Upgrading your home with energy-efficient systems like heat pumps saves you money on electricity bills while minimizing carbon emissions. Incentive and rebate programs like those included in the Inflation Reduction Act make the decision to tap into heat pumps' financial and environmental benefits even simpler. But it's easy to feel lost when researching and comparing heat pump systems between the different makes and models, various features, and technical energy efficiency ratings.
Specifically, the various energy efficiency ratings can be confusing. Although a heat pump can both heating and cooling, the different functions require different amounts of energy and therefore use separate efficiency calculations: SEER and HSPF. This article explains what HSPF means, how heating systems are rated for energy efficiency during the colder months, and when investing in a highly efficient heat pump is worth it.
HSPF stands for Heating Seasonal Performance Factor and is calculated by dividing the total heating output of the season (BTUs/hour) by the total energy consumption during that time (Watt/hour).
The higher the HSPF rating, the more energy efficient a heat pump heating system is.
All new heating systems must meet federally regulated HSPF requirements. The minimum HSPF rating is 8.2, but it's expected to be raised next year.
ENERGY STAR is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency. An ENERGY STAR-certified unit meets strict guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Heat pumps pair naturally with solar panels to offer energy efficiency, savings, and emission-free heating and cooling for your home. Connect with pre-screened installers in your area on the EnergySage Marketplace to receive solar quotes today!
The Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, or HSPF, rates the efficiency of a heating system. HSPF ratings help us understand how much energy (and money) a specific system requires to heat a space effectively and comfortably. The higher the HSPF, the less electricity the system needs to keep a home at its desired temperature. Likewise, a unit with a higher HSPF is typically more expensive to purchase upfront.
HSPF can be calculated by dividing the total heating output of the season (BTUs/hour) by the total energy consumption during that time (Watt/hour), but you probably don't have to worry about this. As a federally regulated rating, most heat pump manufacturers readily display the HSPF of a heating system on the product page, owner's manual, and on the actual unit itself. Additionally, products with the ENERGY STAR label are certified to have met strict energy efficiency guidelines.
ENERGY STAR provides an unbiased and credible set of standards for energy efficiency by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since 1992, ENERGY STAR has been helping people make informed decisions to save electricity, lower energy costs, and reduce harmful emissions. As an independent certification, heat pumps with the ENERGY STAR label provide purchasers with an assurance that their heating system will save them money while protecting the climate.
Heat pumps are an energy-efficient alternative to traditional heating and cooling systems, but some heat pumps are more efficient than others. Since heat pumps with a higher HSPF typically come at a higher cost, most brands offer a selection of heat pumps that vary in HSPF, noise level, capacity, and price. In this section, we compare HSPF ratings from some of the leading manufacturers of heat pumps.
Comparing HSPF ratings from top heat pump manufacturers
Heat Pump Brand
ENERGY STAR Certified?
HSPF measures the efficiency of your heating system. More efficient heat pumps mean less energy consumption, reducing carbon emissions and increasing savings. However, federally regulated minimum HSPF ratings are required for new heating systems, so you must ensure that your installed model meets those requirements. The minimum HSPF for heating systems is 8.2, but it's expected to be raised next year.
If your goal is to maximize energy efficiency, achieve optimal comfort levels, and lower energy costs, then investing in a heat pump system with a high HSPF rating is the way to go, but be prepared to pay more upfront. Units with a higher HSPF often come with features like lower sound levels, longer warranties, and variable speed heating – which means that instead of the system repeatedly turning on at total capacity when a space needs heating and off when the temperature reaches the thermostat setting, it runs continuously to maintain the desired temperature. Variable-speed heating systems run on a lower setting and ramp up and down based on how much heat is needed. If you live in a colder climate, the enhanced comfort from a higher HSPF unit with variable-speed heating may be worth the investment.
Most brands offer heat pumps with fewer features and lower (but still great) HSPF ratings for cheaper prices. Although not as efficient as the "better" and "best" heat pump models, there are certainly instances in which a "good" model would make more sense for a home. For example, if you live in a mild or warmer climate, you may consider a lower HSPF rating to save on installation costs. Overall, if your goal is to upgrade to a more energy-efficient heating and cooling system to cut current energy costs but also want to save on initial costs, you'll probably want to go with a lower HSPF unit.
Heat pumps pair naturally with solar panels to offer energy efficiency, savings, and emission-free heating and cooling for your home. Connect with pre-screened installers in your area on the EnergySage Marketplace to receive solar quotes today! Just leave a note to let installers know you're interested in heat pumps, too. Still have questions? When you sign up for the Marketplace, we'll connect you with an Energy Advisor from our team (free of charge) to help guide you through every step.