US companies are producing heat pumps that work below -20F

Heating and cooling equipment multinational Johnson Controls has developed an air source heat pump prototype that can operate in temperatures below -20F (-29C) as part of the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Residential Cold Climate Heat Pump Challenge.

DOE launched this challenge because, according to the program’s fact sheet, “additional efforts are needed to address common technical and market barriers to wider adoption by consumers – which include performance at temperatures of 5F and below, installation challenges, and electricity grid impacts during peak demand periods.”

DOE is working with manufacturers to lab test cold climate heat pumps’ performance. Field testing will take place over the next couple years, and DOE is aiming for commercialization in 2024.

Besides Johnson Controls, other manufacturers such as Carrier, Trane, and Bosch are also taking part in the challenge.

Trane successfully completed its lab testing phase required by the heat pump challenge in early November and moved into the field trials phase. Katie Davis, vice president of engineering and technology, Residential HVAC, Trane Technologies, told Contracting Business in December that “there are no products in the market that currently meet the DOE CCHP Challenge performance specifications.” However, Davis said:

When tested at the DOE’s lab, the Oak Ridge National Lab Facility, Trane’s CCHP prototype performed in temperatures as low as -23F, surpassing the mandatory -20F Fahrenheit DOE requirement. 

There are already units on the market in the United States that work at low temperatures – just not as low as the Johnson Controls or Trane prototypes. Johnson Controls currently has two residential heat pumps on the US market – the York YZV and York HMH7 – that can operate at temperatures as low as 5F (-15C). (Johnson Controls bought York in August 2005.) And Trane’s Platinum XV20i can operate at temperatures as low as 0F.

Top comment by BCV

Liked by 25 people

I had a Mitsubishi unit installed last summer. It’s rated down to -24. It kept my home plenty warm when it got down to -16 last week.

My installer did recommend not letting the temp drop at night during the super-cold night, but otherwise run it like a normal furnace. No issues.

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Check out this guide from Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships to learn more about heat pumps.

Read more: The heat pump market will more than double to $13B in cold climates by 2031

Photo: York

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.