Heat pumps are becoming very popular heating installations with homeowners looking to trim their electric bills because the equipment can move up to 300% more heat than the energy it takes to run it. Of course, that efficiency can plummet and leave you with a shockingly high monthly bill if you don't use the heat pump properly. Avoid these five common mistakes that interfere with your heater's efforts to warm the home.
Using The Emergency Heat Setting
These units work best when outdoor temperatures are above about 30 degrees F, so they come equipped with backup direct heating strips like the ones found in electric furnaces. The system automatically turns on that auxiliary heating function for you. Unfortunately, many homeowners mix up the auxiliary and emergency heating functions.
The emergency setting on your heat pump is only for staying warm when a malfunction interrupts the normal operation. If you switch it on because you're feeling a little chilly, you're running the heating strips at full blast until you manually switch it off again. Unless your pump isn't responding to your request for heat, use the auxiliary heat setting instead when temperatures drop.
Letting The Unit Ice Over
Since this kind of heater uses the same kind of condensing technology as a refrigerator, the outdoor unit gets quite cold as it concentrates heat out of frigid air. It's not uncommon for the condensing coils to end up encased in a solid blanket of ice that interrupts the usual transfer of heat. While nearly all new heat pumps come with automatic defrosting functions, you should still check the unit periodically to make sure it's not frozen over and struggling to function normally.
Relying On An Old Unit
The heat pumps built a decade ago can't compare in efficiency to the models available today. These devices arrived on the market in the late 1970s, but even units installed in the 1990s need replacement if you're looking to save money on heating and cooling. Many of the older pumps also use the outdated Freon-22 refrigerant, making recharging visits extremely expensive as the gas becomes harder and harder to find.
Forgetting To Clean The Equipment
As with all heating and cooling equipment, heat pumps get dirty through normal operation as they move air full of dust and debris. A dirty pump is an inefficient one. If you want to handle the cleaning chores yourself, remember to:
- Change the air filters monthly, especially since these heating units are typically used year round for both heating and cooling.
- Clean the coils on the outdoor unit with a damp rag after disconnecting it from the power source at least once every three months.
- Trim plants back that grow too close to the outdoor unit and sweep away any leaves or other debris sitting on it.
- Wipe down the blower fans in both the indoor and outdoor units as needed.
No matter how much cleaning and maintenance you do on your own, you still need at least one visit a year from a technician so they can check for refrigerant and duct leaks.
Making Big Adjustments To The Thermostat
Even if you already know to keep your heat pump clean and free of ice, you might not know that your equipment works best when you only adjust the thermostat by three degrees at a time. Bumping the set temperature up any faster triggers the backup heat to switch on. When you want to increase the temperature more than just a few degrees, break the change down into three-degree increments and space them out by 10 minutes or more. This isn't a problem when you're using the cooling function instead of heating.
Some homeowners treat their new heat pumps like they're furnaces and assume the equipment must be faulty when their energy bills don't drop. By recognizing the differences between this type of equipment and other heating options, you can get the most out of your investment while staying comfortable all year long.