Do heat pumps work in Chicago winters?

Heat pumps make your home feel amazing and significantly cut energy waste. But can they take on a Chicagoland winter? Find out.

Heat pumps make your home feel amazing and significantly cut energy waste. But can they take on a Chicagoland winter? Find out.

Since you’re here, you’ve probably heard that heat pumps are growing in popularity. And for good reason: New heat pumps are the best and most efficient HVAC technology on the market today.

But if you’ve lived through February in Chicago, you’re probably wondering: Do heat pumps work in Chicago? Are they really going to keep my house warm during a brutal Chicago winter?

Absolutely! (That was easy.)

In fact, at Sealed, we’re so confident that heat pumps can handle Chicago’s frigid winters—and freezing Midwestern winters in general—that we’ll install one for you with an energy-savings guarantee if you’re eligible.

Fun fact: Heat pumps are used successfully as far north as the Arctic Circle—and they’re extremely popular in countries like Finland and Norway (two places that are certainly not strangers to cold, long winters!),

So using heat pumps in the Midwest is a smart idea; they’re 3 times more efficient than traditional heating system (1).

More about that later. First, let’s dig into why heat pumps are a smart choice for your home.

Why heat pumps in Chicago work so well

Ultimately, there’s nothing a Chicago winter can throw at you that today’s heat pump technology won’t be able to handle. 

To understand why they work so well, let’s explore the science behind how they work.

How heat pumps work to heat (and cool) your home

First, heat pumps work by transporting heat from one place to another—they don’t actually produce heat at all.

Heat pumps can heat and cool your home while being up to 3 times more efficient than traditional HVAC systems.

In the winter, heat pump condensers work to extract heat from the outside air and transport that heat into your home. (Yep… outside air has heat, even in winter!)

In the summer, heat pumps reverse the process—they remove heat energy from the inside your home and transfer it outside. (Learn more in this quick explainer video below.)

Because moving heat energy is much more efficient than producing it from scratch, heat pumps use up to 66% less energy than a traditional HVAC heating and cooling system(Learn more about how heat pumps work at The Ultimate Guide to Heat Pumps.)

It also means that a heat pump can replace your heater and your air conditioning system—which is especially important in the Chicago area, where the climate can swing wildly between temperature extremes. 

That all sounds great, right? But you need to be sure that a heat pump will actually keep your Chicago home comfortable when outdoor temperatures drop.

It definitely can. But you don’t need to just take our word for it.

Learn how Sealed helped make Gretchen’s 150-year-old NY home comfortable year round.

New heat pumps are the best and most efficient HVAC technology on the market today.

Yes, heat pumps are ready for Chicago winters

When the wind is blowing up off Lake Michigan, it might be hard to believe that some places are actually colder than Chicago (like Minnesota)—where researchers from the Center of Energy and Environment completed a recent field test of air-source heat pumps. 

The test was designed to see whether heat pumps could withstand some of the coldest temperatures in the country. The result: Cold-climate heat pumps passed the test—and with flying colors. 

Not only did heat pumps keep the test homes warm and comfortable during the winter, the data showed that Minnesota residents could expect a 39–65% reduction in their energy consumption by switching to heat pumps (2). That’s a lot of energy waste stopped in its tracks.

Stopping energy waste in your home is great, but if you live in a place with really cold winters, you’re probably concerned about comfort and reliability on the coldest of days. So let’s look at how heat pumps operate in some of the coldest places on earth.

Heat pumps are used successfully as far north as the Arctic Circle—and they’re extremely popular in countries like Finland and Norway (two places that are certainly not strangers to cold, long winters!) 

In fact, a recent consumer study from Europe found that the vast majority of users (80%) across climate zones said that heat pumps provided better heating than the traditional HVAC they’d used before (3). A huge success. 

Still wondering if it’ll work for you? Let’s look at Illinois’ northern neighbor: Wisconsin. 

According to an analysis of Wisconsin households, electric heat pump home heating could provide a more cost-effective option for homes that rely on delivered fuels or electric resistance heating—and a more price-stable option for those who rely on natural gas home heating (4). That’s all really good news for Chicagoland homeowners looking to make the switch.

Learn more about how heat pumps work in winter or check out our heat pump vs. gas furnace or heat pump vs. boiler guides to learn more.

In short: New heat pump technology can handle Chicago. Easily. 

But that wasn’t always the case.

Why today’s heat pumps are so much better than older heat pumps 

If you’re suspicious of heat pumps, it’s probably because you’ve read somewhere that they don’t work as well in cold climates. 

That myth exists for a reason: It used to be true. 

New cold climate heat pump technology can handle Chicago. See if you qualify for a heat pump with an energy-savings guarantee through Sealed.

heat pump vs. furnace in Chicago winter

Original heat pump technology in the 1980s and 1990s did struggle in freezing weather, which is why you’ll find a ton of outdated information on the internet about heat pumps.

It’s also why homeowners used to believe that geothermal systems (also called ground-source heat pumps) were their only cold-climate option. 

But that’s changed. There’s a world of difference between 40-year-old heat pumps and the brand-new, super-efficient cold-climate heat pump technology that’s on the market now. 

(Read Air source vs. geothermal heat pumps to discover more.)

In fact, new heat pumps have been completely redesigned. They’re now outfitted with an improved coil design, better fans, better motors, and—the biggest difference—a completely redesigned compressor. 

One heat pump study showed that Minnesota residents could expect a 39–65% reduction in their energy consumption by switching to heat pumps.

All of these upgrades mean that new heat pumps work much better at keeping your home cozy on the coldest winter days than the heat pumps of yesterday—especially if your house has been properly air sealed and insulated.

So using heat pumps in Chicago and the Midwest is a smart idea—and 81% of homeowners who have switched find they’re more comfortable than with their fossil fuel heaters (5).

Benefits of Chicago heat pumps

Heat pumps can help keep your house comfortable throughout a Chicagoland winter, but that’s far from their only benefit. So are heat pumps good in Illinois? 

Here’s why heat pumps are an obvious choice for Illinois residents—heat pumps are:

  1. An all-in-one HVAC system
  2. Filter and dehumidify the air
  3. Easy to live with—and safe
  4. Super comfortable
  5. Perfect for older houses
  6. The most efficient HVAC technology on the market

1. Heat pumps are an all-in-one HVAC system

Chicago winters aren’t the only weather story in town—summer in the city can vault temperatures well into the 90s. Heat pumps are just as good at air conditioning as they are at heating, so your home will feel comfortable year round and waste less energy at the same time. 

Heat pumps work like air conditioners, but it’s as if they went to graduate school for advanced degrees—because they can heat your home too.

2. Heat pumps filter and dehumidify the air

Chicago air quality leaves something to be desired. In fact, the American Lung Association recently named Chicago the 18th Most Polluted City in the country (6). 

If you own a heat pump, though, you’ll breathe easier. Your air-source heat pump is designed to dehumidify and filter air continuously, so the air inside your house will always be fresh and clean.

Modern heat pump on new construction house

3. Heat pumps are easy to live with—and safe

Heat pump technology doesn’t produce weird smells or loud noises. Plus, heat pumps run on non-flammable fuels, so you won’t need to worry about possible explosions or carbon monoxide emissions while you’re enjoying your newly efficient heat.

4. Heat pumps are super comfortable

Because heat pumps continuously circulate air, you won’t find patches of cold and warm air in your house—especially if your home is properly insulated and air sealed. It’ll just be comfortable everywhere. (Plus, some heat pumps can be installed with room-by-room temperature control, so no more arguments over the thermostat setting.)

81% say their home comfort has improved by replacing their fossil fuel heaters with heat pumps.

Cool Products 2022 consumer analysis

5. Heat pumps are perfect for older houses

If you have one of those cranky, drafty old Chicago houses, rest assured: A heat pump is the perfect solution.

Ductless heat pump options, like mini-split AC, can heat and cool your home without compromising the structure of your house by adding ductwork. Read How mini splits work to learn more.

Have a period home? Check out our guide to Victorian House Energy Efficiency to learn more about upgrading your older home to cut energy waste without losing all the charm.

6. Heat pumps are the most efficient HVAC on the market

When it comes to efficient and sustainable HVAC, there’s really no comparison: Heat pumps are—by far!—the greenest heating and cooling technology available.

In fact, a heat pump can heat and cool your home for about a third of the energy of a regular heating system.

Plus, they run on electricity—which can be sourced from sustainable producers. And that’s good news, because energy prices are rising. (Discover how to find clean electricity options in our guide to Energy Efficiency in Chicago or read Why is natural gas going up? to learn factors behind energy price increases.)

In short, if you’re looking to cut energy waste in your home, the heat pump is far and away your best HVAC choice. It’s better for you, better for your energy bill, and better for the planet.

Chicago winter weather—House covered in snow

Basically, heat pumps are a life upgrade. And now, if you own a qualifying house, you might be able to get a heat pump installed hassle free and with an energy-savings guarantee.

Here’s how it works: 

  • Sealed works with trusted vetted local professionals and manages the project from start to finish.
  • We reduce project costs by researching eligible incentives and rebates.
  • We stay accountable to your project saving energy, and… 
  • You get to enjoy a comfortable home all year long. 

Heat Pump in Chicago FAQ

Here’s a quick list of common questions we get about Chicago heat pump installation. Use these links to jump ahead:

Heat pumps are known to perform excellently down to -13 degrees F—and possibly at even colder temps if your home is air sealed and insulated.

Do heat pumps work below freezing temperatures?

Yes, air-source heat pumps work exceptionally well below freezing. In fact, they work below -10 degrees Fahrenheit! Some models can handle as low as -22 degrees (7).

Do heat pumps work in a polar vortex?

Sometimes polar vortex temperatures can reach below -30 degrees F (8). And heat pumps are known to perform below -13 degrees F—and possibly at even colder temps, depending on your cold climate heat pump model and if your home is well insulated and properly air sealed (9).

If you live in an area that regularly experiences temperatures below -13 degrees F, you can still enjoy the amazing benefits of an electric heat pump. While it’s not necessary in most scenarios (and we don’t usually recommend it), some homeowners choose to keep their old furnace or boiler as an emergency backup heat source in the case of intensely cold weather, which is called a dual-fuel system.

Call us at Sealed to learn more about how to use a heat pump in freezing temperatures and how they make your home feel incredible year round.

Illustration of house in winter remains cold in freezing weather without Sealed upgrades

Are heat pumps good in the Midwest?

Yes, heat pumps are an ideal HVAC solution in the Midwest—including Illinois. That’s because a heat pump is a heater, an air conditioner, a dehumidifier, and an air filter—all in one. That means heat pump technology is the only piece of HVAC equipment that can handle super-cold winters and hot and humid summers while also cutting down on energy waste.

If you live in an area that regularly experiences temperatures below -13 degrees F, you can still enjoy the amazing benefits of an electric heat pump.

How can I find heat pump installation in Chicago?

Get a heat pump system installed in Chicago by calling Sealed. We’ll help you figure out if you’re eligible for a heat pump (and other home comfort upgrades if you need them).

Alternatively, you can answer our 2-minute questionnaire here to see if your house is eligible.

When you work with Sealed, you’ll benefit from flexible payment options, expert installation and rebate research, and an energy-savings guarantee for qualifying projects.

Can a heat pump be used by itself or do I need to pair it with a furnace?

Good news! Heat pumps work in cold weather so well that the vast majority of homeowners won’t need a furnace (or any kind of backup heat).

But remember, if you’re in an area that regularly has frigid temperatures below -13 degrees F, you can still benefit from using a heat pump as your primary HVAC system. 

If you’d like to know the best option for your house, talk with a Sealed expert. Talking to us about your home is free, and we can help you figure out exactly what your house needs to stay comfortable in all weather.

How does a heat pump work with an electric furnace

When a heat pump is installed in a house that’s been correctly sealed and insulated, there’s usually no need for a furnace. 

However, if you’d like to keep a furnace as an emergency backup for temperatures below -13 degrees F, some homeowners choose to do so (you can keep it turned off for most of the year and use it as desired).

Heat pump installation Chicago—with no upfront cost

If you’re sold on heat pumps, we’ve got great news: It’s never been easier for Chicago residents to get a heat pump installed.

Your upgrades and improvements will be done right the first time, and you’ll pay us back for the work done with a flexible payment option that works best for you and your budget. 

Find out if your home qualifies today—complete our quick 2-minute questionnaire.

March 22, 2022