Coming in from the cold: Heat pump efficiency at low temperatures

Duncan Gibb, Jan Rosenow, Richard Lowes, Neil Hewitt

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Heat pumps have emerged as a key tool in the global transition toward clean and reliable energy and have been identified in multiple net-zero scenarios as the most important future heating technology.1 A question frequently raised is how well these devices perform when temperatures drop below freezing, as some commentators and the media have repeatedly suggested that heat pumps cannot deliver useful efficiencies at lower temperatures.
This commentary responds to this question by analyzing field studies with real-world performance data of air-source heat pumps. It finds that well below 0°C, heat pump efficiency is still significantly higher than fossil fuel and electric resistive heating systems at an appliance level. The standard heat pumps investigated in this commentary demonstrate suitable coefficients of performance for providing efficient heating during cold winters where temperatures rarely fall below −10°C, i.e., most of Europe.
In extreme cold climates, such as where the lowest temperatures approach −30°C, performance data have shown that heat pumps can provide heat at efficiencies up to double that of resistive heating; however, more analysis is required. Even though heat pump efficiency declines during the extreme cold and back-up heating may be required, air-source heat pumps can still provide significant energy system efficiency benefits on an instantaneous and annual basis compared with alternatives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1939-1942
Number of pages4
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished online - 11 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by a grant by the Crux Alliance (grant no: # 2022-01 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Inc.


  • Heat Pumps
  • Cold Climates


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