Heating With a Heat Pump: Pay Attention to the Balance PointHeat pumps provide heat by transferring energy from one place to another, from the outside air to inside the house in the winter, and vice versa during the cooling season. Air-source heat pumps – the most common variety – do an efficient job of providing heat during milder winter months, but most residential models will struggle to provide comfortable heating as the temperature outside falls below freezing. This is the number one rule to understand about heat pumps and how they affect your winter utility bill: the colder it is outside, the less heat the heat pump will produce. Often, then, a homeowner will need to use an alternate heating source, or fall back on the heat pump’s emergency electric heating element. Either option will cause your utility bill to climb.

For this reason, it’s important to make sure your home is as energy efficient as possible, with sufficient insulation and air sealing, in order to lower the temperature at which the heat pump can no longer keep up with the cold outside. This is called the balance point, and the lower that balance point temperature, the better for home comfort and utility bills.

Different heat pumps have different capabilities, with many newer models able to comfortably heat a home down to near zero. However, many air-source heat pumps currently in operation begin struggling around 32-35 degrees. Heat pumps typically require a specialized thermostat that senses when to use the main system and when to switch over to the backup heat. The default emergency heating is usually an expensive-to-operate electric heating element, though more and more homeowners are opting for a dual-fuel system where a gas furnace provides backup heating below the balance point temperature.

One reason many families rely on these systems, despite their shortcomings, is their efficiency at producing heat from electricity. A well-maintained air-source heat pump can provide 175 to 300 percent heating efficiency, meaning its output is usually more than double the electricity used to power the equipment. The other main advantage, of course, is that this heating system also serves as an efficient air conditioner in the summer.

For more information regarding how to get the most out of the heat pump in your Indianapolis area home, please contact us at Mowery Heating, Cooling & Plumbing.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Brownsburg, Indiana and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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