Heat pumps are the most efficient and climate-friendly heating and cooling systems on the market today. While heat pumps can operate up to two to three times more efficiently than conventional heating and cooling systems, your home’s long-term comfort, energy savings and operational costs are dependant on how you operate your heat pump on a day to day basis and how energy efficient your home is overall.
How Heat Pumps Work and Why You Should Operate Your Heat Pump Differently Than Other Electric or Fossil Fuel Heating Systems
Air source heat pumps use a compressor and a condenser to absorb heat from one place and release it to another. In the winter, heat pumps extracts heat from the outside air and transfer it inside to heat your home; in the summer, heat pumps work in reverse to remove heat from indoors and cool the home down. This transfer of heat requires very little electricity and allows heat pumps to operate more efficiently than conventional heating and cooling systems. Unlike conventional systems that burn natural gas, oil or propane quickly to inefficiently generate warmth, heat pumps transfer warmth gradually and require more time to reach set temperatures. Once your home has reached the desired temperature, the heat pump operates efficiently and cost effectively to sustain the temperature level. To ensure optimal performance, be mindful of how you control your heat pump. For example, if you lower your heat pump temperature too much in colder periods, your heat pump may default to its supplementary heating system, which may be less efficient and more costly over time.
Tips to Optimize the Operation of your Heat Pump
Below are the key user considerations and operational tips that will help maximize your home’s comfort and energy savings, limit the use of the supplementary heating system, as well as optimize your heat pump system’s longevity and performance.
Operation & Settings
- Set It & Forget It: Best practice is to set your heat pump thermostat to your preferred comfortable temperature and then let it be. A heat pump is designed to maintain a steady temperature, working gradually and efficiently. Avoid large temperature set backs. If you can’t resist adjusting your thermostat, try not to lower the set point by more than 2ᵒC or so in colder weather to minimize significant fluctuations.
- Set Your Thermostat to Your Comfort Level: Depending on the outside temperature, and the efficiency, layout, and heating distribution of your home, you may need to set your heat pump temperature higher or lower to achieve the comfort feel you want, and to help circulate warm or cool air evenly throughout your home. For example, if you typically want your home temperature to be 20ᵒC, try setting your heat pump thermostat to 21ᵒC or 22ᵒC to feel the comfort you desire.
- Heat & Cool Mode Use: Use the ‘Heat’ or ‘Cool’ mode on the thermostat or controller rather than ‘Auto’ temperature setting to avoid unnecessary switch overs on cool summer nights or sunny winter days. As the seasons change, simply adjust your system’s controller to meet the desired temperature that feels most comfortable.
Maintenance & Care
- Keep It Clean & Clear: To ensure optimal air flow and reduce equipment wear and tear, keep the outdoor unit grates and coils clean and clear of dripping water, snow, leaves, long grass, weeds or debris.
- Regularly Clean Indoor Filters: Heat pumps work best when filters are clean. Replace or clean the systems filters as directed by the instruction manual, or when they become visibly dirty or the indicator light comes on. The duration between cleanings can be weeks to months depending on use.
- Maintain It & Sustain It: Although heat pumps require minimal maintenance, as with other heating systems, follow the manufacturer recommendations for professional servicing to keep your heat pump operating at peak performance. It is important to schedule a preventative maintenance at recommended intervals, or if an issue arises.
Additional Tips for Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pump Users
- Keep Vanes Open & Directed: Keep air vanes open to allow air flow freely throughout the unit. Direct vanes downward when heating your home, and up when cooling to circulate air best.
- Maximize the Heating Zone: Set the temperature of the main unit slightly higher to help distribute even warmth throughout your home. If you are trying to heat or cool multiple rooms, be sure to keep doors open between the heat pump source and rooms you’d like warmed or cooled. Conversely, if you are interested in achieving more zonal conditioning, keep the doors between the source and rooms closed.
Additional Tips for Central Heat Pump Users
- Only Use the Backup When Required: If you have a backup heating system (natural gas, propane or electric furnace, or electric baseboards), set the backup system’s thermostat 5ᵒC below your heat pump thermostat to make your heat pump the primary heating source and only use the back up as supplementary heat when needed.
Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.