Heat Pump Efficiency Explained and Selecting the Best Model

Buying the most efficient heat pump for residential use in moderate and warm climates is a wise decision, as it delivers hot water with an accurate temperature, enhanced comfort and efficiency, while providing great savings on your energy bill and reducing greenhouse gas emission.

When comparing heat pumps with the gas furnaces for heating and air conditioners for cooling; heat pumps operate as the whole HVAC system – heating, cooling even dehumidifying; beating both systems when it comes to the efficiency and savings. This article is meant for those homeowners who are looking to buy an air-to-air heat pump either for a new home or as an upgrade of an existing HVAC system, and maximize savings.

One of the main reasons why the heat pump efficiency is so high is because this electric device doesn’t generate heat, but moves the heat from one place to another, either increasing (adding heat) or decreasing the temperature(removing heat) of the room. Another benefit of the heat pumps is the ability to dehumidify the air so less energy is used (less load) while the efficiency and comfort are increased.

How to buy the heat pump with the highest efficiency

It is hard to say, based on the provided specs what is inside the heat pump. The best will be to check the online reviews or manual and see what a particular model is comprised of. And then compare data.

In order to select and buy the most efficient heat pump, look for the model that offers the following components:

Two-speed compressor or variable capacity compressor with inverter technology - it provides the right capacity at any moment and reduces the stress on the elements with less wear and tear.

Scroll compressor - except being more efficient, it operates with the lower noise level and is more durable than widely used reciprocating type. The noise level on the best models can go down to 58 dBA.

Zone control system – it allows an independent temperature control in each room.

Variable speed motors (even dual) – installed on indoor and outdoor fans it ensures better air distribution with greater effect.

Also look for the heat pumps with the larger coil surface areas, time delays on controls and expansion valves.

Some heat pumps are equipped with a desuperheater which uses the wasted heat from cooling mode, recovers it and uses it to heat water.

How the efficiency is measured: SEER, HSPF, COP and EER

To find the best model, consider the heat pump efficiency, as an important factor. Simply said, efficiency is how much energy you get from the device compared to how much energy is used.

Example 1

If the gas furnace is, let’s say, 96% efficient that means 96% of 100% energy is used (on heating for example) and 4% is wasted.

Example 2

If the electric heat pump has an efficiency of 3.5 and it takes 2,500 watts to run, the output will be 3.5*2,500=8750 Btu/hr. In this case the heat pump is 350% efficient as it gets an extra free energy from the warm air.

Below you can find different efficiency terms that are related to heat pumps and that should be carefully taken into account.

The Coefficient of Performance (COP) is used to measure the efficiency of heat pumps where the unit is more efficient if the values are higher. The COP is calculated as the energy output of the heat pump divided by the amount of energy required to run the device. It can be used to measure both heating and cooling efficiency.

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ration or SEER represents an annual cooling efficiency, and is calculated by dividing the total cooling energy needed for an average cooling season and total energy required.

The Heating Seasonal Performance Factor or HSPF represents the heating efficiency and it is calculated when the total required heating energy for an average heating season is divided by the total electrical energy used for the same period. As it can be seen it is the heating equivalent of the SEER.

The Energy Efficiency Ration or short EER measures the cooling efficiency of the heat pump and it compares the amount of used energy to the energy required for cooling.

The minimum requirements for SEER is 13 Canada, and 14 in US, and the minimum HSPF is 6.7 in Canada (2006) and 8.2 in US (2015).

If the above info is too complicate to apply, check out the blue logo Energy Star tag on the device. If the product is Energy Star compliant that means that it meets strict guideline in energy efficiency. This is how you can easily choose the product that will increase the comfort of your home while saving the energy and money.

ENERGY STAR is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program that helps us save money and protect the climate by helping us choose the high efficient products.

Keep in mind that the heat pump efficiency decreases with the outside temperature drop, requiring supplemental heating in cold regions. The good news is that the above statement applies to older heat pumps, while newer models can supply up to 100% of heating needs even in colder weather.

It is important to understand that the heat pump efficiency is not the only factor when selecting or buying, comparing devices or looking for savings. There are other factors involved and these include the location of your home or climate, the type of the unit, how it is sized and cost of the fuel.

Highest heat pump efficiency for 2017

Most of the heat pumps below have the variable speed and capacity from 2 to 5 tons.

Model SEER HSPF Features
Amana AVZC20 21 10 Variable-speed swing and scroll compressors, ComfortNet Communications Systems
Bryant 280A 20.5 20.5 Variable speed, Evolution Connex control
Carrier Infinity 20 20.5 13 Greenspeed intelligence, Hybrid Heat
Lennox XP25 23.5 10.2 SilentComfort technology, Dual-fuel capability
Rheem RP20 20 11 EcoNet™ Enabled product, Copeland Scroll™ Variable Speed Compressor

As it can be seen in the article above, heat pumps are the most efficient electrical devices to use for heating and cooling. To sum up; heat pump efficiency is an important factor when choosing the best model, so by choosing an Energy Star approved model you will get a product that definitely outperforms a non-qualified unit, and this is the way to go.

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