If you’re searching for a new comfort system, it’s likely that you’ve heard about the efficient, cost-effective and eco-friendly features of heat pumps. Heat pumps have been a favorite in warm climates for many years. But since they take heat from the outdoor air and transfer it inside, conventional wisdom recommends that installing them in cold climates is not worth the effort. This may have you questioning if a heat pump is a better choice for your home in the Northern U.S. or Canada.
Before going more in-depth, rest assured that modern, cold-weather heat pumps are suitable for northern climates. Over the past decade, the usage of heat pump technology has soared in Northern European countries such as Norway and Sweden. With ordinary January temperatures sitting around 20 degrees F, homeowners in these communities obviously need powerful heating options. Those who have installed cold-climate heat pumps have been delighted to discover that they fulfill their needs perfectly.
What Makes Cold-Climate Heat Pumps More Efficient at Low Temperatures?
Heat pump technology was previously insufficient for temperate climates. As the temperature fell below freezing, these systems were simply unable to capture enough heat to efficiently warm a house. But this is no longer the case. Here are the special features used in cold-climate heat pumps that enable them to operate efficiently at temperatures colder than 0 degrees F.
- Cold-weather coolants have a lower boiling point versus traditional heat pump refrigerants, allowing them to pull more heat energy from cold air.
- Multi-stage compressors run at lower speeds in temperate weather and increase to higher speeds in severe cold. This increases efficiency in varying weather conditions and keeps the indoor temperature more stable.
- Variable-speed fans have multi-stage compressors to supply heated air at the proper rate.
- The upgraded coil design used in most modern heat pumps includes grooved copper tubing with a bigger surface area, enabling the unit to transfer heat more efficiently.
- Flash injection creates a shortcut in the refrigerant loop to boost cold-weather heating performance. Efficiency drops a bit in this mode, but it’s still better than depending on a backup electric resistance heater.
- Better motors use less electricity to boost energy savings.
- Other engineering optimizations such as reduced ambient flow rates, an increase in compressor capacity and improved compression cycle configurations further lower energy consumption in freezing winter weather.
Traditional Heating Systems vs. Heat Pumps in Colder Climates
Heat pump efficiency is measured by its heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF), which demonstrates the total heating output throughout the heating season divided by the energy consumed during that period. The higher the HSPF, the better the efficiency.
Beginning in 2023, the nationwide minimum efficiency rating for heat pumps will be 8.8 HSPF. Lots of cold-climate heat pumps offer ratings of 10 HSPF or higher, allowing them to operate at up to 400% efficiency in mild weather. In other words, they move four times more energy than they consume in the process.
Performance drops as the temperature drops, but many models are still around 100% efficient in sub-freezing conditions. Compare this to brand-new, high-efficiency furnaces, which top out at about 98% efficiency.
In terms of actual savings, results can vary. The biggest savers are likely to be people who heat with combustible fuels including propane and oil, as well as those who use electric furnaces or electric baseboard heaters.
However, heating with natural gas still is generally less expensive than running a heat pump. The cost difference is based on how harsh the winter is, the utility prices in your area, whether your heat pump was installed correctly and whether you have solar panels to offset electricity costs.
Other Factors to Take into Consideration
If you’re looking at transitioning from a traditional furnace, boiler or electric heater to a cold-climate heat pump, don't forget these additional factors:
- Design and installation: Cold-weather heat pumps are built for efficiency, but they must be sized, designed and installed precisely to perform at their best. Factors like home insulation levels and the placement of the outdoor unit can also reduce system performance.
- Tax credits: You can save on heat pump installation costs with energy tax credits from the federal government. The tax credit amount for qualifying installations is $300 until the end of 2022.
- Solar panels: Heat pumps use electricity, so they pair well with solar panels. This combination can lower your energy bills even further.
Start Saving with a Cold-Climate Heat Pump
Whether you’re replacing an old HVAC system or checking out options for a new property, Falso Service Experts can help you make a cost-effective decision. We’ll review your home comfort needs, go over your budget and point you toward the best equipment, which could be a cold-climate heat pump or similar product. To ask questions or schedule a heat pump installation estimate, please contact your local Falso Service Experts office today.