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Heat Pump Cooling: Does a Heat Pump Work Well in Hot Weather?

Considering switching from a traditional air conditioner to a heat pump? That’s a smart move!

You may have many questions, such as how does a heat pump work in the summer? What is the maximum temperature at which a heat pump operates? How does it maintain such high efficiency while running continuously?

We will answer all these questions (and more!) in this article.

But spoiler alert: Yes, heat pumps provide excellent home cooling.

You might be surprised to find out that despite its name, a heat pump can cool your home in the summer and heat it in the winter efficiently.

Additionally, depending on where you live, you may qualify for incentives, including eligible rebates. Click here to see if you qualify.

Table of Contents:

Does a Heat Pump Cool?
Heat Pump Temperature Range: What are the highest and lowest temperatures at which a heat pump operates?
How a Heat Pump Works in the Summer
Cooling Efficiency of Heat Pumps in Hot Weather
Maximizing Heat Pump Cooling
Getting a Heat Pump with $0 Upfront Cost
Heat Pump Cooling FAQs
Key Points:

Heat pump technology operates similarly to air conditioning technology, with the added benefit of providing heating for your home in the winter by reversing the process through a reversing valve.
So far, heat pumps are the most efficient way to keep your home comfortable year-round. Additionally, some models have excellent dehumidification capabilities, making your house feel cool and fresh on hot, humid days.
The temperature range of heat pumps is wider than you might imagine, and they use variable-speed compressors to maintain a consistent temperature.
The performance of high-efficiency heat pumps is more effective than traditional air conditioners, especially older models, and they also have the benefit of running a “dry mode” when you want to reduce indoor humidity.
Does a Heat Pump Cool?
The question of whether heat pumps can cool is quite common, even though heat pumps are one of the most talked-about devices for home efficiency. Why is that? Well, many people find the name “heat pump” confusing or misleading.

“Heat pump” sounds like it’s only a home heating system, but in fact, it does both—heat pump cooling is just as powerful, comfortable, and superior as heat pump heating.

The operation of a heat pump is similar to that of an air conditioner, but think of it as going to graduate school because it can also heat your home.

So, despite its name, a heat pump can indeed provide excellent cooling for your home in the summer. When it’s hot and sticky outside, it also functions as a powerful indoor dehumidifier.

While they are definitely home cooling (and heating!) systems, heat pumps do have some differences from traditional air conditioning systems. Here’s a more detailed look:

Both traditional air conditioning systems and heat pumps use similar cooling technology, but heat pumps are more efficient.
Heat pumps have significantly better dehumidification performance in the summer than air conditioning systems.
No ductwork? No problem! Heat pumps can be installed without it, so you don’t have to worry about messy, invasive (not to mention expensive!) ductwork installation.
Heat pumps offer flexible zonal installation options. For example, you can set different temperatures for a walk-in basement office and upstairs bedrooms!
Air conditioning systems can’t heat your home in the winter, but heat pumps can. Plus, one device means less maintenance!
Heat pumps are the most efficient home heating option on the market and don’t produce smoke like natural gas (such as gas furnaces or boilers).
Heat Pump Temperature Range: What are the highest and lowest temperatures at which a heat pump operates?
Heat pumps are designed to provide comfortable and reliable cooling and heating at various temperatures, ranging from -22 degrees Fahrenheit to 115 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the model. That’s an impressive range!

The higher the temperature, the less efficient any home cooling device will be. For any HVAC system, the hotter the weather, the harder it is to cool the house.

It’s doubtful that traditional air conditioning systems can operate at their best efficiency at 116 degrees Fahrenheit. Heaters are the same way: a gas furnace doesn’t feel as good (or operate as efficiently) at -10 degrees as it does at 10 degrees.

The overall advantage of heat pumps is that they are excellent HVAC technology and offer higher efficiency year-round.

Additionally, when you have proper insulation and air sealing in your home, it can better maintain cool air in the summer and keep out heat. This can optimize your heat pump (or any HVAC system). If you’re investing in stopping home energy waste or concerned about reducing your carbon footprint, insulation and air sealing can be a rocket booster for your heat pump.

For those in extremely cold climates, there are reliable heat pump options available. Cold-climate heat pump models have the widest temperature range among air-source heat pumps, and ground-source heat pumps can efficiently heat your home even in temperatures below -22 degrees (which can be very helpful if you live in the Arctic!).

How a Heat Pump Works in the Summer
Here’s how it works: The operation of heat pump technology is similar to traditional air conditioning technology—it reliably cools your home and has the added benefit of reversing the process to heat your home in the winter through a reversing valve.

Here’s the main difference between a heat pump and an air conditioner:

In the hot summer, a heat pump acts as an air conditioner, removing heat from indoors and providing fresh, cool air in the process. Heat pumps can also dehumidify your home in the summer (better than traditional air conditioning), making your home feel fresh and cool.

Heat pumps use a refrigerant in the cycle to regulate your home’s temperature throughout the year. The core of it is to extract heat from your home in the summer and bring heat into your home in the winter.

Here’s how heat pump cooling works during the warmer months:

The heat pump’s compressor (part of the outdoor unit) pumps refrigerant to absorb heat from inside your home.
Indoor coils are filled with cold refrigerant, which not only absorbs heat from the indoor air but also helps convert hot, stuffy air into cool breezes.
The cooled air is then sent back into your home through an air handler, while the heated refrigerant is sent to the outdoor unit to release the heat.
While this is a simplified overview of how a heat pump keeps your home comfortable, the key takeaway is that heat pump cooling works much like an air conditioner, removing heat and humidity from indoor air and replacing it with fresh, cool air. So, when you walk into your home after mowing the lawn on a humid July morning, it feels great.

Another important thing to remember is that for a heat pump to shine like a superstar, it needs to be installed correctly to achieve optimal cooling (and heating!) performance. This is not a DIY project.

Before we continue, here’s one last thing to keep in mind: Many HVAC professionals are newcomers to cold-climate heat pumps (after all, it’s an improved technology!), so make sure to find a professional who can properly size and install it for the best efficiency in both summer and winter.

Cooling Efficiency of Heat Pumps in Hot Weather: Why Are Heat Pumps So Efficient?
With variable-speed compressors and advanced control systems, heat pumps excel in year-round indoor temperature regulation.

Similar to high-efficiency air conditioning systems, heat pumps use variable-speed compressors to run at the precise speed needed to cool your home to your desired temperature and maintain it.

Depending on the heat pump model you choose, ductless heat pumps can have the advantage of a “dry mode,” which allows you to reduce the feeling of stuffiness and humidity in your home without using extra energy to run the cooling function. This can be especially useful on humid spring days.

When selecting a heat pump, pay attention to its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the heat pump is at providing cooling output relative to the electricity it consumes.

It’s important to note that while high SEER-rated new air conditioning systems may perform similarly to high-efficiency heat pumps, homeowners won’t benefit from their equipment serving as a super-efficient heating system during the winter. If you ask us, there’s simply no comparison.

SEER is just one of the factors affecting heat pump efficiency. Other factors include:

Unit size
Proper installation of your heat pump
How well your home is insulated
Whether your home is air-sealed
Speaking of insulation and air sealing, we’re transitioning to our next topic: making the most of high-efficiency heat pump cooling, no matter how hot the summer gets.

Maximizing Heat Pump Cooling
Here’s something every homeowner needs to know: insulation upgrades and professional air sealing can extend the life of your HVAC system and improve cooling efficiency, whether you have a super-efficient heat pump or not.

It’s common sense: over time, insulation can degrade. So even if you updated your insulation materials ten years ago, you might need another energy audit to ensure it’s still in good shape and doing its job.

But when you combine professionally installed insulation and air sealing with a heat pump HVAC system, you can indeed reduce energy waste for your entire home.

From our experience, we’ve found that the right combination of insulation, air sealing, and heat pump upgrades can reduce home energy consumption by up to 50%.


51% of the average home’s energy consumption is used for heating and cooling alone. This means you can achieve the greatest efficiency gains by maintaining outdoor air circulation and indoor air circulation.
Air leaks can result in wasting 15% to 45% of your energy, depending on the research you consult. As your home ages, air leakage becomes more prevalent (every home has leaks!), and professional air sealing is the right solution.
90% of homes are under-insulated, which means you have a nine in ten chance of paying for unnecessary energy while sitting in a hot, overly humid house.
Heat pump cooling and heating will do their best to save energy and enhance your year-round comfort, but if your house is leaking air and poorly insulated, you’ll still lose efficiency and shorten the lifespan of your state-of-the-art heat pump HVAC system.

In fact, the federal government knows the importance of these home upgrades, which is why there are tax credits and incentives for insulation, air sealing, and heat pumps.

How Long Should a Heat Pump Run in the Summer?
If you’re experiencing extremely hot weather, your heat pump may run for more extended periods to maintain a comfortable temperature (that’s what they’re designed to do while still maintaining higher efficiency compared to traditional air conditioners).

A heat pump adjusts to the needs of your home, so the running time will vary based on several factors, including:

Outdoor temperature
The indoor temperature you’ve set for your system
The size and efficiency of your heat pump
How well your home is insulated and air-sealed
When the cooling load on the heat pump is high, as is the case on hot days, the heat pump may run longer (similar to traditional air conditioning systems).

The best way to determine how long your heat pump should run is to consult the manufacturer’s guide for your specific model or seek advice from HVAC professionals.

Should a Heat Pump Run Continuously in the Summer?
Generally, it should not. If your heat pump is continuously cycling without stopping, you should have it checked. Heat pumps are designed to be “set and forget” systems, effectively working by adjusting to temperature changes to keep your home at your desired temperature. They may run more frequently or for longer periods on extremely hot days (similar to traditional air conditioners), but they should not run continuously without breaks.

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