If you’re looking for a new comfort system, chances are you’ve heard about the efficient, cost-effective and sustainable features of heat pumps. These systems have been a favorite in warm climates for many years. But because they absorb heat from the outdoor air and transfer it inside, conventional wisdom suggests that installing them in cold climates is not sensible. This could 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 acceptable for northern climates. Over the past decade, the acceptance of heat pump technology has surged in Northern European countries like Norway and Sweden. With frequent January temperatures sitting around 20 degrees F, homeowners in these areas obviously rely on efficient heating options. Those who have installed cold-climate heat pumps have found that they meet their needs perfectly.
What Makes Cold-Climate Heat Pumps More Effective at Low Temperatures?
Heat pump technology was once insufficient for cold climates. As the temperature fell below freezing, these systems were unfortunately unable to capture enough heat to efficiently warm a house. But this is no longer the case. Here are the special features designed for cold-climate heat pumps that allow them to operate efficiently at temperatures lower than 0 degrees F.
- Cold-weather coolants have a lower boiling point compared to traditional heat pump refrigerants, helping them to pull more heat energy from cold air.
- Multi-stage compressors work at lower speeds in moderate weather and switch to higher speeds in intense cold. This increases efficiency in changing 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 bigger surface area, allowing the unit to exchange heat more efficiently.
- Flash injection creates a shortcut in the refrigerant loop to improve cold-weather heating performance. Efficiency falls off a bit in this mode, but it’s still superior to counting on a backup electric resistance heater.
- More powerful motors use less electricity to increase energy savings.
- Other engineering upgrades like decreased ambient flow rates, increased compressor capacity and enhanced compression cycle configurations further decrease energy consumption in frigid winter weather.
Traditional Heating Systems vs. Heat Pumps in Colder Climates
Heat pump efficiency is calculated by its heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF), which demonstrates the total heating output throughout the heating season divided by the energy consumed for 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 come with ratings of 10 HSPF or higher, enabling them to operate at up to 400% efficiency in temperate weather. In other words, they move four times more energy than they consume in the process.
Performance dips 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 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 such as propane and oil, as well as those who use electric furnaces or electric baseboard heaters.
However, heating with natural gas still tends to be less expensive than running a heat pump. The cost difference depends on how tough the winter is, the utility rates in your area, whether your equipment was installed correctly and whether you installed solar panels to offset electricity costs.
Other Factors to Take into Consideration
If you’re thinking of transitioning from a traditional furnace, boiler or electric heater to a cold-climate heat pump, consider these additional factors:
- Design and installation: Cold-weather heat pumps are designed for efficiency, but they should be sized, designed and installed precisely to perform at their peak. Factors such as home insulation levels and the placement of the outdoor unit can also affect system performance.
- Tax credits: You can save on heat pump installation costs with energy tax credits from the United States government. The tax credit amount for qualifying installations is $300 until the end of 2022.
- Solar panels: Heat pumps use electricity, so they function well with solar panels. This collaboration can reduce your energy bills even further.
Start Saving with a Cold-Climate Heat Pump
Whether you’re replacing an old HVAC system or comparing options for a new property, All American Air 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 similar product. To ask questions or schedule a heat pump installation estimate, please contact your local All American Air Service Experts office today.