Are Heat Pumps Efficient In Pennsylvania’s Climate?

In 2024, heat pumps are powerful enough to keep Pennsylvania homes comfortable year-round. Energy Star-rated Cold Climate Heat Pumps outperform gas or oil furnaces when it comes to performance and energy savings.

In other words, you’ll get better heat all winter, all you pay less for it than you are now. Of course, there are plenty of factors to consider:

This article will address all that and more, all coming from a bona fide expert.

I’ve worked as a product manager for Peirce Phelps, a national HVAC distributor, for more than a decade. I focus on high-efficiency HVAC systems and work with dozens of HVAC installers across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware.

Through coordinating thousands of heat pump installs, I’m very familiar with the most common and important homeowner questions and concerns.

You can download our product guide to get more information. Or, if you live in the mid-Atlantic region, schedule a free consultation with a certified contractor in your area.


The Science Behind Heat Pumps

Heat pumps work using refrigerant traveling in a closed loop between the indoor and outdoor units. transferring heat from one location to another using refrigerant and a series of heat exchangers. The refrigerant absorbs heat from the air or ground and carries it inside, where it is compressed and the heat is released.

The cool refrigerant then returns outside to absorb more heat, and the process continues.

Is a Heat Pump Good in Pennsylvania?

While Pennsylvania has cold winters, heat pumps can still extract heat from the air even in temperatures below freezing. Cold Climate Heat Pumps can perform even when it’s negative 15 F outside.

The temperature has only dipped that low a handful of times over the 120 years. With winters getting warmer, it’s even less likely.

At What Temperature Is a Heat Pump Not Effective?

Cold Climate-rated heat pumps can efficiently heat your home down to temperatures as low as -15°F. However, the efficiency of the heat pump decreases as the outdoor temperature drops. You’ll still get heat, but it may cost a little more.

As the outdoor temperature decreases, the heat pump’s ability to extract heat from the air becomes less efficient, making it work harder to transfer heat into your home.

At temperatures below freezing, the heat pump will need to rely on a backup heat source, usually electric resistance heating or a gas furnace, to supplement the heat output.

It’s important to note that while heat pumps may require a backup heat source, they remain more energy-efficient than traditional heating systems, such as gas furnaces or oil boilers.

Auxiliary heating options

Most heat pumps come with a built-in auxiliary heating option that automatically turns on when the temperature drops below a certain threshold. This feature helps to ensure that your home remains comfortable, even during the coldest months of the year.

Additionally, homeowners can choose to install a hybrid heat pump system that pairs a heat pump with a gas furnace. This option provides the energy-efficient benefits of a heat pump while also offering the reliability of a gas furnace during extremely cold temperatures.

The Pros of Using a Heat Pump in PA

Energy Efficiency Benefits

Unlike traditional heating systems, heat pumps don’t burn fossil fuels to generate heat, which means they produce fewer emissions and are better for the environment.

Environmentally Friendly

By choosing a heat pump system, you’ll be doing your part to help reduce carbon emissions and create a more sustainable future.


Heat pumps can be installed in a variety of ways, including ducted and ductless options or single-room to whole-home designs.

The Cons of Using a Heat Pump in PA

While heat pumps offer a number of benefits, there are also some drawbacks to consider when deciding whether to install one in your Pennsylvania home:

Installation costs

Compared to traditional heating and cooling systems, heat pump installations can be more expensive. However, it’s important to consider the long-term savings that can come from energy efficiency and lower utility bills.

Dependence On Electricity

Heat pumps require electricity to operate, which can be a concern during power outages. However, many models come with backup heating options.

Efficiency In Extreme Temperatures

While heat pumps are efficient in moderate temperatures, their efficiency can drop in extreme cold or hot temperatures. In Pennsylvania’s cold winter months, it’s important to consider how well a heat pump will perform and whether additional heating options are necessary.

Cost Considerations

Because heat pumps don’t rely on fossil fuels, they don’t experience the same price fluctuations that can occur with traditional heating systems. Additionally, heat pumps can be used to cool your home during the summer, eliminating the need for a separate air conditioning system.

Upfront Costs Vs. Long-Term Savings

The initial installation costs of a heat pump may be higher than a traditional heating and cooling system. But, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, heat pumps can reduce energy usage by up to 50% compared to electric resistance heating.

Financing Options

If the upfront cost of a heat pump is a concern, there are financing options available. Many HVAC contractors offer financing plans to help make the cost more manageable.

Rebates And Tax Incentives

There are also rebates and tax incentives available to help offset the cost of a heat pump. The Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority offers a grant program for renewable energy projects, including heat pump installations. Additionally, the federal government offers tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements, including heat pumps.

What Are The Best Types Of Heat Pumps to Use in PA?

When considering a heat pump for your Pennsylvania home, it’s essential to know which type is the best fit for your specific needs. There are two primary types of heat pumps to consider: ducted and ductless systems.

Ducted System vs. Ductless Heat Pumps

A ducted system uses a network of ducts to transfer air throughout your home. It’s best suited for homes that already have ductwork in place or are undergoing a renovation where ductwork can be installed.

Ductless heat pumps, also known as mini-splits, use an outdoor unit connected to one or more indoor units mounted on the wall. They offer decentralized heating and cooling using multiple thermostats. They’re ideal for smaller homes or areas within larger homes that don’t have existing ductwork.

Air-Source vs. Ground-Source Heat Pumps

Air-source heat pumps extract heat from the air outside your home. Ground-source heat pumps, also known as geothermal heat pumps, extract heat from the ground.

Air-source is the most common. Ground-source systems are more efficient but cost much more to install and require more land to run underground lines.

Click here for a free consultation about State College, PA specialists for heat pump installation anywhere in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, or Maryland.