How Do Heat Pumps Save You Energy and Money?

January 29, 2015 Written by  Comments Print
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Heat pumps are an alternative to traditional air conditioners and furnaces that can reduce the energy usage in your home and lower your utility bills. However, proper usage is key to ensure you're realizing the full potential of a heat pump system and not unnecessarily driving up your energy usage and bills.  


How do they work?

Your standard forced air furnace works by burning a fuel such as natural gas or oil and using the energy generated to create heat. Heat pumps are different from furnaces in that they don't create heat, they simply move it from place to place. This means that you can use a heat pump both to heat and cool your home by moving heat inside in the winter, and outside in the summer. They don't burn any fuel in this process, though they do use electricity. There are two kinds of heat pumps: air-source heat pumps and geothermal heat pumps.

Air-Source Heat Pumps

Air-source heat pumps transfer heat between your home and the outside air. Air-source pumps are very effective for cooling in the summer, though they're less effective at heating in the winter in colder parts of the country, as there's not much heat to draw from in the air. This is why air-source heat pumps are most effective for year-round use in the south and southwest.

Geothermal Heat Pumps

Geothermal heat pumps transfer heat between your home and the ground. The temperature about 10 feet below the ground remains fairly constant at around 54 degrees all year, even with seasonal changes. This means you can use a geothermal pump effectively for both heating and cooling all year round in any part of the country.

How does this save energy?

It's easier to move heat energy from place to place than to create heat energy by burning a fuel or using electricity. This is why heat pumps are more energy-efficient than your furnace or air conditioner.

How much more efficient are they? This depends on a number of variables. For example, the efficiency of a geothermal heat pump depends on the the size of your lot, the subsoil, and the landscape. But the potential is certainly there. “If you heat with electricity, a heat pump can trim the amount of electricity you use for heating by as much as 30% to 40%,” according to

Let's take a look at some of the things that can reduce the efficiency of a heat pump.

Poor Insulation

A poorly insulated home will reduce the efficiency of any HVAC system, and heat pumps are no exception. But heat pumps stand to lose even more efficiency due to poor insulation. Why?

Heat pumps have a backup heat source, which is 100% electric resistant heat. This is the most expensive kind of heat to generate. The heat pump needs a backup heat source in case it can't meet the demand for heat in the home with available heat in the atmosphere or ground.

But, this means that when heat is leaking out of your home, the heat pump is going to have to work harder to maintain a constant temperature. The backup heat source will come online to do this, and it's going to cost a lot to keep it going. Poor insulation can completely negate the energy-efficiency benefits of a heat pump.

Frequently Adjusting the Thermostat

The heat pump uses your home's thermostat to determine when to run the efficient primary heating cycle as well as the expensive back up heat source. If the temperature drops 2-3 degrees below what's called for by the thermostat, the backup heat source is going to turn on to make up the difference. So if you're constantly making adjustments to the thermostat that are greater than 2-3 degrees, the backup heat source is going to get a lot of work.

The best thing to do is to find a comfortable temperature, and then leave the thermostat alone. This might seem counter-intuitive, because with a furnace for example you probably turn the heat down at night or during the day when you're out to save energy. Just remember that heat pumps work on different principles, and the way to save energy is to make fewer, not more adjustments to the thermostat.


Improve the Efficiency of Your Heat Pump with a Home Energy Audit

Is your heat pump not delivering the efficiency you thought it would? Your home may be suffering from poor insulation, air leaks, and other problems that can be causing your heat pump to work harder than it needs to. A home energy audit from greeNEWit can uncover problem areas in your home and make recommendations to fix them, which will improve the performance of your heat pump and save you money on your electric bills. Call today at 866.994.7630 or visit us at our website to learn more.

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