If you’re looking for a new comfort system, chances are you’ve heard about the efficient, cost-effective and enviromentally friendly features of heat pumps. These systems have been sought after in warm climates for a very long time. But considering they use heat from the outdoor air and transfer it inside, conventional wisdom indicates that installing them in cold climates is not sensible. This may have you questioning if a heat pump is a good choice for your home in the Northern U.S. or Canada.
Before going into more detail, rest assured that modern, cold-weather heat pumps are suitable for northern climates. Over the past decade, the usage of heat pump technology has surged in Northern European countries such as Norway and Sweden. With standard January temperatures hovering around 20 degrees F, homeowners in these regions obviously need effective 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 was once unsuitable for cooler climates. As the temperature dipped below freezing, these systems were unfortunately unable to capture enough heat to efficiently warm a house. But this is no longer accurate. Here are the advanced features found in cold-climate heat pumps that permit them to perform efficiently at temperatures lower than 0 degrees F.
- Cold-weather refrigerants have a lower boiling point versus traditional heat pump refrigerants, enabling them to collect more heat energy from cold air.
- Multi-stage compressors work at lower speeds in temperate weather and switch to higher speeds in extreme cold. This increases efficiency in varying weather conditions and keeps the indoor temperature more stable.
- Variable-speed fans use multi-stage compressors to produce heated air at the proper rate.
- The improved coil design used in most modern heat pumps features grooved copper tubing with a greater surface area, allowing the unit to exchange heat more efficiently.
- Flash injection creates a shortcut in the refrigerant loop to boost cold-weather heating performance. Efficiency falls off a bit in this mode, but it’s still superior to depending on a backup electric resistance heater.
- Improved motors require less electricity to boost energy savings.
- Other engineering optimizations like weaker ambient flow rates, an increase in compressor capacity and enhanced compression cycle configurations further decrease energy consumption in icy 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.
Starting in 2023, the national 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, allowing them to operate at up to 400% efficiency in moderate weather. In other words, they move four times more energy than they consume in the process.
Performance falls 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 may vary. The biggest savers are likely to be people who heat with delivered 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 using a heat pump. The cost difference will depend on how harsh the winter is, the utility costs in your area, whether your system was installed correctly and whether you use solar panels to offset electricity costs.
Other Factors to Take into Consideration
If you’re considering transitioning 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 engineered for efficiency, but they should be sized, designed and installed correctly to perform at their best. Factors such as home insulation levels and the location 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 up to the end of 2022.
- Solar panels: Heat pumps run on electricity, so they function 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 an existing HVAC system or exploring options for a new property, Wesley Wood Service Experts can help you make a cost-effective choice. We’ll assess your home comfort needs, go over your budget and recommend the best equipment, which may be a cold-climate heat pump or another solution. To ask questions or schedule a heat pump installation estimate, please contact your local Wesley Wood Service Experts office today.