How to Rate Heat Pumps

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Heat pumps are energy-efficient choices for air conditioning and heating in moderate climates. They are more efficient than conventional air conditioners or furnaces. The most common type of heat pump is the air-source heat pump, which works well (except in colder climates). Other options include geothermal heat pumps, which are more efficient in extreme temperatures than air-source heat pumps. However, geothermal systems are more costly to install than the air-source heat pump.

  • Determine the heat pump's coefficient of performance (COP) by measuring the heat pump unit's ratio of heat output to the amount of energy input. For instance, a COP of 3 would mean that the heat pump produces three times more heat than the electrical consumed energy. A higher COP is the most desirable rating.

  • Determine the heat pump's energy efficiency ratio (EER) by measuring the heat pump's cooling efficiency. This rating is similar to the COP, only it measures the air cooling rather than heating.

  • Determine the heat pump's heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) by measuring the heating efficiency of the unit's compressor and electrical-resistance elements. This is figured out by calculating the total space heating required during the heating season in BTU's divided by the heat pump's total electrical energy consumed during the season in watts/hours. A minimum HSPF of 6.8 is the current efficiency standard.

  • Determine the heat pump unit's seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) by measuring the heat pump's cooling efficiency. This is figured out by determining the total heat removed in a space during the annual cooling season in BTU's divided by the total electrical energy consumed in watts/hours by the heat pump for the entire season. The most energy efficient heat pumps have SEER ratings between 14 and 18. The higher the rating, the better is the efficiency. However, the cost of the unit also will be higher.

  • Consider other factors as well, such as the repair records of the unit and how well the unit performs throughout the year (including daytime versus night time usage). Consider purchasing a unit that is not the cheapest model. Investing more at the outset can save you money in the long run.

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