Heat Pump Buyers Guide

Heat Pump Buyers GuideHeat Pump Buyers Guide - Despite people thinking heat pumps are for heating only, which is not true, heat pumps are a great way to heat and cool your home in the winter and the summer. A split system heat pump can efficiently heat and cool your house when the temperatures outside are not so pleasant. Heat pumps use the process of refrigeration to move heat. A heat pump is both an air conditioner and a heating system combined.

This buying guide will help you when deciding to buy. Heat pumps make wonderful home heating and cooling systems for many people. Heat pump efficiency offers great efficiency for heating efficiency and cooling efficiency in the air conditioner mode.

In the summer, it will move heat outside. In the winter, despite the air being cold, it will absorb heat and move it inside. In this article, we will break down all the various types of home heat pump systems and efficiency ranges. We’ll help you decide if a heat pump is right for you and guide you to purchasing a heat pump for your home or business.

Familiarize yourself with HSPF and SEER when considering the purchase of a heat pump. We’ll describe more below, but is it the way a heat pump is rated for energy efficiency for the heating side of the heat pump. You want good heating efficiency and cooling efficiency to give you overall home heating seasonal performance and cooling performance.

Heat Pump Buyers Guide

Heat Pump Energy Efficiency

Heat pumps come with two specific energy efficiency ratings. One is for the cooling mode, and the other is for the heat mode. The cooling mode will offer an efficiency rating with a SEER rating or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. While the heating side will provide the efficiency rating in HSPF or Heating Season Performance Factor for heat pumps.

While the operation of a heat pump in heating or cooling mode is nearly identical, there are differences in how one provides cooling, and the other includes heating. Thus the reason for the different types of ratings. For heating, heat pumps use a heating seasonal performance factor or HSPF.

Heat pumps can be very efficient air conditioning and heating systems and give you excellent energy efficiency for your home. However, before spending a lot of money buying the most suitable model heat pump, consider upgrading the weatherproofing of your home first. You can get a heat pump that will both heat and cool your home that has both a high SEER rating and a heating seasonal performance factor rating that is very high.

The job of that HVAC system is to remove heat in the summer and add heat in the winter. If your home is leaking air through doors, windows, and other areas, the new system will not be as efficient. That also applies to old ductwork. Don’t overlook these parts when buying a new heat pump system. Next, we’ll cover types of heat pumps you can purchase. For our Heat Pump Buyers Guide, we’ll list them below.

Types of Heat Pumps | Heat Pump Buyers Guide

Split System Heat Pumps

Split System Heat Pump

Split System heat pumps are quite typical for many heat pump systems. An example of a split system heat pump includes an air handler that is separated from the heat pump condenser. E.G., an air handler in the basement or attic, and the heat pump condenser outside. The two separate parts of the split system are connected via a line set and control wire.

The air handler can also be a gas furnace in a dual-fuel heat pump setup. Most air handlers will have electric heat strips for backup heat, but for more efficient heat, a gas furnace can be used to provide the backup heat. To have a dual-duel heat pump with a gas furnace for your home, you also need a source of gas, whether it be propane or natural gas.

Heat Pump Package Unit | Heat Pump Buyers Guide

Cooling systems and gas furnaces can be combined into one single package. So can heat pumps. These are referred to as heat pump package systems. These are cooling systems and a heating system, all combined in one package. It also houses the air handler for the heating and cooling heat pump package system. Most of the time, a package unit is specified when there is limited room inside the home or structure. These package systems do not offer efficient heat or air conditioning as a split system or other types of heat pumps we describe here.

Mini-Split Ductless Heat Pumps

Heat Pump Mini-Split Condensers

Mini-split ductless heat pumps can offer you a very high HSPF and SEER for both heating and cooling depending on the type of system you purchase for your home. Of course, this applies to all the heat pump system types mentioned here, but mini-splits can be considered a very high-efficiency option if ductwork is not a concern for you. Invertor duty mini-split heat pumps offer you the highest efficiency for any type of home heating and cooling system.

Geothermal Heat Pump Systems | Heat Pump Buyers Guide

Geothermal heat pump systems are generally the most expensive types of heat pumps to install and have special requirements. You need either a lot of land around your home or some good wells with a decent water table to install a geothermal heat pump system. Again, this type of heat pump provides both heating and cooling for your home. Make sure you check out these requirements before deciding on this type of heat pump system.

Buying Guide Considerations | Heat Pump Buyers Guide

As noted above, energy efficiency is a significant factor in anyone’s decision to buy a heat pump. However, there are some other factors for heat pumps you need to consider. Energy costs for air conditioning and heating systems are approximately 50% of your home energy budget.

In the summer, the cooling system consumes a lot of energy, and in the winter, the heating systems consume a big part of your energy budget. Make sure to follow the guidelines for weatherproofing your home and make sure the duct system is good before buying a heating and cooling system. Here are some additional factors to consider:

Additional Tips and Questions to Ask
  1. Contractor - The installation contractor. Heat pumps need to be installed by a qualified contractor. Many times, the installation of air conditioners and heat pumps the contractor gets something wrong or cuts corners. A credible contractor will install the system correctly and offer a good warranty. Make sure to vet the installation contractor before signing any contract including for heat pumps.
  2. Sizing Requirements - For an air conditioner or heat pump, sizing the system is very important. The installation contractor should provide a Manual J calculation. If they do not, I will not sign the contract. It will affect the efficiency mentioned for both heating and cooling.
  3. Noise - What are the rated decibel levels for the new system. This data should be provided to you in the product literature before buying. Don’t make the mistake of buying a new system that will cause you frustration throughout the life of the system because of noise.
  4. Geographical Location versus Balance Point - The balance point for a heat pump is when, in the winter, reaches its point at which it starts falling behind because the outdoor temperature has dropped below a specific point. That is the point at which the system begins falling behind. Then you can expect to begin using the backup heat source. The contractor should know more about this, and it is different for each type of heat pump. Make sure to ask this question before signing the contract.

HVAC Equipment Warranties

Warranties are essential, and the most basic warranty from any manufacturer will tell you how they feel about the quality of their equipment. A manufacturer that believes in their equipment will have good, qualified, and well-trained contractors and offer a basic warranty that will cover the equipment for a decent term. It is also important that you understand the warranty before signing the contract.

What many people do not realize when buying new HVAC equipment is that most warranties only cover parts and not labor. Another mistake people make when buying new HVAC equipment is not registering the warranty with the time frame after installation that the manufacturer requires. I know many people would rather watch grass grow or paint dry, but it is important to read the warranty and comply with all conditions in the warranty.

Conclusion | Heat Pump Buyers Guide

There are many factors to consider when buying a new heat pump system. If you do it right, you can enjoy many years of owning your heat pump. Making efficiency one of the considerations will also help in the long run by reducing energy bills. We all know lowering utility bills and saving energy is a good thing for everyone, including your budget. We hope our Buyers Guide helps you in your purchase of a new HVAC system.

Heat Pump Buyers Guide Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does a Heat Pump Cost? What price can I expect to pay for a heat pump?

HighPerformanceHVAC.com does not give out pricing for HVAC equipment simply because every customer has different requirements as well as contractors. You can call 10 different contractors for an estimate and you will get 10 different prices. HVAC equipment pricing will vary widely depending on:

  • the amount of work needed to be done by the contractor
  • do you need new ductwork or old ductwork repaired
  • local and regional regulations and codes
  • the heat pump brand or manufacturer
  • the capacity or size of the system you purchase
What is the best brand of heat pump to buy?

This is a question that requires an opinion. It is like asking ten people what is the best brand of car to buy? Everyone will likely give you different answers. Therefore, HighPerformanceHVAC.com recommends you go with the best contractor. The reason for this is because a new heat pump system that will be efficient and reliable will require expert installation. Workmanship and skill is important especially when installing a new HVAC system. You can purchase the best of the best rated HVAC system but if it is not installed properly the system will not function as designed and it will to be efficient or reliable. In this case, choosing a good contractor is the best advice we can give you.

Additionally, different contractors use different brands. A good contractor that sells brand A is going to stand by that product. They are familiar with it and know the pluses and minuses of the equipment including its limitations. A good contractor will always be honest with their customers upfront about everything. Always get at least three estimates from different contractors that you vetted. Therefore, it is always contractor over brand.

High Performance HVAC Heating & cooling

Heat Pump Buyers Guide

Heat Pump Indoor Fan Runs Continuously

Heat Pump Indoor Fan Runs Continuously

Heat Pump Indoor Fan Runs Continuously – Richard, what would cause my heat pump indoor fan to run continuously? My indoor fan motor, on the heat setting, runs constantly and won’t cut off unless I lower the thermostat by 2° F. It is sometimes annoying for me to constantly change the setting just to get it to shut down plus trying to maintain a comfortable temperature without the fan running all the time. What could the problem be and is it something I can fix myself or do I need to call in a service company to make the repair? Thank you for your help!!


Heat Pump Blowing Cold Air | Refrigeration Heating Troubleshooting

Heat Pump Blowing Cold Air | Refrigeration Heating TroubleshootingWhy is my Heat Pump Blowing Cold Air? | Richard, love your website!! I used a few months ago to install a new thermostat, and you cleared some things up with the thermostat wiring colors I had problems trying to figure out. Thanks!!

Now I just turned on my heat pump the other night when it was cold outside. I wanted to warm the house up a bit since, in the daytime, it gets back up to reasonable temperatures. The heat pump is blowing cold air when the thermostat was set to heat.

I am just wondering if I hooked something wrong hooking up the thermostat, or perhaps I have a problem with the heat pump and need to call someone out to fix the problem. Regarding your reply to my original comment, I turned the thermostat up to 80° F. when the house temperature was 72°, and the thermostat was set to heat.

The supply vents did start blowing warm air. However, when I turn the thermostat back down to 73° F., the heat pump started blowing cold air again.

I look forward to your answer. Thanks again for all your help!! Rebecca. (more…)

Energy Star Heat Pumps | Air Source

Energy Star Heat PumpsEnergy Star Heat Pumps | People sometimes ask us what is the difference between a heat pump that is labeled with an Energy Star logo and one that is not labeled with an Energy Star logo. What is the benefit to me for purchasing a heat pump with an Energy Star logo on it? We do keep up with many different HVAC manufacturers and what they offer for the equipment they sell (things change so much it is sometimes difficult to keep up).

However, we thought we would clarify what Energy Star is and what it means to you when you purchase a heat pump with an Energy Star label. Is it the best and most efficient heat pump you can purchase? We only show air source heat pumps since they are, by far, the most common types of heat pumps used. (more…)

Honeywell Heat Pump Thermostat Troubleshooting

Honeywell VisionPro Thermostat TroubleshootingHoneywell Heat Pump Thermostat Troubleshooting. Hello Richard! We have a Honeywell VisionPro (8000) thermostat with a Carrier heat pump that has two stages for heating and cooling. We are having problems with the staging of the system, especially in heating mode.

I know the problem also occurs in the cooling mode but it seems worse in the heating mode. The house seems to get uncomfortable even though the system is running and then finally after the thermostat gets to a certain point the second stage will turn on and we feel the difference. It doesn’t matter where we set the thermostat to for temperature. A friend of mine suggested I had a problem with a limit switch.

We also notice sometimes the outside temperature reading on the thermostat is incorrect sometimes and rarely matches the reported temperature from our News sources where we live. Just wondering what your thoughts are and if you can guide us in the right direction. We found your site by doing a search for Honeywell thermostat problems. Anyhow, can you help us, please? Thanks in advance!!! (more…)

Rheem Heat Pump Troubleshooting

Rheem Heat Pump Troubleshooting

Rheem Heat Pumps

Rheem Heat Pump Troubleshooting - Richard, I have a Rheem heat pump, and it seems like we have the same problems with it every year. We call the HVAC guy out to get it going again, but it seems the following year, it is the same thing over again.

He fills the system up with R-22, and it’s not cheap. Does my heat pump need this every year? Does the heat pump burn Freon like a car burns gas? How can I properly troubleshoot this problem?

That is year three, and the cost of fixing it keeps rising every year. In the Spring, when we turn it to cooling, we don’t get any cold air. I came across your site and saw that you take questions about HVAC. I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question concerning this matter. What do you suggest? Thanks!

This Rheem heat pump troubleshooting article mainly pertains to a refrigerant leak.  For another article on heat pump troubleshooting that is more diverse with heat pump problems, see our heat pump troubleshooting guide article.



Heat Pump Leaking Refrigerant Question

Heat Pump Leaking Refrigerant QuestionHeat Pump Leaking Refrigerant - Is my Heat Pump Low on Refrigerant? I get this question a lot from both my customers and my site visitors. They tell me every year a technician comes out and pumps a few pounds of refrigerant into their unit and it’s good again for another year. A refrigerant leak for an air source heat pump is not uncommon. Or is it? Let us explore the question a bit further and see what really happens when you refill the unit over and over again, year after year. (more…)

Heat Pump Breaker Trips

Heat Pump Breaker Trips - Richard, my breaker keeps tripping for my heat pump. It seems to be a nuisance trip on occasion, and it usually happens at the most inopportune time. I am wondering what you think could be the problem to prevent these nuisance trips. I want it fixed so my heat pump is reliable. Thanks!!

This is a question sent in by one of the site visitors and is in a series of articles for heat pump troubleshooting and repair.

In this article, you will learn about heat pump main power circuits, including the reasons why heat pumps trip the breaker.

Heat Pump Breaker Trips

The Heat Pump Condenser Circuit

This is likely something you cannot repair yourself, and it could be dangerous (high voltage), so I recommend calling an HVAC contractor to look at the problem.
The typical split system heat pump (the most common type) have two separate circuits. One for the air handler and one for the condensing unit. Consequently, this means you will have two separate breakers in the main power panel, one for the air handler and one for the heat pump condenser.

Based on electrical code, these breakers, as with each breaker in your panel, should be labeled for the appropriate circuit location/appliance. That is not always the case. That is, the panels are not always labeled, and when they are labeled, they are not always labeled properly. It may be necessary for your HVAC technician to troubleshoot this issue to figure which circuit is tripping, the air handler, or the heat pump condenser.

Related Link: Check out our comprehensive article on “How Heat Pumps Work” and “Heat Pump Sequence of Operation” to help you better understand heat pumps.

Heat Pump Breaker Trips

heat pump breaker tripsA breaker trip for any appliance including a heat pump is usually caused by a dead short in the wiring or a motor. I usually say because there are some cases where the breaker was found to be bad or defective and would give nuisance trips. Once the breaker was replaced, everything worked fine according to normal specifications. A bad breaker can easily be replaced. However, this should be done by a trained professional, and a basic check of other components needs to be done to make sure these components did not cause the breaker to go bad.

Heat Pump Breaker Trips - NEC

The panel in the photo is an open electrical panel with breakers. The breakers installed must be sized properly for the amp load and wires size. Consult the NEC tables for proper wire sizing based on ampacity. Every electrical component in your electrical system is designed for a specific load or a specific number of amps.

A common residential heat pump condenser will have a number 10 wire which terminates in the main electrical panel to a breaker specifically sized for the ampacity of the condenser. This ampacity calculation is generally on the heat pump condenser on a label provided by the manufacturer.

Components from the termination at the condenser to the termination in the main electrical panel need to be sized according to the listed ampacity rating. The ampacity rating is usually list by the manufacturer. That includes wire size, breaker size, and fuse sizes with the fuses being special-purpose slow-blow fuses to take into account locked rotor amps (LRA) or starting amps for the compressor.

Troubleshooting electrical breakers should only be done by someone trained in electrical safety. Breakers are inside a high voltage panel and are very hazardous.

Reasons Why the Breaker Trips for a Heat Pump

Here are the basic reasons that will cause your heat pump breaker to trip along with basic explanations:

  • Bad breaker - this is described above. Can also be classified as a loose breaker (described below).
  • A dead short - this is when two wires touch and this could be a bad motor or a bad compressor. The windings in the compressor could go bad and when they do they cause a dead short in the windings. A heat pump condenser contains the compressor. If the condenser is fused, it can blow before it trips the breaker. However, it can also trip the breaker depending on the sizing of the fuses and the breaker. A dead short can occur in the air handler or the heat pump condenser.
  • Power supply. That can be caused by brown-outs in the summer or by a severe storm with lots of lightning. If some appliances in your home are working properly, then you need to call the power company to have them solve this issue for you.
  • Poor maintenance. A dirty clogged air filter or clogged condenser coils will cause the motors and compressor to operate at higher than normal amp draws. That creates a lot of heat from the extra electrical energy used. This not causes a higher power bill but can also lead to heat pump breaker trips. Make sure you properly maintain your heat pump not only to prevent nuisance breaker trips but also to save energy. HVAC preventive maintenance goes a long way in comfort and energy savings.

Never reset the breaker more than a few times. When a breaker trips continuously, it means you have a serious problem that needs to be addressed before the breaker is reset.

Heat Pump Breaker Trips

  • Mechanical lockup of a motor or compressor. A bad bearing or a rusted bearing can cause the motor or compressor not to start and run properly. That creates a lot of friction, keeping the motor or compressor from moving freely. That will cause the motor to work harder and create a higher amp draw and more heat.
  • A bad capacitor including start and run capacitors - Capacitors are essential to single-phase motors. Start capacitors and run capacitors are designed to help the motor run more efficiently and in the case of a start capacitor designed to help the compressor start. A bad capacitor can cause heat pump breaker trips.
  • Loose electrical connections - this can include connections to the heat pump itself or even a loose breaker. Loose connections cause a higher than normal power draw. That increases the heat and can lead to other problems that will eventually fail the heat pump.
  • Short cycling - Short cycling of a compressor can cause heat pump breaker trips.
Additional questions from our readers:
My heat pump breaker won't reset?

If you have reset the heat pump breaker and it continues to trip then you have an electrical problem. It could be the breaker that is bad or an electrical problem causing the heat pump breaker to keep tripping. It’s difficult to definitively answer this question if it’s an electrical problem. See the above list for possible problems that would cause the heat pump breaker to keep tripping.

Can my thermostat cause the heat pump breaker to trip?

The answer is no. The thermostat operates on an independent low voltage circuit. The heat pump breaker operates on high voltage.

What to do if the heat pump breaker keeps tripping?

The first recommendation is to call for service after checking some basic things. We have a checklist here before calling for service. If, after checking the basics and your heat pump breaker keeps tripping, call a professional. Replacing a breaker or troubleshooting a breaker problem can be dangerous.


Remember, safety is very important, and doing any of these things on your own is dangerous. It is best to call a professional to this work and troubleshooting the problem for you. Some people reset the breaker only to have it trip again when the issue recurs. Resetting a tripped breaker over and over again will not solve the root of the problem. Consequently, this needs the attention of a professional.

Heat Pump Breaker Trips

Heat Pump Breaker Trips

Heat Pump Troubleshooting Guide | Diagnosis and Repair

Unit with the top off - condenser fan motor being changed out and inspected

Heat Pump being repaired

Heat Pump Troubleshooting Advice. When you have a problem with your heat pump, you want to check the basics. Anything beyond that, you need to call in a professional to troubleshoot the heat pump. The heat pump or any electrical-mechanical equipment you have problems with and need to troubleshoot. Whether you call for heat pump troubleshooting or any other repair there is only so much you can do. We’ll discuss common problems and give you the best advice. (more…)

Goodman 13 SEER Heat Pump Condensing Unit

Goodman 13 SEER Heat Pump Condensing UnitThis Goodman 13 SEER Heat Pump condensing unit is a new installation. The inside Goodman air handler attached to the heat pump condenser via line set was also replaced. It was replaced with this new Goodman heat pump. It’s not a good idea to put a new high SEER air conditioner or heat pump condenser without matching it. It should be matched with a properly rated and efficient air handler especially the coil. (more…)