Mainers have installed tens of thousands of heat pumps because they are the most efficient way to heat and cool. If you’ve made the investment, or are considering it, we’d like to share tips on how you can save the most with your heat pump. Some of them may seem counterintuitive, but trust us! These tips are applicable to the most common heat pump installations in Maine.
Use your heat pump all winter.
High-performance heat pumps are the most efficient heating system, even on the coldest winter day. If you have both a heat pump and a furnace/boiler, your heat pump is the more energy-efficient choice.
Set it and forget it in the winter.
Heat pumps operate most efficiently when holding a steady temperature. Turning a heat pump down when you’re away or asleep may actually use more energy than leaving it on. The reason is that it has to work harder to come back to the desired temperature than it does to maintain it. It’s best to set it at a comfortable temperature and forget it. Adjusting the temperature for short periods of time, such as overnight, will not save money with a heat pump.
Set for comfort.
Many heat pump indoor units are mounted high on the wall near the ceiling. Because heat rises and heat pumps measure temperature at the indoor units, you may find you need to set your heat pump at a higher temperature than with a traditional wall thermostat setting. Set it for comfort regardless of your usual furnace/boiler setting. This may be different for heat pumps with floor units or wall-mounted thermostats.
Use your heat pump before your boiler/furnace.
For homes heated by both a heat pump and a boiler/furnace, relying on the heat pump whenever possible will maximize savings. This can mean different things in different homes, like setting the boiler/furnace thermostat lower or closing a radiator/damper in the rooms served by the heat pump. For typical solutions and configurations, click here.
Avoid “Auto” mode in summer and winter.
The Auto mode on heat pumps allows the heat pump to decide whether to heat or cool the space, but it doesn’t always know best. To avoid accidentally air conditioning on a mid-winter sunny day or perhaps when a wood stove is running, use “Heat” mode, not “Auto.” Likewise, to avoid accidentally heating on a cool summer night, use “Cool” “Dry,” or “Fan,” not “Auto” in the summer.
Optimize fan speed.
Start off with the fan setting on “Auto Fan.” If that doesn’t spread the heated or cooled air far enough, set the speed to the lowest level that will meet your needs.
Optimize air flow direction.
It’s easy to redirect airflow on a heat pump. To maximize reach, air should be directed toward the open space that is the farthest away from the indoor unit, and away from any obstructions. You may need to experiment to see what’s most comfortable for you.
Clean your dust filters.
Heat pumps work best when dust filters are clean. Vacuum or rinse the dust filters whenever they become visibly dirty or when the indicator light comes on. The frequency of cleaning can range from weeks to months depending on use and dust volume. For details on how to take the filters out, consult your user manual.
Keep your outdoor unit clear.
Keep shrubs away from outdoor units and remove leaves that may become stuck in them, being careful not to bend the fins. Clear snow drifts away from outdoor units but don’t worry about snow and ice accumulating on them. Heat pumps automatically defrost.
Have your heat pump professionally serviced.
To ensure peak performance, follow manufacturers’ recommendations for professional service in addition to regular filter cleaning. Heat pumps collect more dirt in the summer, so it’s best to have them serviced in the fall.
Match the summer mode to the weather and your needs.
There are three heat pump modes for summer. “Fan” uses the least energy and may suffice when you need a little relief, but it will not cool the room so be sure to turn it off when you leave. When it’s warm and muggy, “Dry” mode can reduce the humidity and make the room feel more comfortable. “Cool” mode is the best choice for lowering the temperature and may suit the hottest days.
As you can see in the tips above, we recommend using heat pumps differently than combustion heating systems. Following these tips will help you maximize your savings and comfort.