Cold Weather Tips for Installing a Heat Pump

Best Way to Install a Heat Pump in a Cold Climate  Heat pumps are now a viable option in very cold weather. For decades, heat pumps were primarily installed where winter temperatures rarely dipped too far below freezing. This was for 2 reasons. First, heat pump systems don’t work well, if at all, when temperatures get very cold. That part hasn’t changed – they still become inefficient and eventually ineffective in very cold weather. But the problem has been solved with the advent of dual fuel heat pumps.

Secondly, older heat pump technology didn’t create very warm air at the heating grate. Homes would take a long time to warm up in cold weather, and the heat wasn’t very comfortable. That part has changed, and heat pumps can now generate temperatures in excess of 90 degrees F at the heating grate.

Cold Climate Dual Fuel Heat Pumps

Dual fuel heat pumps are designed specifically for colder climates. The terms dual fuel and hybrid heat refer to the same technology. These are heat pumps that can be installed in a split system along with a gas furnace. The heat pump does the heating until outside temperatures fall into the 30s. The system is programmed to have the gas furnace take over at that point and do the heating until temperatures rise out of the 30s.

The exact temperature at which the system switches from one form of heat to the other can be programmed. The system then does it automatically – it doesn’t require a manual switch by the homeowner.

Why not just have a gas furnace in those climates and skip the heat pump? The reason is that heat pumps cost far less to operate than gas furnaces. They are much more efficient. For example, a 9.5 HSPF heat pump will heat 2.5 to 3 times more efficiently than a 92%-95% AFUE gas furnace.

In short, your heating bills will be far lower with a heat pump. Depending on how cold the climate is, in dual fuel systems, the heat pump will supply heat 70%-85% of the time, producing savings of hundreds of dollars per winter in most homes. A hybrid heat system will cost $500-$800 more than a standard gas furnace split system. That extra expense is typically recovered in 2-4 years of lower energy bills.

Other Cold Weather Heat Pump Installation Tips

In snowy climates, it makes sense to install the condensing unit – the outdoor unit in a heat pump – on a stand up to 3 feet high. The heat pump needs air flow and if the cabinet gets surrounded by snow, that can lead to performance or mechanical issues. Having it on a stand will also prevent you from having to consistently clear snow away from it. Secondly, always install the heat pump on a side of the house that has a peak, not on a side that has the roof sloping down to it. This will prevent snow, ice or icicles from falling off the roof and damaging the heat pump.

If you live in a cold climate and are considering a heat pump, they are now a very good option. Choose one of the many dual fuel models from the leading brands and follow these installation tips. You’ll save money this winter and have a very comfortable home.

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