How Long Should A Heat Pump Run?

Heat pumps are a modern way to heat homes and businesses.

Each year as winter sets in, temperatures drop across many parts of the country. For moderate climates, a heat pump may be the best choice. 

Heat pumps are designed to run continuously. Many people believe that turning the thermostat down when they are not home will save money. The truth is this leaving your heat pump alone at a constant setting during cold weather will save money in the end. 

Heat pumps are efficient in keeping homes and businesses warm in the winter.

Those who have upgraded to heat pumps from older heating units know they can save much more money by running them.

Here we will discuss why heat pumps should be set and left alone for the most part and dig into other truths about these units. 

Why Your Heat Pump Should Run Constantly in Cold Weather

There are a couple of reasons why turning the unit off or adjusting your thermostat down are bad for your pocketbook. 

  • By turning your thermostat down or the unit off in cold weather when you leave the house will allow the temperature to drop inside dramatically.
  • When you return home and raise the thermostat, your unit will have to make up the heat loss from the day. 
  • When heat pumps must make up for heat loss, they use a backup electric strip that heats to help raise the temperature. When this strip is activated, the cost of the unit to operate will go up. 

By leaving your unit at a constant temperature on the thermostat and automatic, the heat pump will continue to keep your house within the temperature range needed.

The best part is that since the unit does not have to make up for extreme heat loss, the costly backup system will not come on. 

Even if this allows your heat pump to run continuously, it will be cheaper than trying and catching up after it is off.

For areas where extreme cold is found, the heat pump may not be the best choice.

When temperatures drop below 40F can also cause the electric strip to turn on. This is why moderate climates are considered the most cost-efficient areas to run them. 

The Mechanics of the Heat Pump

Your heat pump works by taking refrigerant gas and compressing it. When this gas is compressed, it heats up.

Once the gas heats to a certain temperature, the air is blown over coils holding the hot gas, which warms the air before it moves into the home or business for heating. 

Image Credit: askthebuilder.com

This is different from electric or gas furnaces that need to use electricity to heat coils or a constant supply of gas fed to the unit to burn.

Since the heat pump uses the enclosed refrigerant for a heat source, it is much more economical and efficient than gas or electric furnaces

The Advantages of a Heat Pump

Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of owning a heat pump.

  • Running a heat pump unit in mild climates for heating is cheaper than running gas or electric furnaces. Long term savings from a heat pump can pay for itself after a few years. 
  • During the summer, your heat pump uses the same technology to be used as an air conditioner. This can save money by not having to have two separate units to purchase. 
  • The heat pump is better for the environment as it uses less power and does not rely on burning fossil fuels to produce heat. 
  • Heat pumps require less maintenance than other heating units.
  • One reason it is not a problem to constantly run your heat pump is that it is designed to last up to 50 years. Other heating unit types may only last for 15 or 20 years if you are lucky. 
  • Subsidies may be available from the Federal Government for installing heat pumps. This can help with the initial cost of the unit installation. 
  • Since heat pumps use electricity to operate, they can be mixed with solar panels or wind energy to become net carbon neutral. This is especially possible with the long life spans of the unit. Over several decades, a long life could allow for cheaper energy sources to be added for power. 

From what we see above, there are several advantages to owning a heat pump for your home or business. 

The Disadvantages

Now that we know the advantages, let’s take a look at some of the disadvantages of a heat pump. 

  • Heat pumps are not designed to be efficient in extremely cold climates. As discussed before, when the temperature drops dramatically, the heat pump is less efficient to operate. 
  • The heat pump has a large upfront cost. Although you can pay for the unit with savings over several years and the unit’s longevity will absolutely cost you less in the end, the initial cost and installation can be expensive. 
  • The installation of the heat pump can be more difficult than other units. This can lead to more installation time and less privacy for you while it is being installed. 

As we see, there are disadvantages to owning a heat pump.

However, most are temporary disadvantages, such as installation and upfront cost.

With the unit paying for itself over time and lasting for so long, these disadvantages are not relevant. 

What Areas of the Country is it Good to Own a Heat Pump? 

While we have stated that heat pumps are good within mild climates, what does that mean exactly?

Let’s take a look at areas of the country that are good and not so good of a choice for owning a heat pump. 

Cold Climates

With the heat pump becoming less efficient when temperatures are consistently below 30 to 40 degrees F, the U.S.’s northern states are not the best place to install a heat pump.

It will work fine on days above 40 degrees, but with so many days below that temperature on average, it’s not a good choice. 

Warmer Climates

For states with warmer climates, like the South and especially the Southwest, the heat pump is a good choice.

Although these states do have cold temperatures in winter, they are normally cold intermittently and have short cold seasons. 

Since the heat pump units can also act as an air conditioner, this makes them good for these warmer states, as it saves a person from purchasing two different units. 

Conclusion

Heat pumps are a good way to keep your home or business heated while at the same time providing cost savings over the years.

Designed to run continuously for the most efficiency, it is never a good idea to manually turn off the unit in the wintertime as a drop in temperature will cause the unit to work harder to catch up. 

There are some advantages and disadvantages when owning a heat pump, but most of the disadvantages are temporary and are outweighed by the advantages.

If you are looking into purchasing a heat pump, take note of where you live first.

If you do not need an air conditioner in the summer or you have extremely cold temperatures that consistently drop below 30 to 40 degrees in the winter, the heat pump may not be for you.

For those in more mild climates, the heat pump may be the best choice for you.

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