Attic Heat Pump System: Overviews. FAQs, and Pros and Cons

Attic heat pump installations are a popular choice for homeowners without a basement or who want to conserve living space. The area is often unfinished and used only for storage. And, as you’ll read, placing the air handler there can help distribute heating and cooling more evenly.


There are plenty of ways to make this work, but there are also some serious drawbacks to consider. Depending on some other factors in your home, it may actually be a bad idea. 

For more than decade, I’ve been a product manager for the HVAC distributor Peirce Phelps. I stay up-to-date on the latest HVAC innovations. And, I’m always getting information from HVAC contractors across the region.

Putting an HVAC system in the attic fairly common in the Mid-Atlantic states. Contractors have installed them in Jersey shore homes with no basement. And in large centuries-old houses in South Central Pennsylvania that need two HVAC systems.

The consensus is that sometimes times attic heat pumps add value to your home and work great — but there were plenty of other instances where they didn’t. 

I’ll give you all the information you need to know about installing a heat pump in your attic. If you have more questions, you can always get a free consultation from one of our certified contractors. 


Overview: Heat Pump In An Attic

First, let’s understand how heat pumps work, and how they differ from other heating and cooling systems. 

How It works

Heat pumps work by utilizing refrigerant to transfer heat from one place to another. In cooling mode, the heat pump removes heat from the indoor air and transfers it outside, effectively cooling your home. In heating mode the heat pump extracts heat from the outdoor air and transfers it inside.

Types of Attic Heat Pumps

There are two basic types of heat pumps you can have installed in your attic. Both are air-source, meaning they extract heat from the air as opposed to the ground or a water source.

A ducted system uses forced air like a furnace to distribute heating or cooling through vents. The unit in the attic is the air handler, which works in tandem with an outdoor compressor.

Mini splits have a heat pump outside and air handlers in every conditioned space. Each one works individually instead of sending air through ductwork.

However, there’s an option to do a “short ducted” run with an air handler in an unconditioned space, like an attic. That unit feeds a few small runs of narrow ductwork to a couple rooms.

Pros and Cons of Installing a Heat Pump in Your Attic

Here are some pros and cons of installing a heat pump in your attic:


Less noise

An attic heat pump can be much quieter than having the indoor unit in a closet or basement. That’s because they are generally further away from any living spaces.

Easier temperature control

An attic heater and air conditioner can maintain a consistent temperature throughout your home. It’s centrally located to distribute heated or cooled air to more rooms in the house. If it’s a second system for a larger home, you can control the temperature on a third floor.

More living space

Attic installations free up valuable living space inside the house.

Drawbacks of Installing a Heat Pump in Your Attic

Common issues after installing a heat pump in your attic are: 

Difficult to clean and maintain

Attic space can be difficult to access and maneuver in. That makes cleaning and maintenance challenging. This reduces efficiency and causes damage over time if you don’t keep it clean. Finally, repairs often cost more when techs can’t easily access the unit. 

Lower efficiency

An attic heat pump is exposed to more extreme temperatures than one in a basement or closet. These conditions can significantly reduce your systems efficiency. That leads to increased energy consumption and higher utility bills. 

Rodent infestation 

Attics are often susceptible to pest infestations, and heat pumps can attract rodents seeking shelter from the elements. These critters can cause damage to the unit itself, as well as the ductwork and insulation surrounding it. Rotting floor joists may also become an issue. 

Problems go undetected

You’re less likely to notice a problem with an attic heat pump system because you’re not around it that often. This can lead to more extensive damage and more costly repairs when you finally notice a problem.

 Maintenance can be more expensive

Service professionals may need specialized equipment and training to access and repair the system. 

Insurance coverage may be limited

Some insurance providers may limit coverage or charge higher premiums for homes with heat pumps installed in the attic. This is due to the increased risk of damage and more complex repairs.

Tips for Getting the Best Out of Your Attic Heat Pump System

Once you’ve installed a heat pump in your attic, you can take steps to ensure your system runs efficiently and effectively. Here are some tips to get the best out of your attic air handler:

Regular Maintenance

As a homeowner, you can clean around the indoor and outdoor units and change the air filters. Then, get it inspected twice a year (once for cooling, once for heating) by a professional.

Pest Prevention Measures

Seal any potential entry points, such as gaps around pipes and wires, and keep your attic clean and clutter-free.

Proper Insulation

Inadequate insulation can cause heat loss and decreased efficiency, leading to higher energy bills.

Monitoring Energy Usage

Keep an eye on your energy bills and look for any sudden spikes or changes in usage. Anything unusual may be a sign that your system is not running efficiently. Repairing a small problem right away saves money instead of when it gets much worse over time. 

Professional Installation and Repair

Improper installation or repair can lead to a variety of issues, including decreased efficiency, increased energy bills, and even safety hazards. Most warranties are void unless a licensed, certified HVAC contractor installed the system.

Attic Heat Pump FAQs

Hopefully, you now feel confident deciding whether or not to install a heat pump in your attic. I’ll review a few frequently asked questions here. Our network of contractors is also available for a free consultation. 


Where should you not install a heat pump?

Heat pumps should not be installed in very closed off spaces or where it gets extremely hot or cold. The extreme temperatures affect performance, and condensation can damage the system. 

Why do they put AC units in the attic?

AC units are sometimes installed in the attic to save space and for aesthetic reasons. It can also help to reduce noise levels inside the home. However, this can lead to issues with maintenance and cleaning, as well as potential leaks or damage from condensation.

Find the right heat pump installer for your home in Cherry Hill, NJ or anywhere in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, or Pennsylvania.