Should Heat Pumps be Turned Off at Night?

If you own a heat pump, you’re probably conflicted about whether to leave it turned on all through the night or to turn it off just before bedtime. You’ll get different answers to this question depending on who you ask, so what’s the right approach to take?

You shouldn’t need to shut your heat pump off at night. Heat pumps are designed to work at maximum efficiency when set to the desired temperature and allowed to run as needed. Heat pumps are designed to regulate the home’s temperature as directed by the thermostat. If your heat pump runs continuously, there is likely something wrong with the heat pump, ductwork, or your home is losing energy.

This article will take a look at both sides of the argument and how you can find the perfect middle ground.

When You Should Turn the Heat Pump Off at Night

Heat pumps are very efficient in keeping a home warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and they are effortless to run. This is why more homeowners are using them as their main source of heating and cooling their homes. The ease of use means that many people don’t think twice about leaving them running all through the night.

Heat pumps that are operating properly shouldn’t use a lot of electricity. If you are considering turning your heat pump off at night, it’s probably to save money on heating and cooling costs. However, there is no solid proof that turning your system off saves money long term.

Your heat pump won’t often run in the spring and fall as the temperatures are more moderate. Turning your system off during this time won’t change much because it won’t likely be running anyway.

In a properly insulated home, it is not necessary to turn your heat pump off at night. The heat pump will operate only when needed. It will take a few hours for the temperature to drop considerably to uncomfortable levels at night with proper insulation.  

If your home is not well insulated, your heat pump may run longer to maintain the desired temperature. If this is the case, it would be wise to consider improving your home’s insulation levels and install energy-efficient windows where available.

Rather than shutting your heat pump off at night, consider raising or lowering the temperature settings a few degrees. A programmable thermostat works great and automates the process. Most programmable thermostats will allow multiple settings to tailor how your heat pump operates.

The best option is the ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control, SmartSensor Included, Alexa Built-In.

An affordable option is the Honeywell Home RTH7600D 7-Day Programmable Touchscreen Thermostat.

When You Shouldn’t Turn the Heat Pump Off at Night

If you live in a climate where the temperature drops very quickly, turning off the heat pump at night is a bad idea. Any amount of money you’ll save by turning off the heat pump for 7-8 hours at night will most likely be lost in other ways when you consider just how much extreme cold can impact your life.

If your heat pump is running continuously, you should have your heat pump serviced to verify it’s working properly. It could just need to be cleaned or the air ducts patched. We’ve compiled a list of 16 Reasons Your Heat Pump Doesn’t Blow Hot Air.

Even if your home is properly insulated, you need to have a proper understanding of how quickly your home’s temperature can drop to freezing levels. If it takes only an hour or two, leaving your heat pump on throughout the night is the more sensible thing to do, for the following reasons.

Cold Weather Will Negatively Affect Your Sleep

As an adult, you need 7-9 hours of sleep every day. That number increases if you slide down the age scale, so your teenagers and toddlers will need even more hours of sleep to avoid a myriad of health problems.

Sleeping in cold weather means you’ll almost never feel comfortable enough to get the recommended quota every day. Experts recommend keeping your home temperatures at no lower than 60°F (15°C) if you want to get a good night’s rest. So, turning off the heat pump and losing sleep is counterproductive.

Even when you are not trying to sleep, resting in cold weather too frequently can lead to a range of health problems, including respiratory conditions and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Cold Weather Can Damage Your Home

If you continue exposing your home to freezing weather in a bid to save money on energy use and prolong the life of your heat pump, you could still lose money in other ways. The chain reaction of cold weather in your house can lead to burst pipes, cracked fittings, and more.

Such damages can cost you thousands of dollars to fix.

What Is the Middle Ground?

If you find that turning off your heat pump at night or leaving it running throughout the night doesn’t quite fit your unique situation, you can take the middle ground, which is using a programmable thermostat.

You can set the thermostat in various ways to ensure your heat pump only works when necessary and that your home’s temperature never drops to uncomfortable or dangerous levels.

If the weather in your area doesn’t drop drastically overnight, set the thermostat to lower the temperature by a few degrees per hour as the night unfurls. This will ensure the heat pump isn’t working full tilt all through the night while you don’t expose yourself to extreme cold.

If your home is properly insulated, you can also set the thermostat to turn off or activate the heat pump after a certain number of hours. However, for the best results, ensure the heat pump comes on at least 30 minutes before your home loses all the previously generated heat. This way, it won’t have to work too hard to restore warmth.

How to Avoid Compulsorily Turning Your Heat Pump On or Off

For some people, leaving the heat pump on or off at night is not a choice. In some cases, the house just gets uncomfortably warm even when the heat pump works at its lowest. In other cases, the house gets uncomfortably cold just a few minutes after turning off the pump. Does this describe your situation? Here are some things you should do.

Get a Heat Pump Fit for Your Climate

Heat pumps come in various heating seasonal performance (HSPF) ratings. You need to ensure you have picked an option that is a good fit for the weather in your area; otherwise, it will work too hard to provide warmth in your home. This is why it feels like all the heat disappears quickly as soon as the heat pump goes off.

On the other hand, if you choose a heat pump overkill for your home, it will create too much heat in your home. You’ll find yourself torn between sweating and getting cold with no middle ground.

Insulate Your Home

Indeed, you can’t insulate your home completely, but you should get really close. As a minimum, you should ensure your walls, ceiling, and windows are not allowing heat to escape easily. If you don’t insulate the home, the heat pump will use up more energy than necessary to keep your home warm, and you’ll also lose heat too quickly when the heat pump goes off.

Choose a Heat Pump of the Right Size

If your heat pump is too small for your home, you’ll be forced to leave it on through the night because it won’t quite generate enough ambient heat. In the same vein, a heat pump that is too big for the room will overwhelm the space even at the lowest settings.

In both scenarios above, the heat pump will use more energy than necessary to run and wear out pretty quickly, either from overstretching of the parts or underuse (which leads to more frequent on and off cycles).

To avoid this, get a professional to recommend a heat pump that is the right size for your space. Perhaps a ducted system would be better for your home than a split-system.

Final Words

There is no right or wrong answer to whether you should turn off your heat pump at night. A lot of factors come into play to determine the right course of action to take.

Even when saving money is your main reason for considering turning off the heat pump, you could find out that you are exposing your pocket to more expenses that can blow the amount you saved out of the water. So, weigh your options carefully using the points discussed above.

For more information on SEER ratings for high-efficiency heat pumps, see our article Complete Guide to Heat Pump SEER Ratings.

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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 to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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