The Most Efficient Way to Use a Heat Pump

A heat pump works best when it has clean filters and a clean outdoor unit, when it isn’t working in auto mode, and when it’s operating in conjunction with a programmable thermostat. You can boost the efficiency of the unit even more by optimizing the direction of the airflow.

A heat pump can reduce your heating needs by around 50%, but did you know that you can make your unit even more efficient?

Here are a few things that you can do to make sure that your heat pump performs at its best. 

Related: What Is the Difference Between a Heat Pump and a Furnace?

Most Efficient Way to Use Heat Pump

Keep your air filters clean

The main mission of a filter is to protect the unit from various particles that can easily cause damage to your heat pump. As a bonus, it also contributes to the air quality in your house.

Related: Why Heat Pump Compressor Not Turning On

But if the filters get dirty and clogged, the air can no longer freely travel through the system and the unit starts to struggle.

The heat pump has to work practically at full capacity to be able to push the right volume of air through the system. In such a case, it can easily overheat and such a ‘mode’ makes your energy bills rise.

Check your air filters on a monthly basis and change them whenever they get dirty. This should be done once every 1-3 months.

Keep the outdoor unit clean

The unit should be kept clean all year round. Keep shrubs, leaves, snow, and grass away from the heat pump, but be careful not to damage the fins.

Put the outdoor unit on a sturdy concrete or plastic slab, so that the unit doesn’t sink in the ground. Bear in mind that there should be at least 24 inches of clear space on all sides of the heat pump.

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Go for the right heat pump

If you want your unit to be efficient, it has to have the proper size for your house. There are a lot of factors that you would have to take into consideration, but, in general, you are going to need around 30 BTU of heating output for every square foot of space.

Do bear in mind that some heat pumps have a higher efficiency rating than others.

Finally, if you live in an area where it tends to get cold in the winter, go for a geothermal or a cold climate heat pump if you want the unit to work efficiently.

Try to avoid auto mode

When you choose the auto mode on your unit, you, basically, let the heat pump decide whether to cool or to heat the space. That is not always the best decision.

For example, on a sunny winter day, the system might think that it’s warm outside and start cooling the house when in reality it’s freezing outside.

Instead, set your heat pump to ‘heat’ or ‘cool’.

Optimize the direction of the airflow

Ideally, the air should be directed toward an open area that is farthest away from the air handler. This will help the unit cool or heat your house more evenly and efficiently. 

Of course, there shouldn’t be any obstructions in front or close to the vents or air handlers. 

Use your doors and windows strategically

Close the doors, windows, and curtains to keep the heat in. 

Related: Why Does the Room Temperature Not Match the Thermostat Setting?

During the warmer part of the year, open the doors and windows to get the air moving and create a cross-breeze through the house (you might not even have to turn the heat pump on, in such a case).

Invest in a programmable thermostat

This smart device can keep your house at a comfortable temperature all year round. 

You can program the device to start the heat pump 15 minutes before you enter the house so that you don’t end up setting it to an extreme temperature.

Try to avoid the maximums, as setting a temperature that is too high or low won’t make the room cooler or warmer any quicker, but it will use much more energy.

Keeping the setting low is the most efficient way to use a heat pump. A comfortable room temperature for the majority of adults is 68 F, while temperatures between 60 and 67 F are perfect for sleeping.

Tip: you might find that you need to set your heat pump to a different temperature than that of a traditional furnace. That is totally normal, so make sure to set the unit for comfort regardless of the setting that you might be used to.

The Most Efficient Way to Use Your Heat Pump in Winter

Minimize changes in the temperature settings

A heat pump is most efficient when operating at a set temperature. Once you have found the perfect setting, the best thing that you can do is simply forget about the thermostat.

Once you change the temperature by more than 5 F, the system will switch to aux heat.

If you ever decide to change the temperature settings, do it slowly and about 2 degrees at a time.

Try to use your heat pump instead of the backup heating system

Talking about aux heat and the backup heating system – these things are much more expensive to operate and, consequently, are not as efficient as your heat pump.

Related: What Is the Most Efficient Heating and Cooling System

So, try to avoid using your backup heating system. Turn down the temperature setting on the backup heating source and maximize the heating zone when using your heat pump by simply opening the doors to the rooms that you want to warm up.

Keep an eye on the defrost mode

If you live in a cold area, your heat pump is going to freeze up in the winter, but it should be able to melt the ice with the help of the defrost mode.

To help your unit operate at its best, make sure that nothing is slowing down the defrost mode (protect the unit from snow, turn the fan mode on from time to time, fix leaky gutters, and check the airflow).

The Most Efficient Way to Use Your Heat Pump in Summer

Try out different modes

The majority of heat pumps have three different summer modes.

  • Cool: is the perfect mode for when you want to lower the temperature in the house. 
  • Dry: can reduce the indoor humidity on a muggy day and make you feel more comfortable and ‘fan’ is a mode that requires the least energy but offers a quick relief without actually lowering the temperature. 

Keep an eye on the outdoor coil

A unit is much more efficient if it has clean coils and the warm time of the year is the perfect time to spruce up the outdoor unit.

Also, do bear in mind that the outdoor coil can freeze up even if it’s the middle of summer. Ice inside the system might indicate that the unit has low refrigerant levels.

Use heat-generating appliances wisely

Did you know that your stove, oven, and dryer can easily raise the temperature in your house by about 10 F?

To avoid changing the thermostat settings, use such heat-generating appliances after 8 p.m. when the outdoor air becomes cooler.

What Is the Most Efficient Temperature for a Heat Pump?

Nowadays, the majority of heat pumps work best when the outdoor temperatures are above 40 F. After that, their coefficient of performance starts dropping.

Related: Honeywell Thermostat Not Reaching Set Temperature? Here Is Why

Fortunately, the newest models are able to operate even in extreme cold. Yes, their CoP is going to decrease, but your cold climate heat pump will still be much more efficient than a furnace or a heat strip.

Is It Better to Leave Heat Pump on All Day?

Leaving your heat pump on all day long even if you are not a home is not the best decision. In fact, turning the heat pump off while you are out can save you up to $100 a month.

However, you won’t see this sum, if you tend to increase or decrease the temperature by around 5 F or more each time when you get back home. In the winter, such a change is going to trigger aux heat which is far more expensive to operate than a heat pump.

If you want to always return back home to a comfortable temperature, invest in a programmable thermostat.

This smart device can switch the heat pump off when you’re not at home and turn the system back on 15-30 minutes before your return.