Saving Energy with a Heat Pump

One of the regrets of my recent house build was not looking into the heating system a bit closer.  When I was evaluating the heating options pre-build, the options were basically electric heat, oil furnace, or the more efficient heat pump systems.  I went with electric as it was the easiest (and cheapest) at the time as it’s the option that most new houses go with around here.

Even though the house is fairly new, I’m already thinking about what my next build would include!  This is a common problem with people who have built; they never want to stop building because there are always improvements to be made.  With that, I’m convinced that my next house will include a heat pump type heating/cooling system.

What is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is a heating/cooling system for a home that works very similarly to your refrigerator.  When it’s cold outside, it can efficiently extract the warmth out of the air, amplify it by compressing the refrigerant, and releasing the heat it into the home with a forced air system.  What’s neat about a heat pump is that it can work in reverse and provide air conditioning inside the home during the warmer summer periods.

The Numbers

The cost to install a heat pump initially can be quite expensive.  You need the heat pump, the forced air furnace, the duct work and heat control throughout the home.  From phoning around local stores, the equipment and installation adds up to be around $6,500 – $10,000 depending on the size of your house.

Air source heat pumps (as opposed to ground source/geothermal) is, according to a government of Canada publication,  known to have 50% greater efficiency than traditional electric heat sources.  In other words, if it costs you $2,000 / year in electric heating costs, a heat pump will incur approximately $1,000/year in energy costs.   In this case, the heat pump will pay for itself in 6-10 years.  If you look at the government of Canada link above, that table includes the pay off period for different regions within the country.

Advantages

  • Environmentally friendly where it reduces household carbon footprint.
  • Reduces monthly heating costs.
  • The ability to be a source for heat and air conditioning all in one unit.

Disadvantages

  • Upfront expense.
  • If the outside temperature gets too hot/cold, the heat pump becomes less efficient.
  • In places with an abundance of snow (like Newfoundland), the heat pump must be kept clear of snow.

Final Thoughts

If we do decide to build again, I think that we will take the hit upfront and use the heat pump system.  I like the fact that it’s environmentally friendly, there’s a significant monthly cost savings, and it has the ability to have air conditioning for those muggy nights.  In addition to those immediate benefits, the heat pump will pay for itself over the years.

Do you have a heat pump installed in your house?  If so, am I missing anything?

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Ted White
8 years ago

I’m considering a heatpump and would like to know which brand is generally considered as most reliable.

JimC
9 years ago

It also doesn’t hurt to wrap your hot water tank, and hot water piping with insulation. I found that reduced the hot water tanks cycling by about 30%, and it’s noticeably warm under the wrap vs before when the exterior of the tank used to be air temp.

Andy
10 years ago

I think the thing to remember with all of this is that if you can go with natural gas, go with that. We built a 1700sqft house in 2007 and the highest gas bill we’ve ever had was $145 for a single month. That includes heat, hot water, dryer, and stove.

Like in one of the comments above, turn your hot water tank down, if you need hotter water, just turn the hot on by itself. Also if you go away for a week and no one is staying at your house, turn it right down along with your heat.

jean hynes
10 years ago

we just got a 24000btu heat pump installed.in our basement and we are impressed so far. will have to wait until winter to see any savings in our electrical bill. are there any rebates for buying a heat pump?

Brian
11 years ago

A day late and a dollar short, but I would argue the benefits of a heat pump are wildly overstated. I live in Indianapolis, Indiana and was told my heat pump would pay for itself in 6-10 years by supplanting my gas-powered furnace for temps anything north of 35 F. One problem with that scenario. The “wildly escalating cost of natural gas” they scared me about never came to pass. And so, instead of paying 30-40 cents per hour for my natural-gas furnace to heat my house when temps are in the 35-65 degrees F range, I pay the electric company $1.50-$1.75 per hour.

GS
11 years ago

I bought a $2000 geothermal unit, and cut a large hole on the side of my existing oil furnace, which I now use as a backup heatsouce, attached the heatpump and connected it onto the existing ductwork. I plumbed it with some plastic pipe to use water (@ 45 F) from my existing well, and its handles all my heating unless it gets extremely cold (-25 celcius or colder) then the oil furnace comes on and helps out a bit. Compared to just oil heating its about half the expense, so payback is probably under 5 years. I guessed on the size of the unit for heating, so in air conditioning mode its probably a little too excessive (it cycles off/on more often)

Ms Save Money
11 years ago

Yes, having a heat pump would definitely help to save some money.
Anyway, I just moved into another house – and I’m looking around to see what I can save money one. Anyone have any ideas?

DAvid
12 years ago

allanbassenden:
It varies, and on most heat pumps can be set to different temperatures, based on the costs of the fuels (it may be cheaper to run an 80% efficency furnace for 10 minutes than a 150% efficient heat pump for 30 minutes). In addition, most thermostats have a comfort function. If the house does not warm fast enough when heat is called for, the aux heat is turned on.

You might be best to contact your supplier.

DAvid

allanbassenden
12 years ago

What tempature outside should heatpump stop working cold and elect furance backup come on tks allan

The Best Heat Pump Systems
12 years ago

interesting article !