Most Efficient Ways To Use a Heat Pump

| Last Updated: September 23, 2021

Heat pumps are reliable year-round comfort systems replacing traditional electric heating systems for a good reason—they're highly energy-efficient, saving you on additional monthly power bills.

However, to benefit more from your heat pump, you may need to follow some maintenance tips, most importantly, familiarize yourself with different operation modes.

The article will dwell on top hacks on preventing power wastage while offering you the needed comfort and cutting down on your monthly power bills.

Most Efficient Ways To Use a Heat Pump

Heat pumps are replacing traditional home heating practices due to their power efficiency. 

However, with improper handling and operation, such as keeping your vents closed and leaving your air filters clogged, you might end up paying as much as someone using electric heating. 

Below we discuss practices that will enhance your power efficiency when adequately followed, keeping your bills significantly low.

1.   Keep the Setting Low (64ºF or - 68ºF)

Keeping your heat pump to the maximum setting will not warm your room quicker. It will use more energy instead. A proper setting will create a comfortable atmosphere while still being economical on your power bill.

The Department of Energy advises keeping the setting at 68 °F for balanced comfort and efficient energy use. For optimum energy efficiency, your heat pump temperature settings should remain constant.

  • Keeping the heat pump setting low improves efficiency: Low-temperature settings will enhance energy efficiency but might not be the best idea in freezing winter climates.

However, to keep the heat settings low without sacrificing comfort, you may take advantage of solar energy to warm your living area during the day. Open the curtains for direct sunlight.

Keep your fireplace damper closed unless there is a fire burning. Open dampers allow heat to escape, thus making your home cold inside.

  • When to lower your heat pump temperature setting: You may reduce the temperature setting at night and sometimes during the day as a way of boosting energy efficiency. 

However, note that the heat pump may need a big jump to get back to 68 °F when you want to heat again.

2.   Ensure That The Thermostat Is Appropriately Paired With Your Heat Pump

Most heat pumps will switch off automatically, courtesy of the thermostat, after reaching the desired temperature. Additionally, smart thermostats will also work well with a typical heat pump configuration. 

Such thermostats support multiple cooling and heating stages. They'll simultaneously run auxiliary (additional) heat and heat pumps, thus maximizing comfort and reducing overall energy costs.

Some heating systems come with outdoor temperature sensors. Such sensors use logic in determining when supplementary heating is needed, notwithstanding if the room's thermostat turns up suddenly.

How to Ensure Your Thermostat is Appropriately Paired

Proper pairing of the thermostat and the heating unit is crucial in enhancing power efficiency. Below are pointers to a well-paired thermostat.

  • Programmable for easy customization of functions

  • Thermostats are not universal and only works with compatible HVAC systems

  • Design and aesthetics—some thermostats are bulkier than others, sleek design is the best

  • Smart thermostats with WiFi accessibility ensures peak performance of heat pump than the regular thermostats 

Why Appropriate Thermostat Pairing is Essential

The appropriate pairing of a thermostat is an essential stage during installation. 

Any miscommunication resulting from poor wiring or installation between the thermostat and the heating unit may cause inflated power bills besides lowering the heat pump's efficiency.

Therefore, a thermostat requires installation by a qualified technician who'll advise in case of an incompatibility issue.

3.   Check The System Air Filters Every Month

If your heating or cooling systems ever experienced a technical problem,  you must have noticed that the HVAC technician first inspected the air filters before further diagnosis.

Air filters are crucial to the heat pump, and a dirty or clogged filter can lead to multiple problems, both minor and major.

Although a heat pump uses a more reliable and straightforward operating technology, the unit requires adequate and consistent airflow for proper functioning.

Dirty filters will convey unclean air through the ducts, significantly affecting heat pump efficiency and comfort levels.

How Air Filters Affect Heat Pump Efficiency

Understanding the basics of air filters is key to keeping them clean for efficient functioning.

  • Below are some fundamentals of heat pump air filters.

Air filters protect other heat pump components and the air you breath. A clean air filter traps allergy-causing airborne microorganisms such as pollen and mold spores circulating in the air.

  • Clean indoor coils are vital in a pump's performance efficiency; thus, keeping your heat pump filter in good condition is essential.

  • Minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) is the system that rates a filter's efficiency by assigning it numbers between 1-16. A high MERV rating is the best at removing tiny airborne particulates.

Most residential heat pumps have a MERV rating of 8-12—usually a suitable balance between adequate airflow and filter efficiency.

  • Changing heat pump filters should be done monthly during freezing winter when there is a lot of heating and cooling. However, HVAC manufacturers are now making highly efficient air filters that'll serve you for up to one year before replacement.

Air filter cleaning and replacement is an easy DIY project that may not require the services of a professional HVAC technician.

4.   Clean Both Indoor And Outdoor Heat Pump Filter Regularly

Blocked air filters will cause insufficient flow of air into your room. Depending on how often you use your heating unit, you'll need to clean the filters after every 8 to 12 weeks.

An indicator light may illuminate to sound a warning when it’s time to clean the filters.

Inspecting and cleaning both indoor and outdoor filters is an easy process that you can perform by yourself. 

Follow the simple process below to clean your heat pump filters:

  • Open the front door panel using your hands to  remove the filters (take note of the available spaces to place your fingers on both sides while opening) 

  • Once you take out the filter, use a garden hose for a thorough spray wash. A light vacuum will suffice if you don’t have a garden hose.

  • Once appropriately cleaned, shake well to dry. You may consider leaving for a few minutes if you have the time before reinserting them back to the unit.

  • Following the same process when removing, carefully slide the filters back and close the door panel.

Note: You may need to consult your user manual on filter removal and cleaning if you encounter any difficulty. 

Heat Pump Filter Lifespan

With regular inspection and proper cleaning, a heat pump filter will last the life of the machine. Changing heat pump filters is straightforward. Call a local supplier to inquire about replacements in case you damage your heat pump filters.

The first effective maintenance of heat pump filters is cleaning. However, you may need to schedule regular servicing beyond the filter cleaning by a qualified technician. 

Keep the outdoor unit clear. Sweep away any leaves or shrubs that may otherwise get stuck on the unit. In case of stuck leaves or other dirt, remove it carefully to avoid bending the radiator fins.

Clear any snowdrifts near the outdoor unit. However, snow and ice should not cause you much worry as the heat pump has a defrost cycle that will automatically melt away that ice in less than ten minutes.

Important: Keeping your outdoor coils clean also improves the heat pump’s airflow. Check and clean regularly using water to clear any obstruction that may interfere with the airflow.  

5.   Keep Vents Open & Directed

Ever experienced a warm upstairs, too cold downstairs, and a flat-out cold basement? Perhaps you thought closing all the vents to redirect the airflow would help. But, unfortunately, that's not how HVAC systems work.

Heat Pumps Work Efficiently On Optimal Air Flow

HVAC contractors are designing heating systems for varied room sizes to ensure adequate airflow in the spaces they are installed.

That means the location, configuration, ductwork size, grilles, and register placements are evaluated to direct the proper air volume to the intended space.


As a result, it's vital to get the right size of a heating unit that corresponds with the area you intend to heat or cool.

Importance of Keeping Vents Open and Distributed

Much emphasis is put into designing an HVAC system with the exact airflow required to cool or heat a home. 

A thermostat regulates the system's airflow, which distributes warm air to compensate for lost cool air during heat gain in the cooling season and for heat loss in heating seasons. As a result, closing air vents will only disrupt the airflow. 

The airflow will not be redirected to other rooms or even compensate for the heat lost or gained, which can be costly in the long run. Closing the vents can potentially damage your systems besides inflating your power bill. 

So, experts advise that you keep vents open and directed throughout as a way of enhancing your heat pump’s power efficiency.

6.   Turn it Off When Not in Use

Heat pumps are indeed the most efficient home cooling and heating systems available on the market today. And while many people believe that leaving the unit to run throughout during cold climates will keep you cool and comfortable, that's barely the truth.

With proper insulation, the heat pump doesn't need to work as hard to heat a room.

  •  Why you should turn off a heat pump when not in use: Turning a heat pump off when not in use cuts your monthly power bills tremendously.

Christian Hoerning—Energywise technical expert says turning off the heat pump when not using cuts between  $50 and $100 from your monthly power bill.

  • When to turn off the heat pump: Although heat pump systems generally consume very little energy, turning it off at the slightest opportunity when you don't need it is ideal for saving energy further. 

That could be when no one is at home or when the climates are favorable.

You may set a timer to turn your heat pump on about 30 minutes before you get home. Remember running a heat pump throughout causes no harm apart from increasing your monthly power bills.

7.   Heat The Space You Use Most

Most heat pumps are capable of heating several rooms at the same time. However, it may not be necessary as it also takes longer to heat the entire home.

Therefore, the best approach is sectioning your room and focusing on 'hot spots' at particular times of the day or night.

For instance, you may consider heating the kitchen and the bedroom in the morning. After all, getting out of bed may not be a problem even during winter if the room isn't cold.

Shut off the bedroom heating and dial up the living room in the evenings. You may then set your bedroom heat pump timer 25 minutes before bedtime.

Turn off all other heat pumps in the kitchen and the living room, and consider drawing your curtains and shutting the door to prevent heat from escaping.

8.   Don't Use "Auto Mode"

Auto mode means your heat pump will turn on and off automatically, depending on the temperatures. 

You may use your heat pump blower fan in the ‘ON’ or ‘AUTO’ setting based on personal preference. The two settings can be used under different circumstances.

For instance, you may turn the fan on for quick dispensation of warm or cool conditioned air in the room if you have allergic or temperature-sensitive people around. 

That way, the fan will blow air constantly, thus ensuring consistent air circulation within the room.

While this may be an excellent option when using a smart thermostat, where the fan turns on and at regular intervals while keeping balanced temperature levels, there is a good reason not to use an auto mode in your typical heat pump. 

The 'auto mode' may cause the system to cool on a sunny afternoon during winter or heat even on a warm night resulting in additional yet unnecessary power consumption.

9.   Close Curtains and Doors

An operable window curtain is flexible, offering you the opportunity to keep them open to let in the natural heat from the sun during winter while reducing heat gain during summer. 

However, there are times you’ll need to shut down all the curtains and close the door to enhance heating efficiency. For instance, you can keep your window coverings closed during summer to lower indoor heating. 

While keeping the vents open throughout will maximize heat pump efficiency, consider closing your curtains and doors, particularly in rooms you’re not using. 

For example, drawing your curtains in the living room and other areas such as the kitchen is an efficient way of reducing heat loss even after switching off your heat pump. 

Other Ways to Improve Efficiency

There are multiple ways to maximize power usage in a heat pump. Here are more tips you can use to keep power consumption low while still maintaining comfort.

Position the Heat Pump Appropriately

Outdoor Unit Placement

An outdoor unit requires good airflow and free from elements like sea spray that may cause rusting. In addition, the unit can be very noisy; consider a stable position and away from your room to avoid the noise pollution it produces.

Indoor Unit Placement

Heat pumps come in different types, such as ceiling cassettes, high-wall, and floor-mounted consoles. For quick heating, consider floor-mounted design, but it may require enough floor space.  

Use a high-wall or a ceiling cassette if you have limited floor space.

Choose The Right Type of a Heat Pump

Energy Star Rating

Energy star rating measures the heat pump's efficiency. A higher energy star rating is the best. However, a higher energy star rating may be a little expensive but is cheaper in the long run.

Size and Model

Too small means your heat pump will require more energy to warm the room, whereas a heat pump that is too large requires switching off from time to time to prevent it from overheating.

Generally, a rough guide to what size of a heat pump you'll need is 120 watts per square meter. Less insulated rooms with few windows should be 150 watts per square meter.

Some models will also not work well in freezing temperatures, especially if the temperature goes below -5ºC where you live.

Consult your technician for further advice before installation

Only Use The Backup When Necessary

Whether you choose to use propane or electric furnaces, natural gas, or electric baseboards as your heating backup, set the thermostat below 5ºC of the heat pump thermostat. The heat pump should be the primary heating source.

Backups can be efficient when your heat pump stops working but consumes a lot of energy; they should solely be used as a supplement.


Heat pumps are the most innovative ventilation, air conditioning, and heating units available on the market today. Besides comfort, they are also more economically efficient than traditional conditioning systems.

However, proper usage is essential for the full benefits of a heat pump. Some helpful tips on operating a heat pump include: 

  • Proper pairing of the heat pump and thermostat

  • Cleaning the unit's indoor and outdoor filters regularly after every 8 to 12 weeks

  • Turn the unit off when you don't need it.

  • Draw your windows and curtains to retain heat in the room after switching off the heat pump

  • Get a qualified technician to install, service, and repair in case of a breakdown.

  • Keep your vents open and redirected at all times.

Also, remember to service the heat pump periodically before the heating season starts.  

People Also Ask

More people continue to embrace heat pumps as an efficient solution to keeping homes cool and dry. However, more questions still surround heats pumps in terms of their heating and cooling efficiency.

Below we answer common questions from users and those looking to acquire new units.

Does A Heat Pump Use A Lot Of Electricity?

The Coefficient of Performance (CoP) determines heat pump efficiency--measured by energy input (electricity) and energy output (heat).

An average home will require about 12,000 kilowatt-hours (Kwh) of heat in a year. However, that figure and electricity cost per unit may vary from one region to the other. Nonetheless, heat pumps generally use very little electricity compared to other heating options.

Should I Turn My Heat Pump Off In Extreme Cold?

Just let your heat pump run continuously with the thermostat at a 'heat' setting, even in freezing climates.  However, you may need to turn it to 'emergency heat' when the heat pump stops heating. 

Is A Heat Pump Cheaper Than Electric Heat?

A heat pump is more expensive on initial acquisition than electric heat but cheaper in the long run. Get a well-sized heat pump with a high energy star rating installed by a qualified technician and save additional monthly power bills.

Is It Cheaper To Leave a Heat Pump On All Day?

Heat pumps are more cost-effective to run than other heating alternatives; however, leaving the unit to run all day when not in use may increase your monthly bills, although with a tiny percentage. 

Consider switching off the unit when you're not using it to avoid unnecessary energy wastage.

My name is Bob Wells and I am a retired HVAC tech from Washington state. I am currently retired and no longer do much with HVAC, however, I feel like I have a lot of knowledge in the subject and I wanted to create a website where I could talk about what I've learned and help upcoming HVAC techs. Find more info about me and HVAC Training 101.