Heat Pump Efficiency in Freezing Temps


Heat pumps are an efficient solution for space heating and air conditioning. They work by moving heat from one area to another, by drawing heat energy from the air outside using refrigerant to maintain a warmer temperature inside your home in winter. The cycle simply reverses in summer, expelling heat to cool your home.

As outdoor temps drop below freezing, heating the frigid outside air can cause older heat pumps to struggle. Over the last decade, with the addition of inverter technology, modern heat pumps performance has greatly increased in cold climates. Old heat pumps had single speed motors which were always running at one speed. Today, heat pumps vary the speed of the motor based on temperature, humidity, and other factors inside and outside your home increasing efficiency. The inverter eliminates energy losses caused by repeated starts and stops by adjusting the refrigerant speed automatically.

The main challenge when using a heat pump system with freezing temperatures is controlling ice accumulation on the outdoor coils. Since the unit is removing heat from outdoor air that is already cold, humidity can easily collect and freeze on the surface of its coils.

Although the heat pump defrost cycle can melt the ice on outdoor coils, the unit cannot deliver space heating during this cycle. As outdoor temperatures drop, the heat pump must enter the defrost cycle more frequently to compensate for ice formation, and this limits the heat delivered to indoor spaces during these times. This process is automatic, resulting in some temporary temperature loss in the home, but by design the heat pump will correct back to set temperature quickly and cost effectively.

Helpful tips to help with heat pump efficiency in freezing temperatures:

  • Do not turn the heat pump off by switching to Emergency Heat. Assuming your heat pump is working properly, doing so will increase the cost of your electrical bill two to three times with decreased heating benefits.
  • Set your thermostat to the desired temperature and walk away. Heat pumps are most efficient when maintaining temperature. When the temperature is lowered at night and raised in the morning for example, the system must work extra hard to get back to the higher setting and it may take hours to reach it.
  • Open blinds and curtains to let the sun help warm your home.
  • Open all inside vents and doors to help circulate the warmed air.
  • Seal cracks in foundation, windows and doors to keep the outside air from entering your home.
  • Purchase a new heat pump system and yield the benefits of technology in heating and cooling for complete satisfaction in your home comfort.

To learn more, to set up a repair, or to talk about saving money and benefits with a new system, contact us today. We are here to answer your questions and provide free installation estimates.

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