Please choose a Location

Can Heat Pumps be Used in Northern Climates?

If you’re looking for a new comfort system, it’s likely that you’ve heard about the efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly features of heat pumps. Heat pumps have been sought after in warm climates for decades. But considering they take heat from the outdoor air and transfer it inside, conventional wisdom suggests that installing them in cold climates is not sensible. This might have you asking if a heat pump is a better 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 acceptable for northern climates. Over the past decade, the acceptance of heat pump technology has surged in Northern European countries such as Norway and Sweden. With frequent January temperatures hovering around 20 degrees F, homeowners in these regions obviously need efficient 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 Effective at Low Temperatures?

Heat pump technology used to be unsuitable for cooler climates. As the temperature fell below freezing, these systems were just unable to collect enough heat to effectively warm a house. But this is no longer the case. Here are the advanced features designed for cold-climate heat pumps that enable them to perform efficiently at temperatures colder than 0 degrees F.

    • Cold-weather refrigerants have a lower boiling point than traditional heat pump refrigerants, enabling them to collect more heat energy from cold air.
    • Multi-stage compressors function at lower speeds in temperate weather and increase to higher speeds in extreme cold. This boosts efficiency in varying weather conditions and keeps the indoor temperature more stable.
    • Variable-speed fans have multi-stage compressors to produce heated air at the proper rate.
    • The upgraded coil design found in most modern heat pumps includes grooved copper tubing with a larger surface area, helping the unit to transfer heat more efficiently.
    • Flash injection opens up a shortcut in the refrigerant loop to improve cold-weather heating performance. Efficiency drops a bit in this mode, but it’s still superior to counting on a backup electric resistance heater.
    • Improved motors require less electricity to boost energy savings.
    • Other engineering optimizations like decreased ambient flow rates, increased compressor capacity and enhanced compression cycle configurations further reduce energy consumption in frigid 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 over 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 come with 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 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 may vary. The biggest savers are usually people who heat with common fuels including propane and oil, as well as those who use electric furnaces or electric baseboard heaters.

However, heating with natural gas still is usually less expensive than installing a heat pump. The cost variation is based on how harsh the winter is, the utility costs in your area, whether your system was installed correctly and whether you installed solar panels to offset electricity costs.

Other Factors to Take into Consideration

If you’re thinking of switching 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 engineered for efficiency, but they need to be sized, designed and installed correctly to perform at their best. Factors like home insulation levels and the location 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 through the end of 2022.
    • Solar panels: Heat pumps are powered by electricity, so they work 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 comparing options for a new property, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can help you make a cost-effective decision. We’ll review your home comfort needs, consider your budget and point you toward the best equipment, which may be a cold-climate heat pump or another kind of system. To ask questions or schedule a heat pump installation estimate, please contact your local Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office today.

Savings For You

See All Offers Here >
Offer

$50 OFF ANY REPAIR

  • Save $50 on a Paid Service
  • Written 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
  • Plus, ask how to save an additional 15% and waive your trip charge!
print
Offer

FREE STANDARD DUCT CLEANING WITH THE PURCHASE OF COMPLETE SYSTEM

  • Written 100% Expert Service Guarantee
print

© 2024 Service Experts, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning, and the Service Experts logo and design are registered trademarks of Service Experts LLC and used under license by SE Canada Inc. All Rights Reserved. *Not applicable to the Advantage Program. See your signed Advantage Program Agreement for full details and exclusions. 100% Satisfaction Guarantee is subject to certain restrictions and limitations as set forth in the applicable Terms and Conditions.

Chat with a Service Experts Professional