Home / Blog

Do Heat Pumps Work in Cold Weather?

Want to invest in a heat pump but are worried about whether it can keep your home warm during the coldest months? Heat pumps are designed to extract heat from the outside air and transfer it indoors, even when it’s cold outside. And modern advancements have made them highly effective in temperatures well below freezing. 

In this guide, we’ll explore how heat pumps perform in cold weather, what to expect in terms of efficiency, and why they’re a year-round solution. Let’s dive into the details and dispel any doubts about the capabilities of heat pumps in cold climates.

How do heat pumps function?

Heat pumps are innovative solutions to an age-old problem: fossil fuels. Whether you choose a ground, water or air-source heat pump, they all use the same principle of heat transfer. 

  1. Gathering heat: The pumps collect heat from another source, including the air, ground or water. 
  2. Conversion: Once the pump has enough heat, the refrigerant liquid absorbs it and transforms it into gas. 
  3. Compression: A compressor increases the temperature of refrigerant gas. 
  4. Delivery: Once the refrigerant gas is hot enough, it goes through a heat exchanger, warming your home. 

The process enables heat pumps to perform various functions, including warming radiators and underfloor heating systems. If you install a hot water cylinder, you can use the pump to ensure a consistent supply. 

Will a heat pump work in cold weather?

Unfortunately, heat pumps get a bad rap from sceptics, with many claiming the technology can’t function in the winter. It can—and does. Buying a heat pump in the UK guarantees functionality in below-freezing temperatures. 

Most will work to temperatures of -10℃, while advanced models can handle -25℃. So, even though it might be freezing, your heat pump will still collect and transfer heat. 

However, it might be less efficient and will have to work harder during the winter months. 

The success of heat pumps 

Despite their popularity elsewhere, heat pumps are still a relatively new solution in the UK. Scandinavian countries have embraced the technology, with Norway issuing government grants for households that install them. 

According to Carbon Brief, Norway, Finland, and Sweden have more than 40 heat pumps per 100 homes, highlighting their popularity in these countries. 

 Considering that Norway’s average winter temperature is -6.8℃ and the UK’s lies between 2 and 7℃, it’s clear to see that the negative opinions surrounding the technology are unfounded. 

Does cold weather impact heat pump performance?

When you install a heat pump, you’re investing in a year-round heating solution. However, cold weather can make the heat pump work harder, increasing noise levels up to 60 dB. 

Older heat pumps would struggle in below-freezing temperatures and shut down when working hard—but technological advances dramatically reduce these risks. 

Ground-source heat pumps 

Air-source heat pumps are the most popular solution for UK homes, as they’re compatible with smaller buildings and don’t require extensive adaptations for installation. However, installing a ground-source heat pump is an excellent idea to ensure optimal heating. 

Unfortunately, these pumps are best suited to properties with large gardens that can accommodate horizontal pipe systems. Vertical systems allow households with small gardens to install ground-source heat pumps, but they can cost over £40,000. 

How to get the most out of your heat pump in the winter 

Investing in a heat pump can reduce your energy bills and positively contribute to the environment. If you want to ensure your pump continues to function in extreme weather, following these steps can make a significant difference. 

Maintain airflow 

Covering an air-source heat pump might seem like a great idea, but restricting the airflow can cause severe damage. Air-source pumps require optimal airflow to function; limiting it could cause mould growth and stop it from functioning. 

Modern heat pumps usually have defrost features, ensuring they remain operational. 

Insulate your property 

You could have the best heating system in the world, but poorly insulated properties struggle to retain warm air. If heat escapes through your windows, doors, and roof, the pump must work harder, reducing its efficiency. 

Insulating your property might require an initial investment—but you’ll save more money because your home can retain heat, meaning you won’t rely on the heat pump as much. 

Upgrade your radiators 

Installing larger radiators might seem counterintuitive, but small radiators require more heat to function. Larger radiators can heat a room quicker, taking the strain off your heat pump. 

Underfloor heating is also beneficial, as it can disperse heat throughout an entire room. 

Ideally, you want to ensure the pump supplies adequate heating without extra costs. Large radiators and underfloor heating pair perfectly with air, water, and ground-source pumps. 

Don’t forget maintenance 

Arranging inspections before winter hits ensures the pump functions during the colder months. A professional maintenance service will assess the generator’s performance and make repairs if necessary. 

Issues to look out for in the winter months:

  • Identifying snow on the heat pump is normal, but ice build-up in the unit’s interior components signifies an issue. 
  • Your energy bills will increase in the winter, but sharp spikes might mean the pump isn’t working correctly. 
  • The pump should generate warm air in the colder months. If you notice cold air, it might mean a refrigerant leak. 

Final thoughts 

Countries everywhere are harnessing heat pumps to reduce their energy bills and ensure year-round heating. While they have some bad press, the fact that Scandinavian countries are using them highlights their consistent performance. 

Remember, heat pumps will still function in winter, but – as with all heating systems – they’ll need to work harder. Following the tips in this post ensures you can take advantage of clean energy and cut your energy bills. 

If you’d like to enquire about heat pump installation, please contact us today and discover your options.

We Beat or Match Any Quote

Call 0330 912 4843 and we’ll beat or match any quote.

Serious About Service

24/7 claims support & rated Excellent on Trustpilot

Cover Match Guarantee

Get a £50 gift card if you find something we don’t cover

All Gas Boilers Covered

All makes and models, regardless of age