Are Heat Pumps Efficient? What You Need To Know

Despite the name, heat pumps provide more than just heating. Heat pumps can also act as air conditioners and pull double duty with heating and cooling your home. If you are considering getting a heat pump, a relevant question is: Are heat pumps efficient? To help you out, the team at JC Mechanical put together this quick guide on heat pump efficiency.

Contact us today to speak to Denver’s heat pump maintenance experts!

Heat Pumps: How They Work

are heat pumps efficient

Heat pumps work through a series of pumps and coolant fluids that extract heat from some source and move it to a specific location in your home. Heat pump systems have a central compressor for pressurizing coolant fluid that moves between a heat exchange and coils. The coolant fluid extracts ambient heat from the environment and passes it to a heat sink. Most heat pumps use forced air or radiators to deliver heat.

An interesting fact about heat pumps is they can also cool your home. Heat pumps contain reversing valves that reverse the flow of coolant. Instead of moving heat from outside into your house, it will then move heat from your house to outside. So a heat pump allows you to accommodate an air conditioner and furnace into a single system.

Types of Heat Pumps

Modern homes use one of three common heat pump types that differ depending on their main heat source.

  • Air source pumps are the most common type of heat pump and extract heat from nearby air. Air source pumps cost the least of all heat pump types but are also less efficient.
  • Ground source heat pumps extract heat from geothermal energy and nearby sources of water. These make the most efficient option for heat pumps, but they are also more expensive to install and maintain.

Manufacturers also make hybrid systems that combine air and ground-source extraction methods. Solar-powered heat pumps represent a relatively new technology that has been gaining steam but require extra installation work to connect panels to the electrical grid.

Heat Pump Efficiency Ratings

So, are heat pumps efficient? Heat pumps offer incredible energy efficiency due to their core design. Heat pumps don’t generate heat from burning fuel, like a furnace or boiler. Instead, heat pumps transfer heat from one place to another. The output energy is much higher than the energy needed to operate the heat pump. Also, most heat pumps run on electricity, making them more environmentally friendly than gas furnaces.

Heat pump efficiency depends on outdoor temperatures. The colder it gets, the less efficiently it can heat. According to data from LearnMetrics, the average heat pump has a 3.7 coefficient of performance (COP) at 45 degrees F, which comes out to 370% efficiency. Efficiency lowers as temperatures drop—at 10 degrees, efficiency drops to 10 COP.

In other words, heat pumps will become more efficient the higher the average temperatures climb. Manufacturers assign a COP at a standardized temperature of 47 degrees F. The most efficient heat pumps have COP ratings higher than 4, indicating nearly 400% energy efficiency.

Will a Heat Pump Save Me Money on Monthly HVAC Bills?

Compared to a furnace or boiler, a heat pump can significantly reduce your monthly heating and cooling bills. According to information from the Department of Energy, a 4,000 kWh heat pump can save an average of $450 a year, and a 6,000 kWh heat pump can save over $900 a year.

Factors that will affect the amount of heat pump savings you get include the following:

  • House size
  • Local climate/weather
  • Efficiency of house materials
  • Heat pump usage
  • House layout
  • Maintenance schedule

In addition to saving money from lower utility bills, heat pumps can also save money because they require less maintenance than furnaces or boilers. Additionally, many local and state governments offer rebates and other tax incentives to install energy-efficient HVAC systems.

For example, Colorado homeowners can receive a maximum of $2,000 in tax credits for installing an energy-efficient heat pump or heat pump water heater.


One method to judge heat pump efficiency stems from its seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) or Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF).

SEER measures how efficient a cooling system is by calculating the ratio of the BTU rating of the system to the total energy needed to run it. The typical residential heat pump has a SEER of 14. The higher the SEER, the more efficiently the system can cool your home.

HSPF is similar to SEER but measures the heat pump’s heating capacity. Manufacturers calculate the HSPF by dividing watt-hours of energy consumption by the total heat pump output over the season. A high-efficiency cold climate heat pump can have an HSPF as high as 10.

How To Make Your Heat Pump More Efficient

Heat pumps already operate with high efficiency, but homeowners can take extra steps to further increase efficiency.

Add Insulation

Adding insulation to your ducts and attic reduces the amount of heat loss. The best kinds of insulation to use include fiberglass and rockwool because they have high R-values and are highly durable.

Seal Windows and Doors

Houses lose a significant amount of energy through cracks in windows and doors. Caulking and weatherstripping seal holes in windows, doors, and house siding so heat can’t escape from your house.

Maximize Airflow

The less airflow that your system gets, the harder it has to work to heat or cool your house. You can maximize airflow to your system by cleaning vents, moving objects away from vent covers, and balancing your HVAC system.

Change Filters

Just like air conditioners and furnaces, heat pumps have air filters that capture particles from the air. Heat pump filters clog over time, restricting airflow and reducing indoor air quality. You should change heat pump filters once every six months or three months if you live somewhere with a lot of dust.

Keep Consistent Temperature

Running your heat pump at a consistent temperature all the time works better than frequently turning it on and off. The ideal winter temperature is 68 degrees F, and the ideal summer temperature is 78 degrees. Keeping your system at consistent temperatures will reduce energy consumption and monthly HVAC bills.

Heat Pump Efficiency FAQ

Below we list some of the most common questions we receive about heat pumps and heat pump efficiency.

Are Heat Pumps More Efficient in Hotter Climates?

Generally speaking, yes, heat pumps are efficient in warmer climates compared to cold climates. The reason concerns heat transfer, which is easier to perform when warmer outside.

However, manufacturers make modern heat pumps that can perform up to industry standards in weather as low as -25 degrees F.

How Long Do Heat Pumps Last?

It depends on use and local weather conditions, but the average air-source heat pump lasts about 20 years. You can get a few more years out of the system if you remember to clean and maintain it on a regular schedule.

How Often Do I Need Heat Pump Maintenance?

Our experts recommend you schedule professional heat pump maintenance at least once a year—preferably once every six months. During maintenance, your contractor will clean coils, change filters, test your compression system, and calibrate your thermostat. Heat pumps are efficient, and maintenance further minimizes energy consumption.

#1 Heating and Air Conditioning Services

Now you know the answer to “Are heat pumps efficient?” JC Mechanical stands above our competitors in the heating and cooling services industry. If you need to schedule heat pump repair or replacement, give JC Mechanical a call today at (720) 740-6083 or book an appointment online!

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