What Generation is Your Heat Pump?


World events and trends tend to shape generations. What happens during your formative years often influences your behaviors and expectations as an adult. Chances are if you had a heat pump installed in 2007, you didn’t expect it to be “smart.” In reality, the 2007 model may not have been too different from the one you grew up with. A heat pump’s main function was and still is to heat and cool the indoor spaces in your home.

Whether you are a Baby Boomer (born: 1946 to 1964), Generation X (born: 1965-1980), a Millennial (born: 1981-1997), Generation Z (born: 1995-2010), or America’s youngest cohort, Generation Alpha (born: early 2010s-2020s), there is a good chance that your last home heating and cooling equipment was manufactured and installed five to 20 years ago.1 Yet, a heat pump designed and engineered in 2007 will probably not have the same performance features as one built in 2017.

As more and more homeowners are expecting the latest innovative technology to be incorporated into new products for their home and personal use, heating and cooling manufacturers are responding too.

Heat Pump Efficiency by Generation

By the late 1960s, when the first Generation X babies were born, most new homes in North America had central air conditioning.2 It wasn’t until the 1970s oil crisis that heat pumps became a more popular choice for heating and cooling homes.3 Heat pumps used a single fuel, electricity, to heat and cool a home.

Many Generation X’ers were children at the time of the 70’s oil crisis, witnesses to the impacts of scarcity and high prices. Before 1980, many heat pumps had a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) of 6 or less and a Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) below 5. By 1992, when the first of Generation X’ers were entering the workforce, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) raised the minimum SEER of heat pumps to 10 SEER/ 6.8 HSPF.  The energy conservation movement was in full swing, and the push by Generation X’ers for more energy-efficient products was evident.

By 2006, the average Millennial was in high school, and the DOE raised the minimum SEER requirement nationwide from 10 SEER/6.8 HSPF to 13 SEER/7.7 HSPF. Conserving energy and minimizing consumers’ impacts on the environment emerged as an actionable priority. In 2015, the Millennials became the largest sector in the U.S. labor force, and the DOE once again raised the minimum SEER requirement for heat pumps.

As of 2023, the minimum standard now stands at 15 SEER/8.8 HSPF, but residential efficiency requirements are likely to continue increasing. 

Before 1980 6 or less 5 or less
1992 10 6.8
2006 13 7.7
2015 14 8.2
2023 15 8.8


Innovative Technology and Heat Pump Efficiency


Today’s heat pumps are vastly different from the early models. Innovative technology created by recent generations has played a big role in the transformation, effectiveness, energy efficiency and thus popularity of these heating and cooling systems. 

Air source heat pumps, typically thought of as a heating and cooling option for homes in milder climates, are working their way north.  Innovative in heat pump technology has created a legitimate heating alternative for colder regions where temperatures drop well below freezing.4 Millennials who grew up in these colder areas may have rarely experienced heat from a heat pump, because, back then, it wasn’t a comfortable option. However, today’s heat pumps are now being installed from Alaska to Florida.5

Some models of heat pumps are now equipped with variable-speed or dual-speed motors on their indoor fans (blowers), outdoor fans, or both. Variable-speed controls for these fans keep air moving at a comfortable velocity, minimizing cool drafts and maximizing electrical savings.6 Additional advancements with innovative controls, refrigerant and engineering that simplifies installation have also improved the indoor comfort and energy costs associated with heat pumps.

The heat pumps of today are likely not the same as your parent’s heat pump!  


How Smart is your Heat Pump?


As we know, product technology is advancing at breakneck speed. The smart phone changed the behavior of many Generation Xers and Millennials, and even some Baby Boomers. Just a few years ago, the term “smart home” didn’t exist. Yet, the increased availability and reduced cost of smart products have created a smart home marketplace boom. Tech-savvy homeowners are increasingly looking for ways to connect this technology to their home systems…and heating and cooling manufacturers are taking notice.

Innovative thermostats or control systems now offer a wide range of control features and connectivity options between your smartphone and the Internet. This makes it easier to align your heat pump operation with your lifestyle. But as history has shown, current events dictate future expectations. What will a heat pump look like for kids who have never experienced life without a smartphone? Will their expectations of “normal” extend to home heating and cooling?

As technology continues to be more integrated into the heating and cooling equipment, some heat pumps are now able to communicate status updates directly to the homeowner or the HVAC dealer. It is now possible for a technician to contact the homeowner about a notification and set up a service call prior to the homeowner experiencing an uncomfortable indoor temperature.
Stay warm with a heat pump1 Pew Research Center. Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. labor force.
11 April 2018. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2018/04/11/millennials-largest-generation-us-labor-force/

2 Department of Energy. History of Air Conditioning. 20 July 2015. https://www.energy.gov/articles/history-air-conditioning. 3 April 2017.
3 Cormany, Charles. The Perfect Solution, and Why it is Not Working. 19 January 2017. http://www.efficiencyfirstca.org/news/2017/01/19/perfect-solution-and-why-it-not-working. 30 July 2017.
4, 6 Heat Pump Systems. n.d. <
5 Vanessa Stevens, Colin Craven, Robbin Garber-Slaght. Air Source Heat Pumps in Southeast Alaska. Fairbanks: Cold Climate Housing Research Center, 2013.