A heat pump can heat your home better and for less money than some other heating options. To get the most out of a heat pump, it's really important to choose the right one and use it properly - here's how.
Choose the most efficient
While heat pumps are the most efficient way of using electricity to heat your home, some are more efficient than others.
The ENERGY STAR® mark is awarded to qualified heat pumps for both heating and cooling modes. Choosing an ENERGY STAR heat pump could save you $150 a year on running costs, compared to a non-qualified model.
Better performance when the outside temperature drops
Some heat pumps struggle to keep up between 5 and 0°C, when they are more prone to icing up. That's why ENERGY STAR now includes a requirement that's designed to ensure a correctly sized ENERGY STAR heat pump will perform efficiently in this temperature range.
So if you live in a cooler climate, ask your supplier if the heat pump you're looking at meets the new ENERGY STAR specification, or check the latest ENERGY STAR qualified models.
Checklist for choosing a heat pump
As well as choosing an efficient model, here's some other important things to think about:
- Insulate first. Make sure your ceiling and underfloor insulation is sorted first - you'll be able to buy a smaller heat pump and your home will be cheaper to heat properly
- Quality. Choose a quality brand from a reputable supplier that offers at least a five-year warranty on parts and labour
- Sizing. Make sure it's sized correctly for the room you want to heat - if it's too small, it will have to work harder and cost you more to run. Your supplier will be able to discuss this with you
- Climate. As the temperature drops, so does the performance of many heat pumps. If you live in a cold area, make sure the unit is sized using the manufacturer's information on how much heat it can deliver at the average outdoor winter temperature of the area in which you live. A good quality unit, sized and installed correctly, should perform effectively down to minus 15°C. Ask your heat pump supplier if you need your heat pump to perform at these temperatures
- Environment. For example, in geothermal areas or coastal areas the heat pump needs to have suitable protection against corrosion - ask your supplier about environmental considerations in your area
- Installation. Good installation is fundamental to how well a heat pump performs - make sure you choose an experienced installer.
Use the energy rating label to compare heat pumps
All heat pumps have an energy rating label which helps you compare the efficiency of similar sized models. The more stars, the more energy efficient a unit is. The red stars are for heating efficiency and the blue stars are for cooling efficiency.
Understanding the numbers
The heat pump label has two numbers that can tell you more about the heat pump's performance.
- Capacity output - the amount of heating or cooling (kWh) you will get out of the heat pump (at its rated capacity, at 7˚C).
- Power input - the amount of electricity the product uses (kWh) to produce the cool or hot air.
You can also use the numbers to calculate a heat pump's heating efficiency. The higher the ratio, the more efficient it is.
- Coefficient of Performance (COP) - the ratio between the heating power input and capacity output. For example, 4.75 divided by 1.64 = 2.90
- Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) - the ratio between the cooling input and output. For example, 4.45 divided by 1.61 = 2.76
Tips for using a heat pump efficiently
Like any heating option, heat pumps give the best energy savings when they are used smartly. You can save hundreds of dollars extra on your power bill a year with a few simple actions:
- Only heat the space you're actually using, shutting doors and curtains to keep the heat in.
- Set the thermostat to a healthy temperature. Aim for a minimum of 18ºC while you are using a space (or 20ºC if you have children, elderly or people who are unwell in the home) and 16ºC in bedrooms overnight.
- Learn to use the timer features. Don't leave your heat pump on all day if you're not there. You can set the unit to turn on half an hour or so before you get home.
- Clean the filter (inside and outside) regularly, as per the manufacturers instructions.
- Avoid using it as an airconditioner when you can. Try opening windows and doors on either side of the house to get a through breeze. Close curtains on hot, sunny days to keep you home cool and shady.
- Good practice guide to heat pump installation for installers
- ENERGY STAR qualified heat pumps
- ENERGY STAR heat pump specification
- Energy rating labels for heat pumps (EECA website)
This calculator helps you work out what size heater you need for different rooms in your house.