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Heat Pump FAQ

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Heat Pumps

This will be different for every home. A home’s savings will depend on the current source of heating fuel, age of home, amount of insulation, among other factors. The Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships found that when heat pumps designed specifically for colder regions were installed in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, the annual savings are around 3,000 kWh (or $459) when compared to electric resistance heaters, and 6,200 kWh (or $948) when compared to oil systems. When displacing oil (i.e., the oil system remains, but operates less frequently), the average annual savings are nearly 3,000 kWh (or about $300).

These are efficiency ratings based on manufacturer testing to help consumers anticipate how well the heat pump will perform. Generally, higher rating = more efficient heat pump.

SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) or SEER2: A measure of equipment energy efficiency over the cooling season. The rating of a unit’s cooling output (Btu) during a typical cooling-season divided by the total electric energy input (watt-hours) during the same period.

HSPF (Heating Season Performance Factor) or HSPF2: A measure of a heat pump’s energy efficiency over one heating season. The ratio of heat output (Btu) over the heating season to electricity used (watt-hours) during the same period.

EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) or EER2: A measure of efficiency in the cooling mode. The ratio of total cooling capacity (Btu/h) to electrical energy input (Watts).

COP (Coefficient of Performance): This is the ratio of cooling or heating output to energy consumed at a specific temperature. This ratio converts both output and consumption to a common unit, making this different than HSPF or SEER, which use a ratio of BTUs to watt-hours.

Yes. All homes and businesses are capable of being heated and cooled entirely with heat pumps. There are a number of variables a local contractor will take into consideration to recommend the best heat pump option for a home or business. If looking for a whole-home or whole-business heating solution, be sure to let the installer know.

Heat pumps will typically be sized larger than standard air conditioners since homes in Michigan have more heating needs than cooling needs. Heat pump sizing varies by home based on square footage of the home, floorplan, insulation levels, air-tightness, etc. Homeowners should talk to their contractor to make sure the heat pump is sized according to their home’s heating and cooling needs. If homeowners want to meet both heating and cooling needs, they should look for a variable speed system.

Yes. Certain high efficiency units work well in cold weather. Many cold climate ductless systems are designed to work down to -15 degrees Fahrenheit. Some ducted systems can work down to as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit. For a cold climate product list visit Ground source heat pumps can be an effective solution at any temperature. Homeowners should discuss options for models specifically designed to perform to low temperatures with their contractor.

As outdoor temperatures get colder and colder, it gets increasingly difficult for a heat pump to absorb heat from the air and the efficiency of the system goes down. On the coldest of days it will typically be cheaper to run a conventional heating system. The exact transition temperature will depend on the heat pump model, electricity and backup fuel prices, and whether the heat pump is sized for heating.

No. Though high-efficiency heat pumps may be configured to work as the sole heating system, they are often used to supplement an existing system.

High-efficiency heat pumps perform the same functions as five different appliances: heaters, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, ceiling fans, and room air filter.

No. Heat pumps move heat, not air. If a fresh-air intake is something homeowners are interested in, they should discuss options with their contractor.

It can vary, depending on how much the system is used and how regularly it is checked or serviced. Generally, the average life-span of units is 15-20 years, but individual units may vary and last longer depending on the use and how well they are maintained.

Most heat pumps run at approximately 45 decibels, equivalent to a person’s whisper, up to 76 decibels, equivalent to a vacuum cleaner. Homeowners will likely not notice their heat pump any more than they would a central air conditioner. If noise is a concern look for outdoor units with low decibels, such as sound insulation or locate the outdoor unit away from bedrooms.

High efficiency units have lower operating costs, provide better cooling and dehumidification and may provide more heat at lower temperatures. Homeowners should be sure to tell their contractor how they would like to use these systems to ensure they are sized properly.