Heat Pumps in Colder Temperatures

As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, heat pumps don’t discriminate, they just move heat from where you don’t want it to where you do want it, so while they are called “heat pumps” they are also great at cooling internal spaces by simply “heating” the outside instead of the inside, pumping the heat from the house out to the hot July day outside where it belongs. But how do these machines work in colder weather? August has been rather warm, but Fall is right around the corner. How will these machines handle Jack Frost’s touch?

How much do they cost?

First let’s talk about price. If you don’t already have a heat pump, they are a relatively affordable option for heating and AC in a smaller home. A single room system starts at around $500 and a full house system can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000 depending on the size of your home. That includes the cost of installation (this isn’t the sort of project I recommend for DIY).

What about below freezing?

Now if you live in the Pacific Northwest, the kind of cold you’re dealing with might not be quite as intense as Anchorage Alaska or even parts of the North East. A heat pump will always be able to move heat as long as the temperature is above absolute zero (that’s −459.67 °F, so no worries) but as the temperature gets colder the efficiency of your heat pump goes down. If there is less heat outside to be pumped, there is less to warm your house. That doesn’t mean your heat pump won’t be able to heat your house, just that it will do so slower, less efficiently, and may require a supplementary heat source.

Supplementary heating options

There are two kinds of supplementary heat that are typically used with a heat pump, the first is an electric resistance coil heater. These are installed into the ducts of your current system and give the system more heat to pull into your home. The second option is to allow the heat pump to work with your existing gas furnace. This is called a hybrid, or duel fuel system. These supplements help the machine run optimally in temperatures below freezing.

Although heat pumps lose efficiency below freezing, there are a number of options to help them add extra heat to keep your home toasty during the cold winter months. If you’re looking for an affordable option to both heat and cool your home, a heat pump is a phenomenal option, especially in the Pacific Northwest.