating and cooling. A heat pump uses a vapor-compression refrigeration cycle system that can be reversed to either heat or cool a controlled space. In simpler terms, a heat pump works similarly to ACs— when cooling, they remove heat from inside the living area and transport it outside. However, unlike ACs, heat pumps can reverse the conditioning process, allowing them to move heat inside during the cold season to warm the living area. This same technology can be used for water heating, pulling heat out of the ambient air and transferring it into a hot water tank.

To learn more about the technical features of heat pumps, check out this article by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Which type of heat pumps are ideal for multifamily?

Many multifamily properties in Northern California do not have ducted heating and cooling, so mini-split heat pumps are ideal as they do not require ductwork to operate. Mini-split heating and cooling systems simply require a three-inch hole between the inside and outside spaces through which a compressor or condenser is placed outside the home and an air-handling unit is installed inside. This makes installation easier (once installers overcome the learning curve, see Disadvantages below) than many types of space conditioning systems, such as large in-wall or window-mounted air condition units. In addition, installing mini-split heat pumps can provide additional security for residents, as in-wall and window-mounted air conditioners can provide easy access for intruders.

Note, a single compressor may be connected to up to four (in most models) independent air-handling units, and each air-handling unit has its own thermostat. This allows residents to heat or cool individual rooms/spaces in the homes, which increases comfort and lowers energy bills.

Last, mini-split heat pumps offer interior design flexibility, as indoor air handlers can be suspended from a ceiling, mounted flush into a drop ceiling, or hung on a wall.

Heat pump benefits

In climates with moderate heating and cooling demands, such as Northern California, heat pumps provide excellent benefits to owners and residents.

Owner benefits

Heat pumps:

MUP Heat Pump Benefits


Resident benefits

MUP Heat Pump Resident Benefits

.[1] [2]

Recent studies have found that homes labeled as energy efficient have higher valuations than standard homes, which builders can use for marketing purposes.


While heat pumps offer many benefits, there are some potential disadvantages to consider. Many contractors are most comfortable with sizing and installing conventional technologies such as ACs and furnaces and are less familiar with heat pump installation processes. As with any building equipment, choosing the correct size of heat pump is essential—choosing too small or large a unit can cause inefficiencies that waste energy.[3]

Some find that mini-split ductless heat pumps, aesthetically, can be an eye sore when compared to a centrally ducted air system. However, mini-split heat pumps are generally smaller and less intrusive than window-mounted or in-wall air conditioners.

The process of heating water with a heat pump takes a longer time than heating water with natural gas or propane. Therefore, periods of heavy hot water use, such as several consecutive showers, can cause lower-efficiency (and therefore costlier) modes of water heating.

If you have any questions about how heat pumps may work for your property, please contact multifamilyupgrade@trccompanies.com.



[1] https://www.energystar.gov/products/heating_cooling/ductless_heating_cooling
[2] https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/heat-and-cool/heat-pump-systems
[3] https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/heat-pump-systems/ductless-mini-split-heat-pumps