Winter Mountains

How heat pumps work in winter

Heat pumps are largely regarded as the future low-carbon heating solution for homes around the world, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. However, while many heat pump benefits are clear to see, you may be left wondering how well heat pumps work in the winter.

Ultimately, if you live in a colder climate, you’ll need your heat pump more than ever during the winter months. Fortunately, you’ll be pleased to hear that heat pumps work exactly the same in winter as they do all year round and the chances of them being affected by cold conditions are very low. In this article, we will explore exactly how effective heat pumps are in cold weather, while debunking any myths surrounding their performance during the winter months.

How good are heat pumps in cold weather?

A heat pump transfers heat energy from outside into a home and can be used to provide heating or cooling. While heat pumps tend to be more efficient in warmer weather conditions, technological advancements have meant that they’re now almost equally as effective in cold weather. For example, if you live in the UK, you’ll experience no problems with your heat pump during the winter.

Even when temperatures do reach below 0°C, there is still plenty of heat in the air or below ground that a heat pump can use to keep your home suitably warm. This is why homeowners in the UK will never have anything to worry about, as conditions aren’t extreme enough to cause any issues.

In fact, most air source heat pumps will keep working at maximum efficiency to around -20°C.

The new generation of heat pumps are effective in cold weather

Heat pumps have improved significantly in recent years and this extends to their performance levels in cold weather. They’re now a lot more efficient during extreme winter conditions and you shouldn’t ever experience any issues in the UK.

However, if you do live in a very cold climate outside of the UK, then you may benefit more from opting for a ground source heat pump. In order to get the most out of your heat pump and ensure it’s running at maximum efficiency, you need to ensure you get it serviced annually by an experienced professional.

You can find out how to look after your heat pump during the winter here.

How does a heat pump's efficiency compare to a gas boiler in colder months?

This is an important consideration in the heat pumps vs gas boilers debate. Heat pumps have a much better efficiency rating than gas boilers (nearly four times as much), but at the time of writing natural gas costs around 10p per kWh and electricity costs around 35p per kWh.

While the temperature outside won’t impact the efficiency of the heat pump or gas boiler, you will need them to generate more heat when it’s cold outside. This is when the cost per kWh becomes a factor.

Therefore, while heat pumps are considerably more efficient on the surface, this will often be determined by how much electricity costs.

Which is more efficient in cold weather: An air source or ground source heat pump?

It goes without saying that the temperature of the energy source, whether that be the air or ground, will have an impact on which heat pump type is more efficient. For example, if the air temperature is warmer than the ground, then an air source heat pump is going to be more efficient.

There are plenty of variables that come into play when determining which is more efficient during cold weather, including where you’re house is located, the climate you’re exposed to and the quality of the heat pump. However, as a general rule, ground source heat pumps tend to be slightly more efficient than air source heat pumps.

The good news is that both heat pump types will work in winter. This is largely thanks to huge advancements in heat pump technology and design. In the UK, both options will work brilliantly.

Do heat pumps work below 20 degrees?

Air source heat pumps will usually keep working efficiently to around -20°C and the best systems will also manage below this threshold if looked after and serviced annually. However, ground source heat pumps will often struggle to work properly below -8°C, which may impact the heat pump type you choose.

What temperature is a heat pump not effective?

As a general rule, heat pumps won’t operate as efficiently when temperatures drop to between -25°C and -40°C.

Heat pump winter myths

Heat pumps aren’t immune to myths about their performance circulating online, and this is no different when it comes to question marks surrounding their performance during winter. Here, we debunk some of the main heat pump winter myths.

The capacity myth

This myth argues that heat pumps can’t produce enough heat to keep your home warm in cold weather. The reality is that unless outdoor temperatures reach below -25°C, you’ll have no issues with regards to capacity. However, it will likely still work in conditions that cold, it just won't be as effective or efficient.

The money myth

The final myth is that due to a heat pump’s supposed lower efficiency in cold weather, they cost too much money. Although electricity costs are currently high and more electricity is needed during the winter to heat a home, the fact the efficiency rating of heat pumps is nearly four times higher than a gas boiler balances this out.

In fact, in the long term, you’re likely to save more money by getting a heat pump installed in your home.

At NIBE, we combine renewable energy with new smart technology to offer a range of market-leading heat pumps that’ll help to create a more sustainable future. Find out more today. 

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