The biggest advantage of heat pumps is extremely high energy efficiency. Obviously, you will have less energy efficient as well as more energy efficient heat pumps. To help you in choosing the best electricity-saving heat pumps, we have tallied up the highest-efficiency heat pumps currently on the market. You can see these highest SEER and highest HSPF rated heat pumps in a spec-by-spec comparison table further on.
Here is the key insight:
All homeowners, when they replace a central air or furnace with a heat pump, report a quite remarkable drop in cooling and heating bills. One of our visitors pointed out that “I’ve just replaced central air with heat pump; monthly cooling costs fell from $120 to $60-$70 range”. This was for a 4-ton 19 SEER heat pump.
It is essential that we understand how high energy efficiency impacts our utility bills. Let’s first look at why energy efficiency is so important when it comes to heat pumps:
When buying heat pumps, the first specs everybody checks out are size (BTU or tons) and energy efficiency ratings (SEER and HSPF). Based on these specs, it’s not hard to figure out which heat pumps are more energy efficient than others.
Namely, we have easy-to-understand efficiency ratings for both cooling (SEER) and heating (HSPF) since heat pumps are capable of both:
- The highest SEER heat pumps are the most efficient when it comes to cooling. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio; the higher the SEER rating, the higher the cooling efficiency will the heat pump have. Heat pumps with the highest SEER rating can have a 20+ SEER rating. Update: In 2023, the SEER rating is replaced by this new SEER2 rating.
- The highest HSPF heat pumps are the most efficient when it comes to heating. HSPF stands for Heating Seasonal Performance Factor; the higher the HSPF rating, the higher the heating efficiency will the heat pump have. Heat pumps with the highest HSPF rating can have a 10 or higher HSPF rating. Update: In 2023, the HSPF rating is replaced by this new HSPF2 rating.
Example: Let’s compare a high energy efficient 3-ton 20 SEER and 10 HSPF rated unit versus a standard efficiency 3-ton 16 SEER and 8 HSPF rated unit (with the $0.15/kWh price of electricity)
|3-Ton Heat Pumps:||High Efficiency (20 SEER, 10 HSPF):||Standard Efficiency (16 SEER, 8 HSPF):|
|Cooling/Heating Output:||36,000 BTU||36,000 BTU|
|Average Cooling Power Draw:||2000 Watts||2250 Watts|
|Cooling Consumption Per Hour:||2 kWh per hour, or $0.30/h||2.25 kWh per hour, or $0.34/h|
|Average Heating Power Draw:||3600 Watts||4500 Watts|
|Heating Consumption Per Hour:||3.6 kWh per hour, or $0.54/h||4.5 kWh per hour, or $0.68/h|
|Cooling Cost Per 1000 Hours:||$300||$340|
|Heating Cost Per 1000 Hours:||$540||$680|
As you can see, a higher SEER-rated heat pump will about save $40 per cooling season (1000 hours), as compared with a standard SEER-rated heat pump. That’s $400 savings in 10 years and $800 savings in 20 years.
On top of that, a higher HSPF-rated heat pump will save about $140 per heating season (1000 hours), as compared with a standard HSPF-rated heat pump. That’s $1,400 savings in 10 years and $2,800 savings in 20 years.
All in all, it is very clear that investing in the most efficient heat pumps will pay for itself in less than 10 years.
To adequately choose the highest efficiency heat pump, we first have to cover 3 key heat pump metrics that will give us an idea of how to narrow down the most efficient heat pumps suitable for our home:
What Size Heat Pump Do You Need?
Needless to say, heat pump efficiency is very important, but we also have to choose the right size of heat pump for the place we are going to cool and heat with it. Do be aware that the size of a heat pump (BTUs or tons) doesn’t have anything to do with energy efficiency.
Professional HVAC installers will use Manual J to adequately size a heat pump. This is quite a complex procedure that includes 8 factors, including local climate, total square footage, window, air infiltration, insulation quality, number of people living in the house, temperature preferences, and inclusion of heat generation appliances (mainly in the kitchen).
Everybody can roughly estimate the size of the heat pump they need by using this very simple rule of thumb:
30 BTU per square foot of living space (with standard 8 ft ceiling height).
Based on this sizing rule of thumb, let’s look at how much area can different-sized heat pumps cover:
|Heat Pump Size (BTU or Tons):||Coverage Area (Sq Ft):|
|6000 BTU (0.5 Tons)||200 square feet|
|9000 BTU (0.75 Tons)||300 square feet|
|12,000 BTU (1 Ton)||400 square feet|
|15,000 BTU (1.25 Tons)||500 square feet|
|18,000 BTU (1.5 Tons)||600 square feet|
|21,000 BTU (1.75 Tons)||700 square feet|
|24,000 BTU (2 Tons)||800 square feet|
|27,000 BTU (2.25 Tons)||900 square feet|
|30,000 BTU (2.5 Tons)||1000 square feet|
|36,000 BTU (3 Tons)||1200 square feet|
|42,000 BTU (3.5 Tons)||1400 square feet|
|48,000 BTU (4 Tons)||1600 square feet|
|54,000 BTU (4.5 Tons)||1800 square feet|
|60,000 BTU (5 Tons)||2000 square feet|
|66,000 BTU (5.5 Tons)||2200 square feet|
|72,000 BTU (6 Tons)||2400 square feet|
You can use this heat pump sizing chart or consult the heat pump size calculator here to roughly estimate the size of the heat pump you need.
Once you know the size of heat pump you need, you should focus on energy efficiency; that means SEER and HSPF ratings.
SEER Rating For Heat Pumps (High, Standard, Low)
Heat pump energy efficiency starts with the SEER rating. The SEER rating is a metric that estimates how energy efficient a heat pump is in cooling mode. Namely, a heat pump can cool with 100% output, 80% output, 50% output, 10% output, and so on. The SEER rating is a weighted average that presumes that a heat pump cools with an average of 58% output.
Heat pump cooling efficiency is directly connected with the SEER rating. We can categorize heat pump cooling efficiency based on SEER rating roughly like this:
- SEER rating of 14 or lower: low cooling energy efficiency heat pumps.
- SEER rating of 16, 17, or 18: standard cooling efficiency heat pumps.
- SEER rating of 19, 20, and higher: high cooling efficiency heat pumps.
Some of the most efficient heat pumps can have a SEER rating of over 20. Example: The #1 MrCool DIY 4th Gen in the list below is the highest SEER heat pump with a 22.0 SEER rating. That means it will run on minimal electric power input while producing the highest cooling output.
Here is how much less electricity will a high SEER heat pump consume, compared to a 14 SEER unit:
|SEER Rating:||Savings Compared To 14 SEER Unit:|
As you can see, the highest 22 SEER heat pump is 36.4% more efficient than the 14 SEER heat pump when it comes to cooling.
Example: If you would pay $100.00/month running costs with the 14 SEER unit, you will now pay only $63.60/month with the 22 SEER heat pump (when it comes to cooling).
Heat pumps can both cool and heat. That’s why checking the SEER cooling efficiency is only the 1st half of the equation. The 2nd part of the equation is heating, denoted by the HSPF rating:
HSPF Rating For Heat Pumps (High, Standard, Low)
HSPF rating is important for heating efficiency (same as SEER rating for cooling efficiency). In many cases, heating your home is more expensive than cooling your home. That’s why, arguably, the high HSPF rating is even more important than the high SEER rating when it comes to heat pump efficiency.
Here is a rough categorization of how efficiently do heat pumps provide heating in the winter:
- HSPF rating of 6 or lower: low heating energy efficiency heat pumps.
- HSPF rating of 7, 8, and 9: standard heating efficiency heat pumps.
- HSPF rating of 10, and higher: high heating efficiency heat pumps.
The difference between, say, 6 HSPF and 10 HSPF rated heat pumps is quite high. Namely, the 10 HSPF heat pump will provide the same amount of heating output as the same-size 6 HSPF heat pump with a 40% lower electric power input. That means that if your heating bill is $100 per month with a 6 HSPF heat pump, it will drop to only $60
Here is how much less electricity will a high HSPF heat pump consume, compared to a 6 HSPF unit:
|HSPF Rating:||Savings Compared To 6 HSPF Unit:|
More heat pumps for heating will have an HSPF rating of 10 or higher. The highest HSPF rated heat pumps are the #2 Senville Aura Series in the list below. They have a 13 HSPF rating; which means they can clash the costs of heating by more than half when compared to 6 HSPF heat pump.
It is also important to understand the limitations of heat pumps in extremely cold weather. We have talked about the relationship between COP (Coefficient Of Performance) and temperature here.
Again, some heat pumps are more efficient in cold climates than others. To figure out if a heat pump will run efficiently in cold temperatures, you should check the ‘Minimum Operating Temperature’ in the specification sheet.
Most heat pumps will have a minimum operating pressure of 5°F or 0°F. The highest efficiency heat pumps for cold weather will have a below 0°F min. operating temperature. In the chart below, you can see that all heat pumps have at least a -13°F min. operating pressure (with the Senville Aura heat pumps capable of operating efficiently even at -22°F).
With all these basic concepts in mind, let’s have a look at the most energy efficient heat pumps on the market:
Most Efficient Heat Pumps (Comparison, Reviews)
- Most Efficient Heat Pumps (Highest SEER + DIY + Quiet): MrCool DIY 4th Gen Series
- Highest HSPF Heat Pumps (Best For Cold Climates Down To -22°F): Senville Aura Series
- Cheapest Energy-Efficient Heat Pumps (Below $1,500): Pioneer Diamante Ultra Series
- Quietest Efficient Heat Pumps (Below 43 dB): Cooper & Hunter Sophia Series
1. Most Efficient Heat Pumps (Highest SEER + DIY + Quiet): MrCool DIY 4th Gen Series
|SEER Rating:||22.0 SEER|
|HSPF Rating:||11.5 HSPF|
|Available Sizes:||12k, 18k, 24k, 36k BTU|
|Minimum Operating Temperature:||-13°F|
|Noise Levels:||44.5/37/31 dB|
MrCool DIY series heat pumps are the highest efficiency heat pumps in the last few years. This was true for the 3rd series. With the new MrCool DIY 4th series heat pumps, the SEER rating and the HSPF rating as even higher. In short, the MrCool DIY 4th series is the highest SEER and most energy efficient heat pump series on the market today.
MrCool DIY 4th has multiple advantages over standard efficiency heat pumps that. If we start with the energy efficiency itself, we see that this heat pump series has:
- Extremely high 22 SEER rating. This is the highest SEER rating for heat pumps. Compared to 14 SEER rated units, the MrCool DIY 4th will run 36.3% more efficiently. Example: 18,000 BTU MrCool DIY 4th will have an average cooling power input of 818 watts, compared to the 1286 watts that a 14 SEER unit runs on. That’s a 468-watt difference, yielding 0.468 kWh per average running hour savings. That’s about 7 cents per hour savings. That’s $70 savings per summer season (1000 cooling hours).
- Very high 11.5 HSPF rating. This is a very high HSPF rating for heat pumps. Compared to 6 HSPF units, the MrCool DIY 4th will run 91.7% more efficiently. Example: 18,000 BTU MrCool DIY 4th will have an average heating power input of 1565 watts, compared to the 3000 watts that a 6 HSPF unit runs on. That’s a 1335-watt difference, yielding 1.335 kWh per average running hour savings. That’s about 20 cents per hour savings. That’s $200 savings per winter season (1000 heating hours).
Just these two ratings make it a superb heat pump to have at home. Obviously, the MrCool DIY 4th series units are Energy Star certified heat pumps due to their extremely high efficiency.. On top of that, the minimum operating temperature for heating is -13°F, far below the standard 0°F min. operating temperature.
The key specialty of MrCool DIY 4th series heat pumps is that they can be installed by pretty much anybody. With the DIY installation kit, with the manual and installation videos that guide you step-by-step, you can (with a bit of technical skills) install the heat pump yourself. The lines already come pre-filled with the R410A refrigerant; filling these would usually be done by a professional HVAC installer. This can save you up to $3000 in installation costs alone.
On top of that, the indoor air handlers are incredibly quiet. With the 44.5/37/31 dB noise output for High/Mid/Low fan speed setting, the MrCool DIY 4th are one of the quietest heat pump series.
No heat pump is without drawback. The one and only con of MrCool DIY 4th series heat pumps is the price. While most 12,000 BTU and 18,000 BTU heat pumps will have a price between $1,000 and $2,000, the MrCool DIY heat pumps can have an above $2,000 price tag. However, the DIY installation will negate these higher initial costs immediately, and the minimum running costs will just add the savings from the 1st running hour.
All in all, MrCool DIY heat pumps are the highest SEER rated heat pump series on the market. They run at incredibly low running costs, you can install them yourself (negating the higher cost of the units), have a very quiet operation, and are available in 12,000 BTU (1 ton), 18,000 BTU (1.5 ton), 24,000 BTU (2 ton), and 36,000 BTU (3 ton) capacities:
2. Highest HSPF Heat Pumps (Best For Cold Climates Down To -22°F): Senville Aura Series
|SEER Rating:||21.5 SEER|
|HSPF Rating:||13.0 HSPF|
|Available Sizes:||9k, 12k, 18k, 24k BTU|
|Minimum Operating Temperature:||-22°F|
|Noise Levels:||Up To 46 dB|
As we have seen in the introduction, a high HSPF rating is arguably even more important than a high SEER rating (because heating costs more). The new Senville Aura series heat pumps have the highest HSFP rating. On top of that, these heat pumps will work extremely efficiently even in cold climates.
SEER-wise, the Senville Aura also has a very high 21.5 SEER rating. That means the cooling expenses will be kept very low. Example: 18,000 BTU Senville Aura heat pump runs, on average, on 837-watt power input. Air conditioning will consume 837 kWh per summer season (1000 hours), with a total cost of $125.55 per cooling season (given $0.15/kWh electricity prices). Same-sized standard efficiency units will easily cost more than $200 per cooling season to run.
HSPF-wise, the Senville Aura is just tremendous. These heat pumps have the highest 13 HSPF rating. This is due to the arctic outdoor unit that can run extremely efficiently at low temperatures. Example: 18,000 BTU Senville Aura will use, on average, 1385 watts of power input for heating. Running it for 1000 hours will consume 1386 kWh of electricity, with a total cost of just $207.75 per winter. Furnaces, for example, will easily cost more than $500 per season to run.
The key advantage Senville Aura heat pumps have is the lowest minimum operating temperature. Namely, min. operating temperature of an average heat pump is 5°F or 0°F. The high HSPF rated heat pumps in this list will operate efficiently down to -13°F. The Senville Aura heat pumps, for comparison, have a -23°F min. operating temperature. That means you can use them throughout the winter even if you live in colder climates.
Senville Aura heat pumps have up to 46 dB noise levels. That’s about the standard noise output for the heat pump’s indoor air handlers.
Paradoxically, the very efficient Senville Aura heat pumps don’t have an Energy Star certificate. This is not for the lack of efficiency; manufacturers have to pay for Energy Star testing and Senville (up till now) decided not to do that which is not ideal.
Senville Aura heat pumps come in different sizes; from the smallest 9,000 BTU unit to the biggest 24,000 BTU unit. They don’t offer the 36,000 BTU (3-ton) units, however. To get to 36,000 BTU, you will need to invest in two 18,000 BTU units.
Price-wise, the Senville Aura heat pumps are very affordable. Prices range from about $1,000 to $1,800. You are paying for heating efficiency and performance; not big brand recognition.
All in all, the Senville Aura are the best heat pumps for cold climates with the highest HSPF rating and -23°F min. operating temperature. They are the best price-performance heat pumps because of the combo of high HSPF and SEER rating and lower prices due to not being a big brand:
3. Cheapest Energy-Efficient Heat Pumps (Below $1,500): Pioneer Diamante Ultra Series
|SEER Rating:||21.5 SEER|
|HSPF Rating:||10.0 HSPF|
|Available Sizes:||9k, 12k, 18k, 24k BTU|
|Minimum Operating Temperature:||-13°F|
|Noise Levels:||Up To 52 dB|
The whole point of buying the highest efficiency heat pumps is to reduce the overall cost. The initial price of a heat pump is an important part of the total cost. The Pioneer Diamante Ultra series heat pumps combine high energy efficiency with the lowest initial price.
Specifically, most of the Pioneer Diamante series heat pumps cost less than $1,500 (with the exception of the 24,000 BTU unit with costs about $1,750). The low initial cost is pretty much worthless if the heat pump is not energy efficient are reliable. That’s why it is important to check Pioneer Diamante SEER and HSPF ratings.
Despite the low initial cost, the Pioneer Diamante series heat pump features a very capable outdoor unit. It can achieve a super high 21.5 SEER rating and a very high 10 HSPF rating (with 3.5 COP). What is more, the -13°F minimum operating temperature ensures that the heating efficiency will be high in colder climates and at lower temperatures as well.
The one caveat the Pioneer Diamante heat pumps have is an above 50 dB indoor noise level. Specifically, the indoor air handler can produce up to 52 dB noise levels. The quietest efficient heat pump will run at 45 dB noise levels at most.
So, we have a heat pump with a superb outdoor unit (high SEER, HSPF, low minimum operating temperature) and a bit noisy indoor unit.
Nonetheless, it is quite interesting to see an Energy Star heat pump that cost less than $1,500. This is one of the most attractive offers if you can tolerate a bit higher indoor noise levels.
All in all, the combination of high SEER and high HSPF rating earned the Pioneer Diamante series heat pumps an Energy Star rating. Higher noise levels are not ideal, but the whole range of heat pumps is very budget-friendly:
4. Quietest Efficient Heat Pumps (Below 43 dB): Cooper & Hunter Sophia Series
|SEER Rating:||20.8 SEER|
|HSPF Rating:||10.0 HSPF|
|Available Sizes:||9k, 12k, 18k, 24k, 30k, 36k BTU|
|Minimum Operating Temperature:||-13°F|
|Noise Levels:||43/38/32 dB|
Cooper & Hunter has made quite a name for itself as a no-nonsense efficient heat pump producer. They create cost-saving heat pumps at affordable costs. The Cooper & Hunter Sophia series have very high efficiency and, quite importantly, they are the quietest efficient heat pumps with only up to 44 dB indoor noise levels.
The Sophia series is available is all relevant heat pump sizes: 9,000 BTU, 12,000 BTU, 18,000 BTU, 24,000 BTU, 30,000 BTU, and the largest 36,000 BTU. This is the widest efficient heat pump portfolio.
Efficiency-wise, Cooper & Hunter has a 20+ SEER rating (20.8 SEER, to be exact) and a 10 HSPF rating. With this combined high SEER + HSPF ratings, these heat pumps are anywhere from 30% to 60% more efficient than standard efficiency heat pumps, if you look at combined cooling and heating expenses.
The key advantage Cooper & Hunter heat pumps have is the extremely low whisper-quiet noise levels. Namely, the indoor air handler noise levels for Hi/Mid/Low fan speed setting are 43/38/32 dB. That means that the 43 dB is the maximum noise output; far below the quietest portable or window air conditioners, for example.
Cooper & Hunter produces highly efficient smaller heat pumps. However, the 30,000 BTU and 36,000 BTU units will have below 20 SEER ratings (18 SEER and 16 SEER, respectively). This is not ideal if you are looking for bigger 2.5-ton or 3-ton heat pumps that are efficient at cooling.
All in all, Cooper & Hunter Sophia heat pumps are another series of high SEER and high HSPF mini split heat pumps that work well in cold climates. However, the bigger units (30,000+ BTU) are less efficient because the outdoor unit cannot adequately sustain very high efficiency when the compressors and loads are higher:
This has been a quick guide on what to check when buying a high efficiency heat pumps. Focus on high SEER and high HSPF rating. With this list of the highest efficiency heat pumps, you are well equipped to choose a superb heat pump that will produce savings every summer and every winter.
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