Do Heat Pumps Use a Lot of Electricity?


Heat pumps are one of the alternatives to conventional heaters used by homeowners looking for an environmentally friendly way to keep their homes warm. However, since they run on electricity, it is only natural to consider the cost implications of having one installed.

Heat pumps are very affordable to operate. Heat pumps use electricity to operate, not to produce heat. Heat pumps with a Coefficient of Performance (COP) rating of 3 can create 3kW of heat for every 1kW of electricity used. The cost to operate a heat pump can vary based on location, time of year, maintenance, and age of the heat pump.

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Several factors can affect how much electricity a heat pump system will use. These factors include:

Heat pumps operate most efficiently in moderate climates that do not have long extended periods of cold weather. As the temperature drops below 25 degrees, efficiency drops because the system relies on electric heat strips to keep up with demand.

Electric heat strips, also known as emergency heat, use 1kW of electricity to produce 1kW of heat. In colder climates, a dual fuel heat pump system that uses a gas-fired furnace to produce heat will be far more efficient.

The rest of the article will take a look at estimates to show you how much electricity heat pumps use, how heat pumps can impact your yearly utility bills, and more.

How Much Electricity Do Heat Pumps Use Per Year?

The Coefficient of Performance (COP) is the unit for measuring the efficiency of a heat pump. It is derived by measuring the amount of inputted energy (electricity) and the amount of energy produced (heat). If a heat pump has a COP rating of 3.0, it means that you should expect 3 kW of heat for every 1 kW of electricity the pump uses.

If you live in a home that requires 15,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of heat to stay warm per year and you have a heat pump with a COP rating of 3.0, it means that you can expect the heat pump to use around 5,000 kW of electricity every year.

The average electricity rate in the United States, for example, is 13.19 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). This means that the cost of running a heat pump for a year in the example above will be around $658. The actual figures will depend on the size of your home, how well insulated it is, and other factors discussed later in this article.

You should also know that as the COP rating of the heat pump increases (think a COP rating of 4.0 or higher), the numbers will most likely go down.

How Heat Pumps Affect Your Utility Bill

Traditional heaters run on oil, natural gas, or propane gas while heat pumps run on electricity. This offers two benefits. Firstly, you aren’t using oil or gas to heat your home, thus contributing your quota towards reducing carbon emissions—a benefit that amounts to a reduction of 916 million tons of CO2 emissions in the EU. Secondly, using a heat pump reduces your yearly oil consumption by up to 300 gallons.

When you start using heat pumps, you will see an uptick in your electricity consumption. However, when juxtaposed with the decrease in oil consumption, you’ll find out that you are actually saving money. The savings on your utility bill can be up to 40%, and you’ll notice it almost instantly.

Factors That Influence the Cost of Running a Heat Pump

There are three main factors that can determine the total running cost of your heat pump. They include the following:

  • The efficiency of the heat pump
  • The temperature of the heat source
  • The amount of heat you need in your home

The efficiency of domestic heat pumps will vary from one manufacturer to another, but there are common grounds you should expect to see. For example, you should typically expect to find heat pumps with COP ratings between 3.0 and 4.3 in most stores, even though some options can have COP as high as 5.0 or as low as 2.5.

Regardless of the COP value on the heat pump you choose, you should know that its efficiency goes beyond the numbers. The amount of work the pump has to do to warm the house trumps all else. Therefore, the difference between the outside and inside temperature is an important value that you should consider alongside the COP rating.

The smaller the difference between both temperature readings, the lesser the work your heat pump has to do to deliver the warmth you are looking for. With the pump not being under excess strain, it won’t consume a lot of energy while working.

How to Keep Electricity Consumption Low While Using a Heat Pump

You’ve seen how to calculate the potential energy costs of a heat pump, but what happens when you find out that you’re using far more energy than you estimated? Below are a few things you can do.

Don’t Change the Set Temperature

It may feel intuitive to turn the temperature on your heat pump up or down depending on how cold or warm you feel at any point, but this will only make the heat pump use more power. If you want it to use less power, ensure it maintains the same temperature. Set your thermostat to a specific value, and don’t change it arbitrarily.

You should also consider putting the temperature at the best value possible. If you move the thermostat from to 22°C (72°C) to 20°C (68°F), you’ll probably not feel any less warm, but such a change can reduce your heat pump’s electricity usage by up to 5%.

If you don’t have a heat pump thermostat, you can order one easily. Options like the Emerson 1F89EZ-0251 Heat Pump Thermostat and the Aprilaire 8466 Heat Pump Thermostat  are affordable options you can consider.

Plug All Air Leaks

If your home is not properly insulated, the heat generated by your heat pump will end up escaping outside. Cold air from outdoors will also lower the temperature inside. To avoid this, make sure the heated area is properly insulated. Don’t forget to insulate doors and windows and cover all creaks on them that can lead to heat loss.

If your home is already properly insulated, then you should ensure you are not sabotaging the efforts of your heat pump with actions like leaving doors and windows open or opening them far too frequently over the course of the day.

Maintain Your Heat Pump

If you don’t maintain your heat pump properly, your energy bills can increase by up to 25%. Some of the things that will be corrected in maintenance include the replacement of blocked or dirty air filters, which can reduce the amount of airflow, and a fan clogged by debris.

We have a step by step guide to replacing air filters at How To Locate & Replace Your Heat Pump Filter: Step By Step Guide

Your heat pump is like a boiler, so you need to ensure it is maintained regularly. Ideally, you should have it serviced every year.

Connect to Solar Panels

Hooking your heat pumps to a solar panel is a great way to reduce your electricity bill. This approach will also cut down your carbon footprint even further. The downside to this approach is that it requires some upfront expenses, but it is an investment that you’ll likely recoup in a few years.

Remember, heat pumps are already 50% less expensive than conventional gas heaters. Connecting yours to a solar panel can reduce the cost of running it by 40% per year. The overall savings on your utility bills really start to mount with this combination.

See our article on “Can Solar Panels Power a Heat Pump?” to see if solar is an option for you.

Conclusion

If you are using a heat pump that matches your environment and the size of your home, you don’t have to worry about it using a lot of electricity. However, you need to keep it properly maintained to ensure it stays efficient.

If you find out that your heat pump is consuming too much electricity, it may be time to go over the efficiency of the system in relation to your environment—after you’ve ascertained that you’re not doing anything wrong in your usage.

We’ve created some additional resources you may find helpful including:

Sources

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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