If you’re looking for a new comfort system, it’s likely that you’ve heard about the efficient, cost-effective and sustainable features of heat pumps. These systems have been a favorite in warm climates for a very long time. But because they absorb heat from the outdoor air and transfer it inside, conventional wisdom recommends that installing them in cold climates is not practical. This could have you wondering 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 acceptable for northern climates. In the last decade, the adoption of heat pump technology has surged in Northern European countries like Norway and Sweden. With average 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 Successful at Low Temperatures?
Heat pump technology used to be unsuitable for cold climates. As the temperature dipped below freezing, these systems were simply unable to extract enough heat to efficiently warm a house. But this is no longer the case. Here are the innovative features found in cold-climate heat pumps that enable them to operate efficiently at temperatures colder than 0 degrees F.
- Cold-weather refrigerants have a lower boiling point compared to traditional heat pump refrigerants, allowing them to collect more heat energy from cold air.
- Multi-stage compressors function at lower speeds in moderate weather and transition to higher speeds in extreme cold. This improves efficiency in varying weather conditions and keeps the indoor temperature more consistent.
- Variable-speed fans work with multi-stage compressors to deliver heated air at the proper rate.
- The upgraded coil design used in most modern heat pumps is designed with grooved copper tubing with a greater surface area, allowing the unit to transfer heat more efficiently.
- Flash injection creates a shortcut in the refrigerant loop to increase cold-weather heating performance. Efficiency drops a bit in this mode, but it’s still superior to depending on a backup electric resistance heater.
- Improved motors require less electricity to increase energy savings.
- Other engineering upgrades like weaker ambient flow rates, increased compressor capacity and improved compression cycle configurations further reduce 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 illustrates 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 national minimum efficiency rating for heat pumps will be 8.8 HSPF. Many cold-climate heat pumps offer ratings of 10 HSPF or higher, allowing them to operate at up to 400% efficiency in temperate weather. In other words, they move four times more energy than they use in the process.
Performance dips as the temperature drops, but various models are still around 100% efficient in sub-freezing conditions. Compare this to brand-new, high-efficiency furnaces, which max out at about 98% efficiency.
In terms of actual savings, results might vary. The biggest savers are probably people who heat with common fuels including propane and oil, as well as those who use electric furnaces or electric baseboard heaters.
Nevertheless, heating with natural gas still is usually less expensive than installing a heat pump. The cost difference is based on how tough the winter is, the utility prices in your area, whether your system was installed correctly and whether you have solar panels to offset electricity costs.
Other Factors to Think About
If you’re looking at switching from a traditional furnace, boiler or electric heater to a cold-climate heat pump, consider these other factors:
- Design and installation: Cold-weather heat pumps are built for efficiency, but they should be sized, designed and installed properly to perform at their peak. Factors like home insulation levels and the location of the outdoor unit can also impact 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 through the end of 2022.
- Solar panels: Heat pumps use electricity, so they pair well with solar panels. This combination can reduce your energy bills even further.
Start Saving with a Cold-Climate Heat Pump
Whether you’re replacing a current HVAC system or checking out options for a new property, A1 Chesney Service Experts can help you make a cost-effective choice. We’ll assess your home comfort needs, consider your budget and suggest the best equipment, which could be a cold-climate heat pump or another solution. To ask questions or schedule a heat pump installation estimate, please contact your local A1 Chesney Service Experts office today.