Why are heat pumps so hot right now?

Originally published at: Why are heat pumps so hot right now? | Boing Boing


The other big advantage (potentially) to heat pumps is that if you are installing solar, you can significantly decrease or even eliminate (this would take a big install, as these things do pull a fair amount of power) your natural resource consumption. This is my thought in putting one in our new construction, anyway.


Heat pumps do have drawbacks, one being that they aren’t as great operating in colder weather. Additionally electric heat pumps do have a higher load than ones that use natural gas, however both are pretty efficient and improvements are being made on them constantly. You will have a higher install cost but if you can afford it its worth the expense.


You’d be surprised, modern heat pumps do much better in cold climates than they used to.

I had a large heat pump installed 7 years ago and it’s been my primary source of heat every winter in New England. It doesn’t struggle noticeably until you start dropping below -5F… and even then, it still heats well enough to stay comfortable (but you might be stuck at 68 instead of 72). And my house is old and poorly insulated.

Outrageously better than the old electric baseboards my house had, and half the cost of installing ductwork. Plus I just needed heat, so the air conditioning felt like a freebie. Love these things.

I have a 7kW solar system, which is fairly small… and it doesn’t help out a whole lot in the winter due to reduced daylight, but it completely covers my electricity costs (including air conditioning) for a few of the summer months.


I’m sure your article covers this, but the ease of retrofitting a house vs basically any other hvac is massive. Our new (first!) house just had a new boiler installed for the hydronic system a few years ago, but after the more pressing issues are addressed, I hope to replace it with a comprehensive heat pump system. I wish we had the lawn space for a ground source system, but what little we do have will be packed with orchard trees by the time we could afford it. The only good use for massive lawns, imo.


We have both the Solar & the Heat Pump. Our energy bill cancels out at the end of the year, that looks to be as good as it gets with this pairing.


Well, we might be in the market to replace our almost 70 year old furnace sometime in the near future and I guess I’ll be taking a look at heat pumps plus solar panels. Maybe the price will come down some by the time I do, it still feels a bit on the expensive side to install.


I installed an air source heat pump last summer. It is one large unit, with 3 interior heads (multi-split, I think they’re called). I have a small bungalow, and put two heads on the main floor and one in the basement.

I’m in Toronto, and in January we regularly got down to -20 C/-4 F overnight, and it handled those temps just fine.

It was expensive to install, partly because I have no existing duct system it could be integrated with, so I had to purchase the interior units too. But I’ve used no other heat source for the entire winter, and it looks like my total heating costs from November to the end of April will be less than $500, which is about 1/2 or more less than it cost to heat with the hated oil boiler. I’ve kept the house a little warmer than previously, and it’s still been cheaper to run.

I’m proselytizing about it; my doctor gets asked “Have you heard the good word about heat pumps?”. The woman in the pet food store, friends, family neighbours … I currently have several people who are closely watching my experiences with it, and when they are ready to replace their current heating systems, may switch over, so I’m encouraging everyone who has a positive experience to spread the word.


We got down to -20 C/-4 F here in Toronto over January, and mine handled it just fine.


You should watch the video. This was specifically addressed.


Our house came with a heat pump. I am quite happy with it. Since it is past it’s “useful life” I expect to be replacing it with another heat pump in the intermediate future.

My only criticism is that it is a Carrier. Nothing wrong with its functioning, but it is proprietary, so I can’t attach an off the shelf smart thermostat to it (which our power company would give me for free). Instead, I’d have to give Carrier $600+ for theirs. The programmable one that came with it is good enough for now.


Technology Connections is a good channel and I already saw this one. Very informative and he makes a good case!


They’re hot right now because it’s winter in the northern hemisphere. They’ll be cold in summer.


I think the video at 12:45 specifically addresses the real statement. The efficiency of heat pumps at below freezing temps may still be above the energy efficiency point of a natural gas option, but what about the cost? It may be very possible if your electricity cost is high this cross over temperature could be well above 5F. Obviously that point is variable based on energy cost in your location and the local environment.

At some point in the next 5 years I’ll probably upgrade from standard A/C to a heat pump, but I’ll have a gas back since gas heat is already setup. I just wonder how much useful, simplified information installers really give to the average customer.


Since your weather is our weather, but a day later (hi from grey and cloudy Detroit!), I’m more interested in how your system performs in the summer. We don’t have ducts, either - floorboard hydronic boiler system. We’re very seriously considering a split system as the next big investment for the house.


Yea he mentions in the video that your specific prices for electric vs gas will have a big determination on what makes the most sense. Where I am, natural gas prices have skyrocketed recently (think I am paying nearly triple today what I was two years ago) where electric has been very stable, because we are supplied mostly by hydro and nuclear which are a bit more stable in price. I have a relatively new ‘high efficiency’ natural gas furnace and am seriously considered these heat pumps for both environmental (I’d shift my heating to that hydro/nuclear) and cost reasons. But yes, gas back up seems necessary in my area as well.

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Can confirm - just bought a house with a heat pump and the heating costs are significantly higher. I did a little digging and I think the emergency heat was coming on more and that just eats money.

Also there could be some confounding variables there that I will try to adjust for - like beefing up insulation etc.

I’m hoping cooling is better.

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I think heat pumps and home solar/wind will be essential to energy independence for people, I hope to make that leap soon.


We live in the SF bay area (east bay), with a temperate climate. That said, it drops into the low 40s during the winter months, and we get a fair number of 90+ days in the summer (and getting more of those every year :frowning: ). Our 100-year-old home had no central heat or air conditioning (so no existing duct system) when we bought it 8 years ago. We installed a ductless mini split system about two years ago and couldn’t be happier with the results. Heating in the winter, AC on the summer days when we need it, and the nature of the mini split means we only heat/cool the rooms we’re using, not the whole house. The install was done in a single day. It’s one of the best investments we’ve made in our home. Highly recommended for retrofitting older homes in particular.

At some point I should read your article, I guess.

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Arizona resident here.

The house I bought in 2012 had a first generation (and undersized for the square footage) heat pump that barely keep the house temperatures in check. When it finally died five years in, I had it replaced with a properly sized current generation heat pump (along with re-ducting the house- all the flex ducts where toast, and adding a second return because the original return was undersized even for the dead heat pump!) and it works quite nicely. My electric bills went down a fairly decent amount, but there are other things I can do with this old house to improve upon it.

I’ve been looking at adding a duct-less split system to the addition off the master bedroom, as that room is hands down the hottest room in the house in the summer, and the coldest in the winter.