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Yes, heat pumps work in extremely cold temperatures. In the past, some heat pumps worked better in frigid climates than others. However, thanks to technological advancements, most heat pumps on the market today can keep you and your family warm on even the coldest of winter days in Boston.1
Why Heat Pumps Didn’t Always Work Well in Cold Climates
Today, most heat pumps work well in extremely cold climates. But this wasn’t always the case.
Why? Because, instead of heating homes or office buildings, heat pumps simply transfer outdoor heat indoors. Because heat pumps do not create new heat by burning fuel, they are incredibly efficient.1
If it’s freezing outside, certain older types of heat pumps struggle to perform efficiently. This is because it requires more energy to move heat from a cold area (outside) to a site that is warmer (the home). This could be a problem since the heat pump would need to continuously move heat into the house to maintain its comfortable temperature.2
Luckily, many newer heat pumps have improved in their ability to handle cold weather. See how heat pump technology has evolved to perform well in even the coldest climates and how to choose the right heat pump for your home below.2
Which Types of Heat Pumps Are Best for Cold Climates?
Geothermal Heat Pumps
Just a few feet below the ground, the temperature ranges from 45° F to 75° F. Geothermal heat pumps take heat from the ground and use it to heat the home or office building. Because the temperature doesn’t fluctuate much, the ground can be a reliable source from which to pull heat.3
Whether you’re using your geothermal heat pump during Boston’s steamy summers or subzero winters, you can count on consistent temperatures underground and, therefore, in your home.3
Because the ground has enough heat to pull from in colder temperatures and enough cold to draw from in hotter temperatures, geothermal heat pumps work well in extreme climates.3
Water-Source Heat Pumps
Some geothermal heat pumps use a body of water, such as a pond or lake, to heat the home or office building.
These heat pumps are a good option if you have a body of water on your property. They can be less expensive to install than ground-source heat pumps and provide a more consistent temperature than air-source heat pumps.2
It’s important to note, however, that a lot of this cost efficiency is due to that pre-existing body of water, which would be ready for water-source pump installation. If you don’t have a body of water on your property, you may want to try a different heat pump for your home or office building.3
Air-Source Heat Pumps
Air-source heat pumps are the most popular type of heat pump. They use outside air to heat the home or office building.
Air-source heat pumps were often thought to be inefficient in extreme temperatures. This is because the colder the air outside, the harder it is for the heat pump to find heat to transfer into the home.4
However, in recent years, the technology for air-source heat pumps has become much better, and this equipment now performs well in extreme climates. Several of the air-source heat pump’s components have been improved:

Coil design
Electric motor
Two-speed compressor designs

Technological advances that have contributed to better performance in cold weather include the following:

Thermostatic expansion valves enabling more precise refrigerant flow control to the indoor coil
Variable speed blowers to boost efficiency and counteract the energy sapping effects of dirty air filters and coils and blocked ducts
Copper tubing with internal groves to increase surface area4

These are just some of the innovations that make air-source heat pumps an effective, money saving option, even for freezing Boston winters.
Ductless, Mini-Split Heat Pumps
The ductless, mini-split heat pump is a type of air-source heat pump. This system is ideal for homes that use non-ducted heating, such as radiant panels and space heaters. They could also be a good option for rooms or homes where adding or installing new ducts would not be feasible.
Advantages of the ductless, mini-split heat pump include their small size and ability to heat and cool individual rooms, an energy saving process known as zoning.5
How to Choose the Right Heat Pump for Your Home
Research can give you a basic understanding of your available heat pump options. Even after you’ve settled on the type of heat pump you want, you may still want to research the various features to determine exactly what you want for your home.
For example, if you are looking into an air-source heat pump, you may want to consider the following:

What is this heat pump’s heating season performance factor (HSPF)?
Does this heat pump have demand-defrost control? This could minimize defrost cycles and reduce the amount of supplementary heat necessary to heat the home on the coldest of winter nights.
What is the outdoor sound rating of the heat pump? A rating of 7.6 bels or lower is what the Department of Energy recommends.4

Talk to a Heat Pump Specialist
Research can be a good place to get general information about heat pumps. But for answers to your specific questions about how a certain system could work in your home, you may want to speak with a heating contractor who specializes in heat pump installation and maintenance.
Get started by contacting us to discuss which heat pump could keep your Boston home warm and cozy at a fraction of the cost this winter.

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