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What is HSPF and why does it matter with heat pumps?

Upgrading your home with energy-efficient systems like heat pumps saves you money on electricity bills while minimizing carbon emissions. And, incentive and rebate programs like those included in the Inflation Reduction Act make the decision to tap into the financial and environmental benefits of heat pumps even simpler. But between the different makes and models, various features, and technical energy efficiency ratings, it’s easy to feel lost when researching and comparing heat pump systems.

Specifically, the various energy efficiency ratings can cause confusion. Although a heat pump is capable of both heating and cooling, the different functions require different amounts of energy and therefore use separate efficiency calculations: SEER and HSPF. In this article, we explain 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 actually worth it.


Key takeaways

  1. 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).

  2. The higher the HSPF rating, the more energy efficient a heat pump heating system is.

  3. All new heating systems must meet federally regulated HSPF requirements. Currently, the minimum HSPF rating is 8.2, but it’s expected to be raised next year.

  4. ENERGY STAR is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency. A unit that is ENERGY STAR-certified meets strict guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

  5. 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!

What is HSPF?

The Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, or HSPF, rates the efficiency of a heating system. HSPF ratings help us to understand the amount of 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.


What is ENERGY STAR?

ENERGY STAR provides an unbiased and credible set of standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for energy efficiency. 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.


Comparing HSPF ratings from top heat pump manufacturers

Overall, 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 of course, 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 brandSeries/lineHSPF rating ENERGY STAR certified? TraneXV20i10✔ DaikinFIT10✔ LennoxSL25XPV11.8✔ Panasonic XE9WKUA14✔ MitsubishiMSZ-FS13.5✔

Why HSPF matters

HSPF measures the efficiency of your heating system. More efficient heat pumps mean less energy consumption, leading to reduced carbon emissions and increased savings. However, there are federally regulated minimum HSPF ratings required for new heating systems, so you’ll have to ensure that the model you install meets those requirements. Currently, the minimum HSPF for heating systems is 8.2, but it’s expected to be raised next year.


Is a higher HSPF heat pump system always worth it?

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 full 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 a cheaper price point. 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. If you live in a mild or warmer climate, for example, 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.


Do higher HSPF-rated heat pumps save you more money?

Furnaces burn oil or gas to heat a space, whereas heat pumps transfer heat from outside to inside. Comparing the efficiency of heat pumps and furnaces is complicated, but put simply, air-source heat pumps can reduce electricity use for heating by 50 percent. Moreover, heat pumps serve as a heating and cooling system whereas furnaces must be paired with another cooling system (which comes at an additional cost) to keep a house cool during the warmer months.

Power your heat pumps with the sun

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 of the way.

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