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Do Heat Pumps Use a Lot of Electricity?

by Ultimate Heating & Cooling / February 15, 2023

Are you considering a heat pump for your home but have concerns about its energy usage? You're not alone. This is a common question among homeowners, and in this blog post, we're going to clear up any misconceptions and provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision.

Heat pumps transfer heat from one place to another rather than generating it through combustion like a traditional furnace, making heat pumps a popular choice for many homeowners looking for an energy-efficient way to heat and cool their homes. In fact, heat pumps can save homeowners 40% on their monthly energy bill compared to a furnace system due to their higher efficiency.

When it comes to heat pump energy consumption, there are several factors to consider, such as the size and model of the pump, its efficiency rating, and the size and climate of the home. To offset the cost of electricity, many homeowners opt to invest in solar panels as they complement heat pumps well and make for a smart long-term investment. In this article, we'll explore the electricity consumption and costs of heat pumps, along with the supplemental cost benefit of using solar energy.

Factors That Affect Heat Pump Electricity Usage

Heat Pump Size

One important factor that affects heat pump electricity usage is the size of the unit. A larger heat pump will consume more electricity than a smaller one, so it's critical to choose a unit that's appropriately sized for your home. 

1 ton (12,000 BTU): The smallest heat pumps, which are typically used in small apartments, condos, or small homes. They are most appropriate for moderate climates and homes that don't require much heating or cooling.

2 tons (24,000 BTU): Suitable for homes with moderate to large square footage. They are best used for homes that require moderate heating or cooling.

3 tons (36,000 BTU): Typically used in larger homes or commercial buildings. They are suitable for homes in moderate to cold climates and are best used in homes that require a significant amount of heating or cooling.

4 tons (48,000 BTU): Commonly used in very large homes or commercial buildings. They are suitable for homes in colder climates or that require a large amount of heating or cooling.

5 tons (60,000 BTU): The largest units, suitable for commercial buildings and large homes. They are best used in frigid climates and are ideal for homes that require a considerable amount of heating or cooling.

Heat Pump Type

When it comes to selecting a heat pump, the type you choose can have a significant impact on electricity usage. Choosing the right type of heat pump depends on the climate in your area, the size and layout of your home, and your budget and energy needs. Consult with a professional to determine the best option for your specific situation. 

There are five main types of heat pumps:

  1. Air to Air Heat Pumps
    Electricity Usage: Moderate
    Air-to-air heat pumps source heat from the air on the load side, then transfer it to a refrigerant which travels through a coil inside the ductwork. Air blowing across the coil heats the air inside the house. This is the most common type of heat pump.
  2. Ground Source (Geothermal) 
    Electricity Usage: Low
    Ground source, or geothermal heat pumps use the ground as the source of heat. They use a buried loop of pipe (known as a ground loop) that is filled with a water and antifreeze mixture. The heat from the ground is absorbed into the fluid in the ground loop and then is brought inside to a heat exchanger. This heat is then transferred to the refrigerant, which cycles through the heat pump to heat the air or water in the house. This type of heat pump is considered a highly efficient and cost-effective option for heating and cooling.
  3. Water to Water
    Electricity Usage: Low
    Water to water heat pumps are a type of geothermal heat pump that uses water as the source of heat. They require drilling into the earth and then using a heat exchanger to transfer that heat to the water that runs through the heating system.
  4. Water to Air
    Electricity Usage: Low
    Water to air heat pumps use geothermal drilling to source heat from the earth's surface. However, instead of transferring heat to water, the hot water runs through a coil in a duct, and when air blows across that coil, it heats up.
  5. Air to Water
    Electricity Usage: Moderate
    Air to water heat pumps source heat from the air on the source side and transfer it to a refrigerant. The refrigerant then cycles through a heat exchanger where it can heat the load side water to be pumped through the house. This type of heat pump is less common than the others.

Heat Pump Efficiency

Heat pump efficiency refers to the amount of heat energy that a heat pump can transfer to a space or water compared to the amount of electrical energy it consumes. Two key ratings to look at are the Coefficient of Performance (COP) and the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The COP measures the heat pump's efficiency at converting electricity into heat, while the SEER measures its efficiency at cooling. The higher the COP and SEER ratings, the more energy-efficient the heat pump will be and the less electricity it will consume. 

The most efficient heat pumps have COPs of around 5, meaning that for every unit of energy consumed, they can deliver five units of heat energy. Factors that can affect heat pump efficiency include the unit's design and size, the temperature difference between the heat source and the heat sink, and the ambient temperature.

The amount of energy consumed by heat pumps can vary greatly, ranging from 0.802 kilowatt-hours to 5.102 kilowatt-hours per hour. This translates to a cost of operation between $0.10 and $0.98 per hour. It's worth noting that when first starting up, the amount of energy used, known as starting wattage, can be even higher and reach up to 3 times the average usage, ranging from 2,406 watts to 15,306 watts.

Home Size and Climate

Finally, the size and climate of your home also affect heat pump electricity usage. A larger home will require more energy to heat and cool than a smaller one, and a home in a colder climate will require more energy to heat than a warmer one. Heat pumps are most efficient in environments that do not have prolonged stretches of extremely cold weather. As temperatures fall below 25 degrees, the efficiency of the system decreases as it relies on electric heat strips to meet demand.

Check out these tips on operating your heat pump in a cold climate.

Heat Pump Electricity Usage Per Year

On average, an air-source heat pump uses anywhere from 545 watts to 7,500 watts of electricity. The wattage per hour can be calculated by dividing the British Thermal Units (BTUs) needed to heat or cool your home by the SEER for warm months and the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) for cold months. 

In the cooling mode, a heat pump can consume between 0.55-5.14 kWh per hour, 4.36-41.14 kWh per day, and 130.91-1234.29 kWh per month. The cost of operation at $0.15/kWh is $19.64-$185.14 per month.

While in heating mode, a heat pump can consume between 0.86-9.00 kWh per hour, 6.86-72 kWh per day, and 205.71-2160 kWh per month. The cost of operation at $0.15/kWh is $30.86-$324 per month.

Offsetting Heat Pump Electricity Costs with Solar Panels

One way to offset the costs of heat pump electricity usage is by installing solar panels. Solar panels are rated at around 350W and can generate enough energy to power your heat pump and other appliances in your home. The cost saved from solar panels will depend on electricity consumption, location, and electric rates and plans. However, most people expect savings of $10,000 - $30,000 after 7-8 years of use. 

Installing solar panels can be a wise financial decision for homeowners, as many states offer rebates and incentives. Not only can it save you money on energy bills, but it can also increase the value of your home. Additionally, solar panels provide a sustainable and long-term energy source, helping reduce your carbon footprint. Be sure to research the options available in your area to maximize the benefits of going solar.

Heat Pumps: an Energy-Efficient and Cost-Effective HVAC Solution

If you're looking for an efficient and cost-effective way to heat and cool your home, a heat pump is an excellent option. As we discussed, the amount of electricity it uses will depend on various factors like the size and type of heat pump, its efficiency rating, and the size and climate of your home. To save even more, it's worth considering pairing your heat pump with solar panels. This way, you can enjoy the benefits of a heat pump without incurring unwanted expenses. 

If you're thinking about installing a heat pump in your home, our team at Ultimate Heating and Cooling is here to help you with all your questions and concerns. Send us a message today!

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