Are Heat Pumps Energy Efficient?

To make the switch, or to not? Heat pumps are becoming an increasingly popular energy-efficient alternative to conventional forms of home-heating, such as your traditional gas furnace or electric baseboards. A heat pump is heralded as a more efficient means of both heating and cooling your home, but are heat pumps as energy efficient as they claim to be?

Are heat pumps worth it in Canada?

They can be, but it depends on where you live in Canada. See, older versions of heat pumps were said to only be efficient until a certain temperature, which was estimated to be around -15 Celsius. As technology evolves, and so does home heating, higher-efficiency heating pumps can keep a home warm when the temperature outside is as cold as -25 Celsius.

That sounds pretty good, but here’s the thing: heat pumps operate by drawing in heat from the outdoors, and that becomes less likely when there’s less heat to be had. Heating pumps may not be efficient once the temperature drops below that -25 Celsius mark, which isn’t always typical in some Canadian cities, but very regular for some cities at nighttime during the winter. British Columbia usually has the most temperate weather, so you may be able to depend solely on a heat pump in those areas. In colder provinces, you’d have to supplement your heat pump with an additional source of heat, like electric baseboards, to ensure you stay comfortable in the winter.

So, heat pumps can be worth it in Canada, but sometimes the added cost to supplement your heating efforts in the winter for colder climates can make it too costly.

Do you really save money with a heat pump?

You can, but again it depends on your local climate and the cost of electricity where you live. There are a lot of benefits to heat pumps! They provide both heating and cooling in one, so already there you’re saving the money you would otherwise spend on the combination of both AC and heating. That can be a lot! Consider not only the upfront costs of the two separate systems, but also the maintenance costs, repair costs, and more. A heat pump is an all-in-one.

Then there’s the efficiency you’ll get. Some more advanced heat pumps are considered to be nearly 100% efficient, if not even more. Heat pumps use electricity to transfer heat from one location to another, so that means in the winter they’ll pull heat from the outside and move it indoors. In the summer, they do the opposite - pulling heat from inside the house and send it outside, effectively cooling the home.

Some heat pumps also come ductless, which means you won’t need to invest in the cost, installation, or maintenance of a complicated duct system. A ductless heat pump will have an outdoor unit that gathers heat from the air outside and moves it through refrigerant lines to one (or more) heads that are fixed on the interior of your home. The installation process for the ductless heat pump is much more affordable than duct-heat systems, like furnaces, and can take less time.

When purchasing a heat pump, however, consider your current heating load, your home’s existing insulation and ducting, where you live in your budget. If you live in a much colder Canadian city with high electricity costs, the odds are that you may not save as much as you thought you would by switching to a heat pump, and you may want to consult an HVAC tech for alternative options.

Do heat pumps use a lot of energy?

That can greatly depend on the heat pump model! Some use more energy, and some use less. Traditionally, older models were less efficient and would stop working in colder temperatures. Air source heat pumps may use anywhere between 1,000 and 7,500 total watts of electricity (in cold weather.) At any time of year, that number then ranges between 545 watts to up to 7,500.

That being said, it is highly dependent on the model you are using, the size of the heat pump, and more! Your typical air source heat pump will use anywhere between 4 and 20 amps, and roughly around 230 volts. Let it be known that heat pumps utilize two separate systems to rate their energy usage, depending on the time of year that it is.
I.e., for the summer, that system for efficiency rating is the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, or SEER. The size of the heat pump may be measured by British Thermal Units, or BTU. Wattage per hour is calculated by BTU/SEER. This system is good as it provides a more true wattage rating, which can be used to more accurately gauge electricity usage with time.
What about the winter? For the winter, the size of the heat pump is measured the same way-through BTU, or British Thermal Units, and the efficiency rating of the appliance is Heating Seasonal Performance Factor. Therefore, wattage per hour is measured as BTU / HSPF. HSPF ratings are often significantly lower than SEER ratings, and they also span over a narrower overall range.

Not sure if a heat pump would benefit you and your family? No need to worry, the team at Shines Energy is here to help guide you through the process of selecting the right HVAC unit for you!

We’re available for repairs 24/7/365 days a year including after-hours, weekends, and holidays at no extra charge to you! Furthermore, if you’re interested in saving money on your new equipment, make sure to ask us about our fantastic discounts and financing options! Book your consultation appointment with a home comfort advisor today for a free new system purchase quote!