Variable Speed Heat Pump Product Assessment and Analysis (CLOSED)


Update: January 2022

The project and modeling tool produced many key findings that can be used by utilities, manufacturers, contactors, and consumers to help them make decisions around heat pumps, from energy savings to cost-effectiveness and more. The modeling tool can also be customized to suit a variety of contexts outside this initial report for further exploration and insights.

Significant project results include the following:

  • The COP is the most important indicator of heat pump performance, outranking extended capacity and modulation. In particular, the COP at minimum output and mild temperatures (47°F) was a significant indicator of annual energy consumption.
  • VCHP pricing is still largely driven by SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) values.
  • Oversizing heat pumps has diminishing returns on the lowest levelized cost of ownership.


Variable capacity heat pumps (VCHPs) represent a significant market opportunity for savings in the Northwest. This project, funded by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), assesses centrally ducted VCHPs to better understand currently available products, pricing, performance specifications, and equipment features. The research team will develop heat pump archetypes to explore the range of VCHPs on the market today, as well as an 8,760-hour energy balance model that calculates the lifecycle levelized cost of heating and cooling. This tool enables users to compare different heat pump archetypes and understand which performance metrics, attributes, and equipment features lead to better HP performance and the lowest levelized cost of ownership for the homeowner. 


Project Summary


  • Develop an understanding of VCHP products and an analysis tool to identify the key product features and system characteristics that provide the best value to consumers and utilities.
  • Determine which system provides the most cost-effective, near-term solutions to replace existing single-stage heat pumps and electric furnaces.


  • The project report will outline key findings from VCHP market research, product intelligence research, and VCHP modeling tool analysis completed for this project.

Non-energy benefits

  • Distill and simplify the vast centrally ducted heat pump market by understanding the brand relationships and equipment offerings.
  • Calculate energy savings over time compared to upfront costs to identify the most cost-effective heat pump solutions for homeowners.