Old building in Dunedin - The Hydro


Explore the challenges and solutions with our team at McClelland Refrigeration, for retrofitting heat pumps in Dunedin’s heritage homes while maintaining their architectural integrity.


Preserving the Past while Embracing the Future 

Dunedin, often referred to as the ‘Edinburgh of the South,’ has a unique architectural heritage that is a strong reflection of its rich history. What’s more, Dunedin’s streets are lined with stunning heritage homes, showcasing elegant Victorian and Edwardian-era architecture, intricate woodwork, and a unique sense of historical charm. 

However, as Dunedin residents know, the city’s climate of cold winters and humid summers can be quite challenging. This presents a unique dilemma for Dunedin homeowners of heritage properties. How to retrofit modern heat pumps into these architectural gems without compromising their historical integrity. 


Dunedin’s Architectural Gems 

There are many things that make Dunedin’s heritage homes so special. Here are of few of the most important attributes:

  1. Historical Significance: Dunedin’s Victorian and Edwardian-era homes are more than just bricks and mortar; they are pieces of living history. Each of these homes has its own story to tell, reflecting the architectural trends and societal values of its time. 
  2. Architectural Beauty: These heritage homes are known for their stunning facades, intricate woodwork, stained glass windows, and spacious verandas. Their design and craftsmanship are a testament to the skill and artistry of the past. 
  3. Cultural Heritage: Many of Dunedin’s heritage homes have cultural and historical significance. Some have hosted prominent figures or important roles in local events that are still celebrated today. Some of these Dunedin homes also have significant educational and touristic value.
  4. Community Identity: Heritage homes are an integral part of Dunedin’s community identity. They contribute to the city’s unique character and sense of place. Given the significance of these homes, it’s no wonder that their preservation is so important to both homeowners and the community. 


The Challenge of Retrofitting 

Dunedin’s climate includes extremely cold, damp winters and high levels of humidity. This climate necessitates the need for effective heating solutions. Modern heat pumps are energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, and capable of providing both heating and cooling. 

However, many heritage homes were not designed with these systems in mind. Retrofitting heat pumps into these properties leads to a unique set of challenges for homeowners when they are waiting to create a warmer, dryer Dunedin home. 

Preservation of Architectural Integrity 

One of the primary concerns when looking at installing heat pumps into Dunedin’s heritage homes is preserving their architectural integrity. Homeowners, preservationists, and local authorities are keen to ensure that any modifications do not compromise the historical value of these properties.

Limited Space for Heat Pumps in Dunedin Homes

Many heritage homes have limited space for installation. These homes have not been designed with specific places for heat pumps and do not often have the open floor plans and utility spaces that modern homes enjoy. This makes it more challenging for homeowners to find suitable locations for heat pump units. 

Visual Impact 

The visual impact of heat pump units on the exterior of a heritage home is another factor that requires consideration. In many cases, heritage regulations and community preferences place strict limitations on the visibility of external modifications. 

Efficiency of Heat Pumps in Dunedin

Efficiency is a key factor when retrofitting heat pumps into Dunedin’s heritage homes. The systems need to provide effective heating and cooling while not overburdening the existing electrical systems of the house. 

Old red brick home in Dunedin that Requires heat pump

Customised Solutions for Heritage Homes 

To maintain a good balance between comfort and preservation. McClelland Refrigeration are Heat Pump experts who have developed customised solutions for heritage homes in Dunedin. These solutions take into account the unique challenges posed by these properties and include:

Concealed Installation 

Concealed or discreet installation is a popular choice for heritage homes. Heat pumps can be strategically placed in inconspicuous locations, ensuring that they do not detract from the home’s historical character. 

This may involve concealing units within existing architectural features or discreetly locating them in areas like basements or attics. 

Zoning for Efficient Heating 

Zoning capabilities in modern heat pumps allow for efficient heating in specific areas, reducing the need for extensive ductwork and preserving the aesthetics of heritage homes. 

By dividing the home into zones, residents can independently control the temperature in different areas, ensuring that heat is distributed where it’s needed most. 

Ductless Heat Pumps 

Ductless heat pumps are an excellent option for heritage homes, eliminating the need for intrusive ductwork and minimising visual impact. 

These systems consist of an indoor unit and an outdoor compressor connected by a small conduit. The indoor unit can be discreetly mounted on walls or ceilings, allowing for unobtrusive installation. 

Preservation-Friendly Materials 

Selecting preservation-friendly materials for heat pump installation is essential. These materials may include matching colours or textures to ensure that the retrofit remains harmonious with the home’s original features. 

Also the use of materials that are easy to remove or reverse is another important factor in ensuring the heritage of the Dunedin home can be preserved. 


Collaboration is key to the successful retrofit of heritage homes. Homeowners, preservationists, and heat pump professionals must work together to find solutions that satisfy both the comfort needs of the residents and the preservation goals of the community. 

At McClelland Refrigeration, we will work together with you to make sure you get what you want from a retrofit heat pump.

In Summary 

Harmonising the Past and Present Retrofitting heat pumps into heritage homes in Dunedin is a delicate balancing act. It involves preserving the historical and architectural significance of these properties while embracing modern comfort and energy efficiency. 

The successful retrofit of heat pumps in heritage homes relies on customised solutions, concealed installations, zoning capabilities, ductless systems, preservation-friendly materials, and collaborative efforts. 

These solutions ensure that Dunedin’s heritage homes remain an integral part of the city’s identity and continue to tell their historical stories. Get in contact with the Heat Pump professionals at McClelland Refrigeration today.

Phone: 03 477 0088