At what temperature does a heat pump stop working? (2023)

Ready for your freezing winter, new heat pump technology can heat your home with much less electricity than a traditional heating option.

At Sealed we often get the same questions about heat pumps:

How well does a heat pump actually work in cold weather? Are there heat pumps that work below freezing? At what temperature is a heat pump ineffective?

These are great questions, and for those of you in a hurry, we're about to answer the biggest one:

Contrary to popular belief, air source heat pumps work amazingly well in winter - even in very cold climates.

In fact, heat pumps are the best heating option almost everywhere in the world today.

Below 0° Fahrenheit, heat pumps can still heat your home at more thantwicethe efficiency of gas heaters or standard electric heaters (e.g. electric stoves and skirting board heaters). Tested and approved to the Arctic Circle, they are popular options in very cold countries like Finland and Norway.

So if you're worried about whether a heat pump can keep your home comfortable, don't be. Ready for your freezing winter, new heat pump technology can heat your home with much less electricity than a traditional heating option.

Here's what we'll cover - use these quick links to move forward:

  1. How do we know that heat pumps can handle your winter
  2. Why most people (and many HVAC companies) are misinformed about heat pumps
  3. Why new heat pumps are so much better in winter than older models
  4. What temperature is too cold for a heat pump?
  5. Whether ductless heat pumps work in cold weather

How well does a heat pump work in cold weather? Here's the research.

Heat pumps work great in freezing weather - but don't take our word for it.

According to the US Department of Energy, heat pump technology has advanced so well in recent years that it is now a good choice for homes in cold regions.

Actually,since heat pumps move existing heat energy instead of creating new heat energy, they can provide more than three times the heat energy for the amount of electricity they consume compared to traditional heating systems (1).

Get homeowner troubleshooting guides, free resources, and energy-saving tips and tricks.

Of course, efficiency is all well and good, but what you're probably wondering is this: do heat pumps produce enough heat to power you?cozyon a very cold winter day?

Good question. To answer them, let's go north (don't worry, it's only for a minute).

(Video) At what temperature does a heat pump stop being efficient?

In 2018, a group of researchers from the Center for Energy and Environment conducted a field test of air source heat pumps in the state of Minnesota, which has some of the coldest and most brutal winters in the United States.

The researchers wanted to see if air source heat pumps would work in Minnesota's cold winters -- and if using them would save energy.

The answer was a resounding yes – to both questions. Not only did heat pumps effectively heat the test homes throughout the winter, but the data from the test showed that Minnesota residents were able to reduce their heating energy use by 35% to 50% by installing heat pumps (2).

You could purchase a cold air heat pump with no upfront cost. learn how

That's a huge efficiency margin and just one more piece of data in an avalanche of evidence that heat pumps work in cold climates.

Heat pumps have been tested as far away as Alaska,They operate in temperatures well below freezing and the acceptance of heat pumps is increasing dramatically in areas with colder climates.

(Even better news, there are programs in specific areas that can help you get aHeat pump with no upfront cost, and you might even qualify for itTax credits and rebates for heat pumps.)

So if heat pumps are so efficient in cold temperatures, why do so many people believe that heat pumps don't work in extremely cold weather?

How heat pumps got a reputation problem

Heat pump technology is now ready for brutal winters - but it wasn't always like this.

The first wave of popular heat pumps from the 1980s worked well in moderate temperatures but struggled when temperatures dropped below freezing.

As a result, most early heat pumps were installed in temperate climate areas, and heat pumps themselves had a reputation for being weak in cold temperatures.

That reputation stayed. Because of this, the internet contains a lot of old, inaccurate information about how heat pumps work in cold weather. And that's also why most people think heat pumps aren't going to keep their house warm enough.

in summary? Like so many of us, the heat pump is still haunted by its poor choices in the 1980's and 90's.

But here's the thing: heat pumps have gotten so much better since they were invented, and the new cold-climate and heavy-duty models are more than capable of handling whatever your winter throws at them –even if you have a big old house.

(Video) What Temperatures Is Too Low For A Heat Pump?

Let's see why.

81% have found that the comfort of their home has improved by replacing fossil fuel heaters with heat pumps.

Coolproducts 2022 European Customer Analysis

First, what is a heat pump and how does it work?

A heat pump is a completeReplacement for your HVAC system– It can heat, cool, filter and dehumidify your air...all using far less energy than a traditional air conditioning or heating system.

A heat pump works by moving thermal energy. In winter, it absorbs heat from outside your home and transfers it into your home.

In summer, it reverses the process - it transports the thermal energy from the inside to the outside.

Sincemoving heatuses less fuel thangenerate heat, the heat pump is ridiculously efficient – ​​it uses far less energy than traditional heating and cooling systems.

At what temperature does a heat pump stop working? (1)

Why new heat pumps are so much better than old ones

While the basic principle of the heat pump hasn't changed, the individual components have improved significantly in recent times - and these improvements have made a huge difference in how heat pumps perform in winter.

This is how modern, high-performance heat pumps have improved:

  1. Revised compressors
  2. Improved coil designs
  3. Super efficient fans
  4. Better engines

Today's heat pumps can reduce up to 50% of your energy consumption for heating.

A completely revised compressor

This is the big upgrade.

The compressor is the "heart" of a heat pump - it circulates the refrigerant that transports heat energy from the outside of your home to the inside.

And now new heat pump compressors can do itautomaticallyadjust their speed and energy consumption as the temperature changes.They work hard when necessary (e.g. on really cold days) and then scale back when temperatures are moderate.

(In other words, old heat pump compressors were something like driving a shift car, while new compressors are more like an automatic.)

This variable speed compressor technology was not commercially available in heat pumps 10 years ago. Well, since it is so, so be itDieGame changer who made sub-zero heat pumps awesome.

(Video) What temperature is a heat pump not effective?

An improved coil design

Most modern heat pumps (and all heat pumps recommended by Sealed) now use grooved copper tubing. As the new corrugated hose has a larger surface area than the older smooth hose,Heat pumps can exchange heat with the outside environment much more efficientlythan they could in the past.

Efficient fans

Heat pumps now use better variable speed fans – and these new fans handle common winter challenges (like clogged ducts and dirty filters) much better (3).

Better engines

Heat pump manufacturers have been researching ways to make their engines work better for years. This research has really paid off. The new heat pump motors work great in winter, but still use much less electricity than traditional heating systems such as boilers or stoves.

That's a lot of improved technology (we could go on).

But the bottom line is that the heat pump you're installing this month is vastly different than the heat pumps that were available 15 years ago.

And that a new, optimized cold climate heat pump works wonderfully at sub-zero temperatures (especially if your home has been properly airtight and insulated).

Frequently asked questions about heat pumps in cold weather

Do heat pumps work below 20 degrees?

Yes, air source heat pumps work below 20 degrees Fahrenheit– in fact, they can work well below -10! If you're worried - or if you live in Antarctica - you can get a cold-air heat pump with a supplemental heating system in a pinch (the vast majority of people never need it).

At what temperature does a heat pump stop working?

As long as your house is in orderairtightandisolated, an air source heat pump can work well beyond temperatures of -13 degrees Fahrenheit! If you live in extreme cold, you may need to use supplemental heat, or what is known as aDual-Fuel-System(or consider switching to a geothermal heat pump).

If you regularly experience winter temperatures below -13 degrees, speak to us to learn how you can still enjoy all the amazing benefits of a heat pump in your home. (If you choose to combine a heat pump with a supplemental heating system — although most homeowners don't have to — it can be more efficient than traditional heating alone.)

Find out more about the different types of heat pumps.

Are heat pumps efficient in cold weather?

Yes! The latest research results show that heat pumps are up to three times more efficient in wintry temperatures than conventional gas, heating oil or electric systems.

Find out more about how heat pumps can help youConvert from oil heating to electricorswitch from natural gasto electrify your home.

Do ductless heat pumps work in cold weather?

Yes, "mini split" ductless heat pumps are designed to work great in cold weather. They create a fresh-to-the-touch, continuously circulating warmth that people love. (And the mini-split system gives you precise temperature control from room to room, so you can dial in the exact amount of heat you need in each area of ​​your home. Learn morehow mini-splits workandhow to camouflage a mini split unit.)

Do heat pumps work in the Northeast US?

Yes, a heat pump is an ideal HVAC choice in the Northeast — including New York, New Jersey, Maine, and Massachusetts — because it's the only air conditioning system that can do it all.

On hot, muggy days when all your neighbors are complaining, a heat pump will keep your home cool, dry and fresh. And then, in winter, a heat pump ensures cozy warmth in your house even on the coldest days.

(Video) Top 3 Heat Pump ISSUES in Winter!

Why heat pumps are a life upgrade

Sure, heat pumps will keep you cozy in the winter, but that's just one of the reasons you should consider getting one. This is why so many people love heat pumps:

  • All-in-One-HVAC-System

    A heat pump can replace both your cooling and heating system (it also cleans and dehumidifies your air).

  • Amazing comfort

    Since your heat pump continuously circulates air, your house will feel comfortable everywhere. (No more uneven temperature spots.)

  • Safe and easy to live with

    Heat pumps are super quiet and don't produce any strange smells - plus there's no risk of explosion (always a plus!).

  • flexibility

    As long as you have electricity there is a heat pump for you (even if you don't have sewerage).

  • Green and clean energy

    Heat pumps produce far less carbon dioxide than traditional heating methods. They arethe greenest air conditioner available– better for our planet, better for you, better for future generations.

Learn more about the pros and cons of heat pumps atThe Ultimate Guide to Heat Pumps.

In short, heat pumps are a life upgrade.

And now withsealed, maybe you canHave your heat pump installed with no upfront cost.We cover the initial project cost and you then pay us back based on the energy saved through the work.

Even better, we hire and screen your installers, oversee the project, and then stand behind our work 100%.If you don't save energy, we don't get paid.

If this sounds interesting to you,Call us at 917-905-3788to speak to a Sealed specialist.

There is no obligation and everyone is super friendly. (We'll let you know if we can help, and if we can't, we'll give you our top tips for moving forward.)

Qualify now


What is the lowest temperature a heat pump will work? ›

Common questions about heat pumps in cold weather

Yes, air source heat pumps work below 20 degrees Fahrenheit—in fact, they can perform well below -10!

Should I turn my heat pump off in extreme cold? ›

Rebate-eligible heat pumps can reach over 400% efficiency in mild temperatures and can maintain well over 200% efficiency even into negative temperatures. This is why turning off a heat pump in frigid temperatures and opting to use a fossil fuel boiler or furnace instead is a mistake.

At what outside temperature does a heat pump become ineffective? ›

Heat pumps do not operate as efficiently when temperatures drop to between 25 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit for most systems. A heat pump works best when the temperature is above 40. Once outdoor temperatures drop to 40 degrees, heat pumps start losing efficiency, and they consume more energy to do their jobs.

Can it be too cold for a heat pump to work? ›

At temperatures below -20°F, cold climate heat pumps still provide dependable heat, and many models are 100% efficient at sub-freezing temperatures. Since they consume less electricity in moderate weather, heat pumps cost much less to operate than legacy systems like combustion furnaces and boilers.

At what temperature does a heat pump switch to emergency heat? ›

Your emergency heat setting automatically turns on when outside temperatures drop below a certain temperature, usually 30 degrees Fahrenheit. If you need to manually turn it on, you should call an HVAC professional to get your heat pump fixed.

Should I put heat pump on emergency heat below 40 degrees? ›

Heat pumps don't create hot or cold air. Instead, they work by extracting heat from the outdoors and using it to warm your home. As long as the temperature is above 40F, this process works seamlessly. However, below this temperature, the heat pump can't find enough heat to transfer and fails to keep your home warm.

Can a heat pump cool a house in 100 degree weather? ›

If outdoor temperatures reach extreme highs of 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit, then the heat pump's efficiency will be affected, and it will be less able to provide comfortable cooling abilities.

What to do to heat pump in extreme cold? ›

Mitsubishi Heat Pump Tips
  1. Tip #1: Turn the heat pump temperature up.
  2. Tip #2: Manually turn the fan speed to high.
  3. Tip #3: Do not turn the temperature down in order to save energy.
  4. Tip #4: No need for extra ventilation.

Is it OK for a heat pump to run all night? ›

While heat pumps are the most cost effective way to use electricity to heat your home during the cooler months, leaving them running day and night is not economically efficient. According to Energywise, you should switch off your heat pump when you don't need it. This is to avoid excessive energy waste.

How long should a heat pump run when it's cold outside? ›

A heat pump specialist will explain to you the truth: your heat pump is a very efficient means of heating your home and it is designed to run 24/7 during the cold days and nights.

Can heat pump freeze up in winter? ›

Heat pumps can ice-up during the winter time. And it is normal for the entire coil to be covered in a white frost, even light ice, during certain weather conditions. But it is not normal for the entire unit to be encased in ice; including the top of the unit and the insides of the coil for an extended period of time.

At what outdoor temperature does a heat pump go into defrost mode? ›

The defrost cycle is activated when the temperature of the outdoor coil drops below 32 degrees. At this temperature, frost can form on the coil, which can cause damage if it builds up. This is where the defrost cycle comes in.

Is it cheaper to run heat pump or emergency heat? ›

Using Emergency Heat May Cause Higher Heating Bills: Emergency heat is more expensive than its traditional counterpart, so you will probably see a spike in your utility bills if you need to use it. You should use emergency heat for the shortest period of time possible.

What is the most efficient temperature for a heat pump? ›

According to the Department of Energy, 68°F is the sweet spot that balances comfort and energy efficiency during the fall and winter months. When your home is occupied and when family members are awake, a heat pump setting of 68°F keeps the living areas reasonably warm.

Why is my heat pump not keeping up in cold weather? ›

Setting your thermostat below 70°F can cause your heat pump system to frost or even completely freeze up. When this happens, your unit won't run as efficiently and will likely have trouble reaching a set temperature. Additionally, your system can be prone to more issues if you continue to use it while it's iced over.

Do heat pumps work 32 degrees? ›

Heat pumps are effective in outdoor temperatures that are above freezing (32 degrees F). Once the temperature drops below freezing, heat pumps begin to lose their effectiveness and their ability to provide heat.

What is the downside to a heat pump? ›

Air source heat pumps can experience issues such as icing in cold temperatures, which can ultimately damage the system. Although modern heat pumps do often have automatic defrosting. Their efficiency will also be lower at very cold temperatures, and use more electricity during those cold days.

Will a heat pump work at 90 degrees? ›

Even when the temperature is as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit, there are still warm air molecules a heat pump can use to create warmth throughout your home. The same is true for cooling your house effectively even at temperatures of over 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Do heat pumps use a lot of electricity? ›

One of the most popular questions we hear is, “do heat pumps use a lot of electricity?” We are delighted to answer that they do not. Compared to more traditional methods of heating, ductless heat pumps are much more energy-efficient, which means they have less impact on your utility bills.

Why is my heat pump not keeping my house warm? ›

The first thing you should check when your heat pump begins to struggle with delivering warmth is the air filter for the HVAC cabinet. If the filter is clogged up with dust and lint because it hasn't been changed in many months, it restricts how much air enters the heat pump to be heated.

Why is my house cold with a heat pump? ›

It's Defrosting

To protect the outdoor coils from freezing up in the winter, heat pumps go through a defrosting period every hour or so in which they are truly blowing out cold air.

Why is my electric bill so high with air source heat pump? ›

Improper maintenance of your heat pump could lead to a 25 per cent increase in your energy bills. Blocked and dirty filters reduce the amount of airflow that can pass through the system and may harm performance. It's also worth checking the fan regularly to ensure there isn't any debris, such as leaves, stuck in it.

How much does it cost to run a heat pump in the winter? ›

On average, air source heat pumps use between 1,000 and 7,500 watts of electricity in cold weather. Actual energy usage depends heavily on what size heat pump you're using. It costs an average of $207 to use a heat pump for cooling for a month and $1,035 to run for a year.

Why doesn t my heat pump turn off when it reaches temperature? ›

If your heat pump won't turn off, switch the thermostat setting to “Heat Off.” If your thermostat doesn't have a switch, try setting the thermostat above the current room temperature. This should turn the heat pump off temporarily.

How much frost is OK on a heat pump? ›

As a general rule of thumb, if frost stays on the coil for two hours or more, then something is wrong. It's time to call your Maryland HVAC Repairman to diagnose the problem.

What temperature does the defrost sensor close? ›

Once closed, the defrost control board begins saving accumulated run time for the compressor. For example, when the coil temperature is below 30°F ±3°F, the defrost thermostat completes a circuit to the defrost board (the sensor closes the circuit). The defrost board will then start timing.

What is the lowest temperature for air source heat pump? ›

Although air source heat pumps can work at temperatures as low as -20°C, they do lose efficiency below 0°C. This is because they exclusively depend on outside air and as the temperature drops, so does the overall heat output that the pump can produce.

What is the best temperature for a heat pump in the winter? ›

Ideal Winter Heat Pump Temperature Settings

According to the Department of Energy, 68°F is the sweet spot that balances comfort and energy efficiency during the fall and winter months. When your home is occupied and when family members are awake, a heat pump setting of 68°F keeps the living areas reasonably warm.

How do I keep my heat pump from freezing in the winter? ›

Without sufficient airflow through the unit, moisture in the air can freeze on the evaporator or condenser coil. To prevent this, ensure good airflow by clearing away any leaves, debris or snow drifts that may be blocking the coils. If the coils are dirty, cleaning them may prevent freezing.

Should I leave my heat pump on all the time in winter? ›

Set it and forget it in the winter.

Heat pumps operate most efficiently when holding a steady temperature. Turning a heat pump down when you're away or asleep may actually use more energy than leaving it on. The reason is that it has to work harder to come back to the desired temperature than it does to maintain it.

Should I switch my heat pump to emergency heat during ice storm? ›

The emergency heat should only be turned on by the homeowner in emergency situations when something happens to the first stage heat source – your heat pump. For example, if during an ice storm a tree is knocked down and damages your outdoor unit, you should switch on your emergency heat and call an HVAC professional.

What is better than a heat pump? ›

A gas-fired furnace generally has a longer lifespan than a heat pump. Furnaces with proper maintenance can last 20 years or more.


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