If you live in a moderate climate and want to reduce your heating and cooling bills dramatically, one of the best ways to achieve this is with an energy efficient heat pump.
Utilizing only a small amount of electricity, these appliances work by transferring heat from one location to another i.e. from the outside and into your home.
There are a wide variety of heat pumps that vary in terms of installation, cooling and heating capacity, as well as their efficiency (determined by their SEER and HSPF ratings).
With these factors in mind, we have compared and reviewed some of the most popular heat pumps. Additionally, we have answered some of the most common questions people have when it comes to selecting the right unit for their circumstances.
Quick Picks: Best Heat Pumps Comparison
Top Picks: Best Heat Pump Reviews
This super sleek split system heat pump is available in multiple different heat outputs, ranging from 9,000 BTU’s to 36,000 BTU’s, meaning there’s likely one for whatever sized property you live in – small, medium or large.
The LED temperature display gives an edge over many competitors too and it also means you don’t have to buy or rely on thermometers.
The indoor component is ductless, helping to make further efficiency savings, which is an advantage over air-source heat pump that requires a duct system – inefficient to use and expensive to install.
Instead, you get an installation kit with a 16-inch line, which can be a made to a custom length if you prefer, everything for installation is included except the tools.
In general, there are a lot of concerns about noise from the fan in heat pumps, but this unit is extremely quiet on both the indoor and outdoor components.
The outdoor part of the system will need to have its own circuit which is a not a job that many people are up to so you may need a professional HVAC technician to come and install this system for you.
This is just because, a professional job at installing your heat pump system can ensure that it lasts and works to its full capacity. An amateur installation may mean you’ll get less life out of the unit and may not have it run at its full efficiency.
The temperature settings, timer, and speed can all be controlled with a remote, meaning you won’t even have to move from your seat or slumber if you’re feeling too hot or cold. This is the most user friendly heat pump.
This small do-it-yourself heat pump is perfect for small living spaces including small homes, garages, home gyms and even bedrooms.
Although perhaps the best benefit of the Mr Cool is that it’s designed for simple and easy installation, helping you to keep costs low and ideal for speedy operation.
At 24,000 BTU’s this model is suitable for moderate climates that don’t get too cool. For instance, if you are experiencing outdoor temperatures at around 30oF outdoors, this unit will likely help you get the temperature up to the 70’s indoors.
It also has wifi functionality, allowing you to connect it to your phone and control the setting from there, convenient and effective – it also means there’s no need to worry about losing another controller.
The installation is very straightforward and involves placing a wall bracket wherever convenient; you will need the necessary tools to do this of course.
There is an issue, however, with he instructions which display the lines as on the side of the unit when in reality they are on the back This requires you to bend the line set, which can be difficult even though it is relatively flexible, in order to get the indoor part of the unit mounted flush onto the wall or wall bracket.
You will need to bore a hole through the wall if you don’t already have one that housed a previous air conditioner or heat pump; again, not too difficult but something worth remembering. This can easily be achieved using a drill.
With that being said, the instructions are otherwise clear and the design of the unit makes this the top heat pump for ease of installation.
If you’re looking to supplement the cooling or heating capability of a certain part of your homes, such as a bathroom or bedroom, then this mini model by Senville will get the job done.
Available from 9,000 BTU’s to 24,000 BTU’s, this model features inverter and compressor components made by Toshiba – a reliable and trustworthy manufacturer.
With regards to installation, a kit is included which includes everything you need for a straightforward setup – including a 16 ft copper line. However, bear in mind that copper is temperamental and can be easily manipulated, for that reason we would always advise professional installation.
The warranty is also dependant on getting it professionally installed to, so take note and do so at your own risk. Like the previously discussed models, installation generally involves wall mounting, as well as creating holes for the electric cables and copper line.
Like other similar models, it comes with a remote control, for easy temperature modulation and the fan technology provides a quiet operation making it ideal for sleeping environments such as bedrooms and even hotels. This is the top rated heat pump for those on a budget.
This 3 Ton 14 seer heat pump is one in the line of much sought after, and hgihly rated Goodman Heat Pumps that people know and love.
The reason they are so popular? It’s because they are highly effective, highly efficient and work in temperatures that others find non-ideal.
An Installation kit is provided with this product as well as with most Goodman heat pumps as it is very easy for those without experience to install. This heat pump is quiet and efficient, you’ll not have to worry about it all year round.
What’s more is that this best heat pump system comes with accessories that you don’t normally see come with other heat pump products. A free programmable thermostat, a 10 Kw heater and some square to round adaptors all come with this Goodman heat pump for no extra cost!
Is a Heat Pump Right for You?
Due to their efficiency and low cost of operation, the best heat pumps on the market are great appliances to use, but only in certain climates and locations. The best heat pump systems work well in places with mild temperature fluctuations that have moderate heating and cooling requirements.
They may not be the right choice if you live in a location in which its hot pretty much all the year around. It would mean you would be using it primarily as a cooling system which is not as efficient as just using an evaporative cooler.
Advantages Of Heat Pumps
They can be extremely beneficial for home heating and cooling, but it largely depends on whether they are sized, installed, and used as they should be. Here are some of the major benefits of using a heat pump in your property:
Due to their nature and mechanism that heat pumps use, namely evaporation and condensation, they can be used as both a heat source for your home and a way to cool it down during the summer months.
Compared to other appliances, heat pumps require very little maintenance, especially when you consider stoves, furnaces, and boilers that utilize combustion.
Typically, you will need to clean and change the filter whenever required, which usually needs changing every few months. Other than this, you will need to carry out a system check every 6 months, which can easily be achieved on your own. It’s also advised to get a professional check once a year to ensure it is running efficiently and safely.
Compared to heating systems that utilize combustion technology, heat pumps are considerably more efficient. The main reason for this is that heat pumps don’t produce heat; they simply transfer heat already in the environment, therefore, they have a healthy heat output for a relatively low energy input.
Heating appliances that utilize combustion produce potentially harmful exhaust fumes including carbon monoxide while heat pumps don’t.
Therefore if you choose the best heat pump you are eliminating the hazards associated with stoves, fireplaces, and other combustion-based systems.
How To Choose the Best Heat Pump
Ensuring you select the right one for your individual circumstances is essential to maintaining efficiency and ensuring it fulfils its required role. Here are the main factors to consider when on the hunt for a suitable heat pump:
The Heat Pump Size
Ensuring you choose the right sized heat pump for your home is an essential part of the selection process. If you choose a unit that’s too small or too large, it won’t do an effective job a modulating the temperature and result in higher energy costs. Even worse, your home may be unbearable to live in. When thinking about the size you ought to consider the following:
- The climate your home is located in
- Seasonal fluctuations
- How well your home is insulated
A general rule is to use a heat pump at 60 Watts per m³ room volume in un-insulated properties, and in insulted buildings use a unit that provides 50 Watts per m³ room volume. However, for a better idea about sizing you should consult a professional contractor.
Heat Pump Size vs Climate
As mentioned above, the size of heat pump to choose is directly related to your local climate. You’ll need a larger heat pump if you live in climate zones with dramatically hot or cold temperatures as your heat pump will need the power to overcome these temperatures.
Check out the US climate map shown below to get a better idea of the zone that you live in and its average temperatures. You can also take a closer look at the map here.
Heat Pump Size Zone
22-30 BTU/sq. ft. Zones 1 & 2 (hottest) and Zone 7 (coldest)
20-24 BTU/sq. ft. Zone 3 (hot) and Zone 6 (cold)
16-22 BTU/sq. ft. Zone 4 (warm) Zone 5 (temperate)
Heat Pump Energy Efficiency Values
SEER and HSPF are values which tell you the energy efficiency of the unit you are looking at.
SEER is an acronym for the seasonal energy efficiency ratio and is applied to cooling units such as sliding window air conditioners. In simple terms, it is a ratio of the amount of energy a cooling unit consumes and its cooling capacity in BTU’s over an average cooling season.
Read our article to take a more in depth look into the energy efficiency ratios.
Similarly HSPF measure the energy efficiency concerning heating devices such as furnaces. It measure the ratio between the over all power consumed by the unit and the heat output in BTU’s.
Both of these values are important when comparing the best heat pump models as you can gauge how much power they will consume for the heating/cooling power they will provide and therefor if they are good value for money.
The higher the SEER value of a heat pump, the more expensive it’s upfront cost is likely to be but it’s not always necessary to shop for the highest SEER rating, and again I would recommend you check out the energy efficiency ratio article of ours.
But as air course heat pumps specifically, are very limited to out door temperatures, those who are seeking a heat pump to warm their home may want to pay close attention to the HSPF rating over the SEER rating anyway.
Types Of Heat Pumps
These are by far the most commonly used heat pump systems in the USA. They have two main components – one part serves the outside and is called the air processor, while the other serves the inside and is called the heat pump.
A substance named a refrigerant then circulates between these two components and draws in heat and releases it as it cycles between them.
These also have two components – a compressor and condenser that serve the outside and up to 5 indoor air processors.
The components for indoors are much less noisy than the larger models and circulate the refrigerant substance via tubing via the inside and out.
As well as reduced noise, ductless units also have the advantage of not requiring expensive and inefficient ductwork.
These transfer heat via a collection of tubes in the ground that contains a liquid substance kept warm by the 50 to 60 degree F temperature of the earth.
This liquid is cycled in and out of your home to modulate temperature and humidity.
Other benefits include them being extremely quiet, efficient and having a long life in comparison to typical heat pump systems.
How Does An Air Source Heat Pump Work?
Just like a refrigerator, an air source heat pump utilizes a chemical component termed a refrigerant which controls the movement of heat through evaporation and condensation.
With the pump, a component called a compressor pumps the refrigerant amid several heat exchange coils. As the refrigerant reaches the first coil it evaporates, which results in heat being absorbed from the environment.
Continuing its journey to the second exchanger coil, the refrigerant condenses, resulting in the discharge of the heat it absorbed previously.
Heat pumps are similar to other cooling appliances such as air conditioners and standard refrigerators, except these devices only function to provide cooling.
In a refrigerator, there is a central compartment coupled to a heat pump. The evaporating coil resides in the compartment. All heat is then drawn from this compartment and transferred to the external environment, typically to wherever the condenser coil is situated. Air conditioners operate in a similar manner – transferring heat from inside your house to the outside.
Air source heat pumps can provide heating and cooling throughout the year – they work by absorbing heat from outside in the colder months and discarding heat into the outside during the warmer times of the year.
Air source heat pumps are the most frequently used heat pump in the US and Canada. Although, ground-source heat pumps – that absorb heat from below the ground are increasing in popularity.
Heat Pump Vs Furnace
Now that you have some understanding of how heat pumps work and what the benefits of them are, is a heat pump better to have than a furnace for heating a home?
To answer this question you first have to take a look at your location. Now Furnaces have a high heat output and are up to the challenge of heating homes in the harshest winter conditions that even Michigan and Minnesota can throw at them.
Heat pumps on the other hand are great for heating homes but don’t have the capacity to face harsh winters. There generally designed for places which have milder winters such as the coastal southern united states.
There is a general rule of thumb that goes a long way in the heat pump vs furnace debate and that is:
As efficient and energy saving heat pumps can be, they’re generally not as effective when temperatures start creeping below 50 degrees Farenheit and so in those conditions, they may not be a smart investment for you.
With that said, there are models which turn the heat pump vs furnace argument on it’s head and they are the air source heat pumps and other models which include a heat strip.
Options such as the Goodman heat pumps (one of which is included in our best heat pump reviews above) have a heat strip built into them. This allows them to basically buffer the temperature of the heat pump even in non-ideal working temperatures to keep it at a good working capacity even in the cold.
Enabling homeowners in the colder parts of the US to utilize heat pump technology for their homes really does give the heat pump option the edge over a furnace for all the other benefits that they bring.
Of course, the best heat pump for you does all come down to your circumstance, your budget and other limitations such as space. You’ll need to decide for yourself by comparing the products which would suit you well.
Conclusion: Heat Pump vs Furnace
A Heat pump can be a fantastic way to heat and cool homes with the right climates, and they are extremely efficient when compared to their combustion based rivals.
The ductless models are typically used in residential properties due to their small, compact and attractive designs, while the larger air-source units tend to be used in large homes and commercial premises.
Even though they are not up to the task of heating a home in extremely cold climates of below 40 degrees Farenheit; heat pumps with a heat strip can achieve more and give them an edge in the heat pump vs furnace debate when it comes to those who live in colder regions of the US.
Whichever heat pump you choose in the end, remember to consider the three most important factors – appropriate size, your climate and how well your property is insulated. Being aware of these ensure you are selecting a unit most appropriate for your situation, which will ultimately save you money in the long run.
Heat Pump FAQ
It may switch itself on and off when the temperatures get warmer (above 40 degrees Farenheit). In colder climates, however, they are designed to run continuously.
Watch your utility bills though as if there is a fault with the unit, such as a failure in the compressor, a way to recognize this is with spikes in your energy energy bills.
There are many factors which contribute to the life span of your pump and these include: its build quality, the local climate, maintenance performed and branding.
For example in colder climates, your unit is working harder and therefore the components will experience more ware. Newer units have much hardier components so should last for between 10 to 15 years but I do emphasise, it depends on the unit you have bought and how well it is built.
The whole idea of having one is to save money on your energy bills and so they are comparatively inexpensive when compared to potential long term savings.
With a heat pump installed, it can offset the costs of using other fuels such as natural gas, oil or electricity to heat your home and will save you money in the long run, despite their large upfront cost.
As answered above, it may vary between models and heat pump brands and the HSPF value, but a general rule of thumb is that the optimal efficiency of the heat pump starts to drop when temperatures reach below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
However there are technologies to improve this, such as the unit having a built in heat strip to keep it going, even in the seriously cold conditions!
You don’t strictly need a furnace if you live in areas in which winter doesn’t go below 40 degree Fahrenheit.
In climates that do get that cold and have earlier winters, if you don’t have a heat pump already installed to handle those kind of conditions, it’s certainly more worth it for you to have a furnace installed instead of a heat pump!
Auxiliary heat is used by your heat pump to protect itself from freezing cold conditions.
Its usually displayed as “AUX” on the thermostat and is a backup heat source to keep your home at a stable temperature.
About the Author
Dave Miller is a HVAC technician with over 10 years in the industry. Dave created HeatTalk with the ambition for it to become a resource for individuals looking for answers, whether they be a layman, student or a professional.