Heat pumps offer a cost-effective alternative to the standard central air system. Instead of relying on an outside compressor component and an inside furnace component, a heat pump combines both functions into one unit.
Heat pumps work by transferring heat from one location to another. In summertime, these units will pump warm air indoors back out. In winter, these units will force heat into the home. Heat pumps still have compressors, heating elements, and in some cases, furnaces.
This article reviews the different ratings, features, and specifications needed in the best heat pump. We’ll also be talking about what you need to know before committing to a heat pump, as well as when a heat pump is more valuable to the homeowner than the central AC unit.
- Trane XV20i 4TWV0060A
- Trane’s heat pump offering comes with the premium build quality and efficient operation we’ve come to expect from the company. The high price tag and difficulties in installing the unit are frustrating, but this unit can cool and heat faster than most in almost any climate.
- Goodman GSZ14
- Goodman’s single phase heat pump proves to be affordable and effective for milder climates. Overall strength and efficiency are a bit low for our taste, but if cost and easy installation are high on your list, this unit will serve you well and works as a great introduction to heat pumps.
- Carrier Infinity 20 25VNA0
- Carrier boasts one of the most powerful heat pumps in the market in a package that’s far smaller than many on our list. You can expect some particularly powerful heating capacity in the winter months with this product, but these features will cost you more.
- Maytag M120 MSH1BF
- Maytag’s heat pump offers two-stage operation and gives a special focus on dehumidification, making this a prime product for those in coastal climates. The mediocre heating capability and efficiency, however, are worrisome considering the all-around use Maytag boasts.
- Heat Pumps Buyers Guide
- Heat Pump Anatomy
- SEER and HSPF Explained
- Single, Two-Phase, or Variable Speed?
- Zones & Climates
- Heat Pump or Air Conditioner?
- Final Thoughts
Variable Speed | ~ 60,000 BTU | Up to 20 SEER | Up to 10 HSPF | 54 x 37 x 34
Trane’s heat pump offering comes with the premium build quality and efficient operation we’ve come to expect from the company. The high price tag and difficulties in installing the unit are frustrating, but this unit can cool and heat faster than most in almost any climate.
- Highly reliable and very efficient
- Premium build quality
- Provides great savings in energy
- Somewhat tricky installation
- Large, bulky unit
- Variable speed compressor
- WeatherGuard fasteners
- Warranty: 12-year Compressor, 10-year Parts
Trane makes few apologies about its disruptive product design and similarly aggressive marketing. Trane pushes for power and speed over many other features, and with this heat pump, they seem to have met their own metrics. The Trane XV20i heat pump, not to be confused with the Trane XV20i AC unit, is Trane’s premiere heat pump offering. The unit boasts an impressive 60,000 BTU for excellent cooling potential, up to 10 HSPF of heating potential, and up to 20 SEER efficiency, thanks to the variable speed motor.
This Trane product excels at fast cooling and overall performance, quickly making it one of the best products for any climate. The higher price tag, associated installation fees, and large size, does make it a tough sell for some. Still, this Trane unit should have no problems working with your central air system and providing the cool (and heat) that you need regardless of where you live.
Single Phase | 36,000 BTU | 14 SEER | 9 HSPF | 30 x 31 x 41
Goodman’s single phase heat pump proves to be affordable and effective for milder climates. Overall strength and efficiency are a bit low for our taste, but if cost and easy installation are high on your list, this unit will serve you well and works as a great introduction to heat pumps.
- Small size
- Easily installed comparatively
- Excellent warranty coverage
- Good dehumidifier
- Not very efficient
- Low BTU capacity
- Can be loud
- SmartShift technology enables easy defrost
- High-efficiency scroll compressor
- Warranty: 10-year Limited
Goodman remains a company hailed for good value overall in both its AC units and its heat pumps. The Goodman GSZ14 heat pump is one of the most affordable heat pumps currently being sold. Those unfamiliar with heat pumps or even those skeptical of their value may be hard-pressed to pass up on the deals regularly associated with this product.
With a 14 SEER efficiency rating, we have to admit we’re a little disappointed with the energy loss. However, 9 HSPF is nothing to scoff at when it comes to this price point, which makes up for frustrations in the AC department. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for with this Goodman product. Loud operation and lackluster cooling may be included, but when you take into account the strength of this unit in comparison to its price tag, there is no denying that this heat pump is one of the greatest values available.
Variable Speed | ~ 60,000 BTU | Up to 20.5 SEER | Up to 13 HSPF | 35 x 35 x 44
Carrier boasts one of the most powerful heat pumps in the market in a package that’s far smaller than many on our list. You can expect some particularly powerful heating capacity in the winter months with this product, but these features will cost you more.
- Excellent heating capacity
- Great BTU rating
- Small & unassuming frame
- High efficiency
- Somewhat slow operation
- Performance between 40-100% capacity
- Quiet 58-decibel operation
- Warranty: 10-year Compressor & Parts
Carrier produces products that seem to rival Trane, boasting similar specifications and functionality, but in a smaller package. The Carrier Infinity 20 Heat Pump is a powerful heat pump with a specific focus on heating capability. With 13 HSPF, we have to stress that you would be hard pressed to find any comparable unit that can heat quite like this one.
The cooling capacity is nothing to laugh at either, and considering the small frame, we’re very impressed that the unit operates at up to a 20.5 SEER efficiency rating and still manages to keep relatively quiet. Unfortunately, this unit is quite expensive, and even several orders more expensive than the most affordable heat pump on our list. Because of this, we recommend this heat pump to owners that would specifically benefit from it—namely those in colder climates—as opposed to those who would prefer a more rounded unit.
Two-Phase | ~ 55,000 BTU | Up to 16 SEER | Up to 8.5 HSPF | 45 x 32 x 32
- Excellent dehumidification
- High BTU rating
- Premium build quality
- Consistent output
- Weak heating capability
- Low comparative SEER rating
- Reliable scroll compressor
- Protective jacket panels and finish
- Warranty: 12-year all-parts
Maytag, like Trane, seems to focus on the exceptional build quality of their units. The Maytag M120 combines a two-phase operation with a high HSPF rating to be one of the best heat pumps for coastal and humid climates. Excellent dehumidification capabilities and premium parts are all housed in a unit that looks and feels built to last.
However, considering the two-phase operation, we do find it strange that the SEER rating seems more comparable to a single phase design. Likewise, heating is poor not only for this unit’s class but for heat pumps in general, that’s why we recommend this Maytag product to those who live near the coasts. In many ways, it functions as a great contrast to the Carrier’s focus on heat and helps homeowners tailor the focus of their heat pumps rather than spending more on an all-in-one unit.
Heat Pumps Buyers Guide
There are many different variations and associated terms with heat pumps, especially due to their all-in-one design. Many components must work in tandem for a heat pump to effectively cool and heat a home, so before committing to one of the above units, make sure you’re familiar with the following and can shop with confidence.
Heat Pump Anatomy
Heat pumps work differently than air conditioner units, but the overall design is quite similar to traditional central air systems. Remember that you’ll need all components of a central air system, not just the heat pump, in order to operate your purchase.
When working to cool your home, a heat pump will pull heat from inside your home and transfer it outside. Air is blown over a cold coil to continuously release cold air within your home.
When working to heat your home, a heat pump will absorb heat from outside the home via the outside coil. This heat will be transferred into your home by heating the coil on the inside. Finally, a fan will blow air over this heated coil to release the heated air into your home. During extremely cold months, this process is aided by electrically heated coils as well as those heated from the outside air.
Since extracting heat from the already-cold air is more difficult than extracting heat from the inside of your home in the summer, heat pumps are generally more apt at cooling than heating. Both processes work more efficiently than traditional furnace and air conditioning units.
SEER and HSPF Explained
The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER rating of a unit, explains just how much of your power bill goes into cooling your home. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient (and affordable) your unit will be when in operation. SEER ratings also tend to operate in tandem with a unit’s British Thermal Unit number, or BTU. This describes how quickly and at what volume your unit can cool air.
A heat pump’s Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, or HSPF, is much like the SEER rating, only for heat. The higher the rating, the more effective heating will be. This number does tend to be lower than the SEER rating, but this is due to the nature of heat pumps, which tend to cool better than they can heat as a whole.
Single, Two-Phase, or Variable Speed?
You may have also noticed the various categories of heat pumps. These categories affect the efficiency and overall performance of a heat pump significantly.
The simplest heat pump assembly is the single-phase assembly. This is an all-or-none type design that means your heat pump will operate at maximum capacity or not at all. This is the most affordable but least efficient type of operation.
Next is the two-phase assembly, which usually features high and low modes. The aim of these heat pumps is to operate on low mode until sudden changes in temperature require the maximum capacity operation to correct. These heat pumps provide an excellent middle ground between single-phase and two-phase heat pumps.
Finally, there is the variable speed heat pump. This unit can work in small increments between low and high operation and will remain the most effective of the three types of heat pumps. This assembly, however, is costly to maintain and produce.
Generally speaking, you won’t need variable speed heat pumps for milder climates, as their efficiency is lost on the lack of changing temperatures. Nevertheless, if you need a unit that can dehumidify, cool, and heat with great efficiency and you live in a climate with four distinct seasons, then variable speed heat pumps are far superior to the alternatives.
Still confused? Consider the following when deciding upon the right heat pump category for you:
|Single Phase Heat Pump||
|Two-Phase Heat Pump||
|Variable Speed Heat Pump||
Zones & Climates
The importance of climates has been discussed a number of times when it comes to heat pumps. This is because heat pumps are generally more efficient in milder climates but can still be configured to handle regions with four distinct seasons. This is why we recommend becoming familiar with your climate zone, which will give you a better understanding of the type of environment you live in and which heat pump may best match your needs.
For example, those in coastal zones may be more fixated on cooling capacity and dehumidifying capability. In contrast, those in higher elevations may want heating more than cooling. In either case, matching your zone and climate to the right heat pump will be more effective than simply choosing the most affordable or most efficient heat pump.
Heat Pump or Air Conditioner?
When it comes to heat pumps and air conditioners, it can be easy to mix the two up. Both are housed in very similar units. Both utilize central air systems and both come with compressors. However, there are significant differences between the two that may cause you to lean one way or another when it comes to managing the air in your home.
For example, air conditioners will cool homes more effectively than heat pumps. The same is true for furnaces versus heat pumps. However, air conditioner units, in particular, are far less efficient than their heat pump alternatives. Remember our earlier discussion on zones? The more temperate your zone, the more valuable a heat pump will become. For quick reference, consider the following when comparing heat pumps to air conditioners:
Finally, we think it’s important to note that heat pumps units cannot simply be installed as a replacement for central AC units. Both indoor and outdoor components need to be professionally installed for the unit to work properly.
This is why installation is generally more expensive for heat pumps than for air conditioners. Since air conditioners and furnaces still reign supreme in most location, many heat pump installations require replacing older components in the central air system.
To install a heat pump, an experienced technician will often rework an existing home air system to connect to the new additional unit. This will require extra time, parts, and labor. Generally speaking, you can expect heat pump installation to cost a few times more than the equipment itself. Be sure to plan for installation fees before purchasing any heat pumps and consider getting quotes beforehand to better anticipate your costs.
With so much to consider and many heat pumps to choose from, it’s easy to see why many would stick with their tried and true furnace and air conditioner. However, if you’re willing to make the jump to heat pumps, one of these four units may best match your needs.
If you are looking for the most powerful overall unit and live in a climate with four distinct seasons, then the Trane XV20i heat pump may be right for you. Variable speed functionality is simply too effective and efficient to pass up, and if you want a particular focus on heating over cooling, then the Carrier Infinity 20 is also a great option.
For those in coastal climates with a serious need for cooling and dehumidification functionality, the Maytag M120 provides an effective solution. Finally, the affordability of the Goodman R410A is great for those who want to give heat pumps a shot for the first time.
Wherever you find yourself, whether you’re replacing a heat pump or looking to lower your utility bill, we hope your heat pump can provide the efficiency and comfort you’ve been looking for.