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Using your heat pump: five tips for maintenance to optimize efficiency

Heat pumps are an effective, cost-cutting alternative to traditional heating and cooling systems. Between (usually) lower energy bills and various incentive programs, heat pumps provide consistent savings in a turbulent energy market. However, proper maintenance is essential to optimize a system’s efficiency and savings. According to the Department of Energy, the energy consumption of a well-maintained heat pump is 10 to 25 percent lower than that of a neglected one. So, we spoke with some industry experts to gather some helpful maintenance tips to optimize your heat pump’s efficiency.

Key takeaways

  1. Optimal performance starts with the proper installation of the heat pump. Oversized heat pumps can lead to drops in comfort and efficiency, and potentially a shorter lifespan for your equipment.

  2. Good warranties help lower out-of-pocket costs for maintenance and repairs over the years and offer a money-back guarantee for issues that arise from installation.

  3. Heat pumps should be inspected by a professional annually and cleaning air filters monthly and outdoor units as needed boosts performance.

  4. Keeping your thermostat at a consistent temperature can lower utility costs.

  5. Use the EnergySage Marketplace to pair your heat pumps with emission-free electricity produced right at home!

What’s in this article?

Tip #1: ensure your heat pump is properly sized

Maintaining an efficient heat pump system starts with proper installation, performed by an experienced contractor. One big risk during the installation phase is that you’ll end up with a heat pump that’s way too large for your home. This can cause the heat pump to cycle on and off more often than it ought to, which puts extra stress on the heat pump’s components—and can lead to premature breakdowns. It’s bad for your home’s comfort and the system’s energy efficiency, too.

The capacity of a heat pump system must match the area of the intended living space it’s expected to heat and cool; a heat pump system that’s too big or too small can reduce energy efficiency and potentially increase maintenance costs. Manual J is the industry standard for sizing a heat pump. Established by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), its eight factors – local climate, square footage and layout, number of windows, occurrences of air infiltration, the quality of insulation, number of residents, preferred indoor temperature, and the home’s appliances – help HVAC installers estimate the necessary capacity for the intended living space.

Once you’re comfortable with the size of your heat pump system, you’ll want to ensure it’s installed correctly to save electricity and maintenance costs. A heat pump installation should include the following steps:

  1. Disconnecting and removing the old system (when applicable)

  2. Properly preparing the area where the heat pump will be set

  3. Wiring the system correctly

  4. Adequately testing the system upon successful installation

Tip #2: understand your heat pump’s warranty

While heat pumps save you money over time, it’s no secret that they often come with hefty upfront costs. A good warranty can increase the value of your investment and save you money on maintenance and repairs. When exploring your options among local installers, ask about the warranty terms. A qualified installer will stand by a quality heat pump and offer a warranty that reflects that (and they should recommend equipment with a warranty as well). To avoid long-term performance issues from an improper installation, ask contractors about installation warranties, too – a reliable installer will provide a money-back guarantee if your system is damaged or develops an issue due to installation.

Securing a quality warranty can lower out-of-pocket-costs on maintenance and repairs. But, a warranty is an agreement that requires the purchaser to abide by certain conditions. You might void your heat pump manufacturing warranty if you don’t use a certified, licensed contractor to install or repair the unit, don’t use approved replacement parts, or fail to schedule annual professional maintenance.

Tip #3: service your heat pump annually

Wear and tear is inevitable, especially for something as useful as your home’s heating and cooling systems. Just like with other HVAC systems, annual inspections can remedy and prevent issues that affect comfort levels and performance. Tune-ups should be performed by a licensed professional to check for things like obstructions, duct leaks, airflow, and more.

Tip #4: clean air filters monthly and your outdoor unit as needed

Heat pumps should be serviced annually by a professional, but there are DIY efficiency-enhancing measures you can take to maintain your heat pump. For example, cleaning air filters monthly boosts performance; dirty filters reduce airflow and inhibited airflow decreases efficiency. Likewise, adequately maintaining outdoor units will allow them to last longer – while heat pumps are designed to function in the elements, by removing excessive snow, ice, and debris from the unit and keeping the surrounding area free of vegetation and clutter, you’ll prevent airflow obstructions.

Tip #5: set your heat pump’s thermostat at one temperature

Constantly adjusting the thermostat has the same effect as constantly turning something on and off – it takes more energy! To optimize efficiency, figure out what temperature is comfortable for your home during heating and cooling seasons and stick to that. As a general recommendation, you should avoid setting the thermostat below 65 degrees during the heating season.

Power your heat pumps with the sun

Pair your heat pumps with emission-free electricity produced right at home. The EnergySage Marketplace provides qualified quote comparisons from local installers to help you find a solar system that fits your energy and budget needs. Sign up to receive free quotes from qualified, pre-vetted installers so you can start the process of going solar today – just make sure to note that you’re interested in heat pumps, too!

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