Heat Pump Efficiency in Cold Weather

Heat pumps will play an important role in helping millions of American households save money and lower the carbon emissions associated with heating their homes.

Energy-efficient heat pumps offer substantial energy savings compared to propane, fuel oil, electric furnaces, pellet stoves, and woodstoves. Southern states with more temperate winters have quickly adopted the technology, but northern states are now making the switch.

In the past, the concern for many northern homeowners has centered around how well air-source heat pumps work in winter, especially in regions with consistently frigid temperatures. The good news is that modern heat pumps can keep your house warm and toasty even on the coldest days of the year—and now come with attractive federal rebates and tax credits.

Related: What Is a Heat Pump and How Does It Work?

Heat Pumps Can Work In Cold Climates 

Properly installed and well-maintained heat pumps can keep your home comfortable on even the frostiest days of winter—and do so using less energy than a traditional heating system. However, poorly installed heat pumps are far less efficient, so be sure to work with your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning technician to get all the benefits of installing a heat pump in your home.

Heat Pump Efficiency vs. Temperature Outside 

If they work well in most conditions, at what temperature are heat pumps most efficienct? First, it’s true that outdoor temperatures do impact the energy efficiency of heat pumps. Depending on the model, heat pumps tend to be less efficient as temperatures dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. At approximately 25 degrees, most heat pumps will still be more efficient than traditional furnaces or boilers. The break-even point is usually around 15 degrees.

Your heat pump will still work below freezing and below 15 degrees. It will continue to perform below 0 degrees or colder. It just won't be as efficient over those very coldest days of winter as using a gas-fired furnace.

Using a Backup Heat Source with a Heat Pump 

Homeowners in colder regions may choose to utilize a backup heat source to take over when their heat pump's efficiency drops. Most choose electric resistance heat in the form of electric furnaces, boilers, or radiators, though keeping your existing natural gas furnace in place is a common option as well. This is called a “dual-fuel” solution, and you will use the least expensive heating source depending on the temperature outside, saving you money and vastly reducing your carbon footprint since your gas-fired furnace will only be used on the few coldest days of the year.

Wonder how? An integrated smart thermostat can automatically choose the most energy-efficient heat source! The system weighs factors such as:

  • Indoor heat setting
  • Outdoor temperature
  • Current energy rates (your kWh electric rate, your gas utility’s price for natural gas)
  • Average and forecasted run times based on your programmed settings

Still not sure if an air-source heat pump will work in your region? Check out this heat pump efficiency vs. outside temperature graph.

Cold Climate? Heat Pumps Still Lower Energy Costs! 

More manufacturers are designing cold-climate heat pumps that are as energy efficient at 5 degrees as they are at 47 degrees.

Here's what to think about if you're considering a new heat pump and you live in a cold region:

  • Look at historical data; how many days is your temperature below freezing? Below 0 degrees?
  • If your current heating system is in good shape, you can keep it as a backup heat source.
  • Have you addressed other energy efficiency upgrades in your home to get the most out of your heat pump? Consider having your home inspected for air leaks or improving your home's insulation.

Get Your Heat Pump Installed the Right Way 

Trust One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning to help you select the right heat pump for your home and install it correctly. No matter your climate, heat pumps offer an environmentally-friendly alternative to fossil fuels—and they'll keep your family comfortable year-round. Install one now, and enjoy substantial federal incentives. Request an appointment or call (800) 893-3523 to learn more.