What Do You Know About Heat Pump Systems?

Every few weeks, we receive a question in one of our social media channels about a topic that may or may not be directed to our specific audience but more a general topic in our industry.   Recently we received one asking, “what heat pump system is the best?”  Good question!  Well, while everyone may have their favorites (hydronic heat pump, a geothermal heat pump, or an air source heat pump), what we can all agree on is that heat pump systems are normally more efficient in both operating costs and sustainability than other traditional heating systems that have to generate their own heat from electricity, gas or oil.  Not to mention, that heat pumps use renewable energy.


As we know, an air source heat pump uses the air from outside to heat or cool an area, whereas a geothermal heat pump uses heat from the ground and a hydronic heat pump uses water to heat a house or building.  They offer similar advantages.  However, they will vary in cost depending on the size, brand, water capacity, and climate.

While, air source heat pumps are fairly common, hydronic heat pumps are often more efficient at heating and cooling than the more commonly used air source heat pumps.  This is due to the temperature of water being more constant than fluctuating air temperatures, which also makes hydronic heat pumps a more efficient solution.

But, the question that kept coming back to what’s best and or how should a heat pump be selected?  Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer.  As with any investment in a new heating system, you first need to get an HVAC professional to calculate your house’s heating load. The standard measure of a heating load is a Manual J Calculation, and it takes into account your house’s insulation, size, amount of shade, and many other factors.

Choosing a heat pump that outputs the correct amount of warm and cold air ensures comfort, low maintenance, and efficient operation. Heat pumps should be sized to run continuously to maximize efficiency. A heat pump that is too large for your house cycles on and off too often, which increases the wear on the equipment and decreases its efficiency. If it is too small, the unit may not be able to keep you comfortable during both summer and winter.

What Should You Know About SEER and HSPF?
The Department of Energy requires all air-conditioning and heating equipment manufacturers to evaluate and rate the efficiency of their equipment on a seasonal basis. These ratings are known as the SEER or, Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, for air conditioners, and the HSPF or, Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, for heating equipment.

Heat pumps use both numbers. The higher the SEER or HSPF rating, the more efficient the heat pump. High-efficiency units cost more. But since operating costs are lower, the payback period may be shorter. A high SEER/HSPF heat pump also can add value to your home, which is important to today’s energy-conscious home-buyers.

The increased use of energy by the air source heat pump makes it less efficient than a hydronic heat pump where the compressor speed does not need to be modulated because of temperature fluctuations.  Also, the hydronic heat pumps can be used in more extreme climatic (colder) conditions than air-source heat pumps.  Additionally, there are innovative new energy efficient heating circulators that use a unique technology to achieve significant energy savings while delivering hot water throughout commercial or residential properties. (And? How do I find out more? What are they? Can you provide a link?)

And, if you want an even ‘greener’ solution, there are systems that can be powered by solar energy using a photovoltaic solution thereby making it a totally green system.

What do you think is the best heat pump system?