Heat Pumps

Heat Pumps 

What are Heat Pumps? 

Heat pumps are versatile and energy-efficient heating-and-cooling systems that transfer heat from one location to another. They can be utilized in residential, commercial and industrial settings. During the colder months, heat pumps extract heat from the cold outdoors and transfer it indoors to keep a space warm. In contrast, during the warmer months, they extract heat from the indoors and release it outdoors, providing cooling. This heat transfer process is a fundamental concept that distinguishes heat pumps from conventional heating systems. In many traditional heating systems, like non-electric furnaces or boilers, heat stems from the combustion of fossil fuels such as natural gas or fuel oil. Although this method can deliver adequate warmth, it can be less efficient due to energy losses linked to combustion and heat generation.  

The environmental benefits of heat pumps are significant. Their high efficiency allows them to deliver comfortable temperatures while in many cases keeping energy bills lower compared to some traditional heating and cooling systems. To maximize the savings from installing heat pump systems, it is essential to weatherize buildings and ensure proper sizing and maintenance of heat pump systems. 

Advancements in heat pump technology over the years have improved their performance, especially in colder climates. Features like variable-speed compressors and enhanced refrigerants make modern heat pumps effective even in sub-zero temperatures, making them a reliable heating option in various climate zones. Furthermore, heat pumps provide year-round comfort with the ability to handle both heating and cooling needs. This eliminates the need for separate heating and cooling systems, simplifying the setup and enhancing convenience for homeowners and businesses alike. 

Types of Heat Pumps 

Heat pumps come in a variety of types, offering versatility to cater to different needs and preferences. These include split and packaged systems, as well as ducted, ductless and radiant systems, allowing for flexible installation options. Additionally, heat pumps can be set up as multi-zone or single-zone systems, enabling targeted climate control in specific areas. 

The main types of heat pumps are as follows: 

Air Source Heat Pumps extract heat from the outdoor air and transfer it indoors for heating or vice versa for cooling. Air source heat pumps are the most commonly installed type of heat pump system in the United States. 

Additional Information on Air Source Heat Pumps 


Geothermal Heat Pumps (sometimes referred to as Ground Source or Water Source Heat Pumps) utilize stable ground or water temperatures to transfer heat. In heating mode, the heat pump absorbs the heat from the ground or a water source (such as a lake, pond or well) and transfers it indoors to provide comfortable heating. During cooling mode, the process is reversed and excess heat from indoors is transferred to the ground or body of water. 

Additional Information on Geothermal Heat Pumps 


Dual Fuel Heat Pumps, also known as hybrid heat pumps, are innovative heating and cooling systems that combine the efficiency of electric heat pumps with the supplemental heating capabilities of a gas-powered system. With integrated controls, these systems switch between the two heat sources based on outdoor temperatures, ensuring optimal comfort and energy efficiency.  

Additional Information on Dual Fuel Heat Pumps 


Absorption Heat Pumps are a variation of air-source heat pumps, but instead of using electricity, they rely on heat sources like natural gas, propane, solar-heated water or geothermal-heated water for operation. This unique feature makes them a versatile and energy-efficient option for heating and cooling applications in various settings. 

Additional Information on Absorption Heat Pumps 

Heat Pump Water Heaters 

Heat pump water heaters are innovative appliances that operate the same as heat pumps used for space conditioning, but their primary purpose is to efficiently heat water for domestic use. Unlike conventional electric or gas water heaters, which directly generate heat to warm the water, heat pump water heaters utilize a heat pump system to extract heat from the surrounding air, ground or water and transfer it to water in a storage tank. By harnessing ambient heat from the environment, they consume less energy compared to traditional water heaters, making them a cost-effective choice for reducing energy consumption and utility billsI. These water heaters are versatile and can be installed in various settings, including residential homes, commercial buildings and industrial facilities. Their energy-saving benefits and environmentally friendly features make them an attractive option for those seeking to minimize their carbon footprint and adopt more sustainable practices for water heating.  

MEEA’s Heat Pump Work 

Midwest Air Source Heat Pump Collaborative 

The Midwest Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) Collaborative was formed in 2022 to accelerate ASHP adoption in the Midwest. The Collaborative is focused on providing resources for industry in the Midwest to address needs and overcome barriers to ASHP adoption and seeks to cross-pollinate ideas across the region and share best practices to advance ASHP technology in the Midwest. The Collaborative's objective is to establish ASHP technology as the preferred choice for contractors and homeowners by 2030, replacing heating systems and air conditioners. MEEA is partnering with Center for Energy and Environment (CEE), Slipstream and Elevate on this collaborative effort. To find out more about the Midwest ASHP Collaborative and its mission, please visit Midwest ASHP Collaborative.


National Field Validation Partnership  

MEEA is a key participant in a DOE-funded National Field Validation Partnership, working alongside a steering committee that includes four national labs: PNNL, NREL, ORNL and LBNL. MEEA is actively engaged in three out of the four committees on the project: Regional Market and Policy, Workforce Development and Building Integration Barriers. The overarching goal of this project is to establish a partnership aimed at driving the widespread adoption of heat pumps and heat pump water heaters in both residential and commercial buildings. Over a span of three years, objectives include serving as a national clearinghouse for field test data, identifying and addressing research gaps, coordinating collaborative field tests nationwide, collaborating with manufacturers and trade organizations to enhance training materials for heat pump installation and maintenance and refining best practices to catalyze market transformation across all U.S. regions. As the project advances, MEEA will take on co-leadership roles in several subcommittees during the implementation phase.  


Advanced Heat Pump Coalition  

MEEA serves on the steering committee of the Advanced Heat Pump Coalition alongside NEEA, NEEP, NRCan, the U.S. EPA, the California Energy Commission and NYSERDA. The Advanced Heat Pump Coalition is made up of utility and energy efficiency-interested parties that have agreed to share knowledge and align efforts to have the biggest impact on HVAC industry efforts and help utilities accelerate market adoption of residential heat pumps for space conditioning.  Current membership includes  approximately 200 utilities, non-profits, cities, research organizations, manufacturers and others in the heat pump industry across the US and Canada. Members of the Coalition can participate in working groups and attend bi-annual member webinars. If you are interested in joining the Advanced Heat Pump Coalition, please visit their website for more details. 


Advanced Water Heating Initiative  

MEEA is actively engaged in the Advanced Water Heating Initiative (AWHI) through participation in its Residential, Commercial and Connectivity working groups. AWHI was established in response to growing concerns about energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions associated with water heating. AWHI serves as a facilitator and guide for over 140 organizations collaborating to expedite the widespread adoption of efficient, grid-connected and low-global-warming-potential heat pump water heaters (HPWHs). AWHI's mission encompasses making HPWHs a standard feature in single-family homes, multi-family residences and commercial buildings. The group's primary objectives include enhancing HPWH availability for all building types, ensuring synergy among programs and policies, driving consumer demand and cultivating expertise throughout the supply chain. For more details about AWHI and to join as a participant, please visit the Advanced Water Heating Initiative website