A Heat Pump Built for Minnesota Winters and Summers

March 16, 2021

Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) have been used for many years in nearly all parts of the United States but, until recently, were not common in areas with extended periods of subfreezing temperatures. However, in recent years, cold-climate ASHP (ccASHP) technology has advanced so that it now offers a legitimate space heating alternative in colder regions, like Minnesota.

A ccASHP can provide both efficient heating and cooling for your home. When properly installed, it can deliver up to three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy it consumes. This is possible because a heat pump moves heat rather than converting it from a fuel like combustion heating systems do.

A project recently conducted by the Center for Energy and Environment found that the efficiency of the newest generation of ccASHPS can operate down to minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit. The efficiency of these technologies in moderate climates is also two- to-three times more efficient than standard electric heating systems.

Since heat pumps provide heating in the winter and cooling in the summer, you should be aware of at least two heat pump energy efficiency ratings. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) measures cooling efficiency over the cooling season, while the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) measures heating efficiency over the heating season. Given that we are in the depths of a Minnesota winter, let’s further explore the heating aspect.

HSPF is a standardized rating used to compare energy efficiencies. HSPF is used by all heat pump manufacturers to indicate efficiency ratings. Like miles per gallon for your car, the higher the HSPF number, the more efficient the system.

Heat pumps, when properly installed, provide members with several distinct advantages:

  • When sized appropriately, today’s ccASHPs can provide 100% of a home’s heating needs down to temperatures as low as zero degrees, which is roughly 90% of all heating hours in Minnesota. If properly set, an ASHP can serve as your primary source for a good part of our Minnesota winters.
  • The balance point of your heat pump is the outdoor temperature at which your home HVAC system switches over to its backup heating system, likely set by your installer. If your heat pump can keep your home warm down to 10 F, but your balance point is set to switch over to backup heat at that same temperature, then anytime it’s in the 10- to 15-degree Fahrenheit range, you’ll be paying more than you should for heat.
  • Aren’t sure of your ASHP’s balance point? Take note of the temperature where your backup heating source kicks in and if it’s above 10 F, your balance point may be set too high. If you have already installed an ASHP, you may also want to contact your installation contractor to inquire further and ensure your balance point is where you want it to be.

Stearns Electric provides incentives and programs for heat pump technologies. Should you have any additional questions, feel free to contact our Energy Services team at (800) 962-0655 during regular business hours. For additional ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home, visit our Save Money and Energy section on our website.