Should my heat pump run constantly? My old furnace didn’t! If you subscribe to the old school (that would be the bigger-is-better school) your old oversized furnace was probably super-sized for the unlikely event that the next ice age will be here soon. The old goal is for your monster furnace to only run about half strength at minus 24 degrees. And the engine in that muscle car of yours is not even close to max at 120 mph, but that’s when we normally back-er-down, cause that’s when the girls start to get a bit nervous. So what’s the deal with that heat pump running all day and all night as soon as the temperatures is in the twenties? Are heat pumps gimpy?
If you’re more familiar with a large furnace cycling off and on for most of the Indiana winter, then a heat pump running constantly, 24/7 makes you suspicious that something is wrong. Do not worry. This is exactly what the heat pump is designed to do. Heat pumps are very energy efficient. They do not have the over-sized capacity of your old furnace but they consume much less energy and the more they run, the more cheap heat you’re getting. Think of it this way. Since a heat pump is simply moving heat (instead of making heat like most other furnaces) and since we can move heat at a much lower cost than we can make heat, then why not maximize the amount of time we run the energy efficient heat moving machine?
In the winter, a heat pump gathers heat from the outside and moves (pumps) the heat into your home. In the summer, a heat pump reverses the heat moving process and moves unwanted heat from the inside of your home and disperses it outside. Back to winter, for each dollar that you would spend in an electric furnace to get one unit of heat, a heat pump will use the same dollar of electricity and provide up to 3.5 times the amount of heat. As the temperature outside gets colder this efficiency decreases, but it is still a very efficient 2.5 times better than straight electric coils.
So why does my heat pump run non-stop, 24/7? Your heat pump is sized for your air conditioning needs and in Central Indiana, this means it will not meet all your heating needs. So here is what happens. In outdoor temperatures above 30 degrees, the heat pump should cycle off and on like a normal furnace. Somewhere between 20 and 30 degrees outdoor temperature, the heat pump will reach a “balance point” where the heat needed by the home is equal to the heat supplied by the heat pump. So now it will run all the time. As the outdoor temperature goes lower than the balance point, the heat pump will continue to run non-stop and occasionally backup electric coils will supplement the heat pump.
The heat pump is designed to run continuously to give you as much of the cheap heat as you can possibly get. This helps to minimize the more expensive heat made from the backup coils. But do not be alarmed when the back up heat runs on the cold days. As long as the heat pump is allowed to run as it is designed, the back up heat will only account for 10% to 15% of the entire Indiana winter heating needs.
Do not turn off your heat pump by switching to emergency heat! Read this on when to use emergency heat with a heat pump.
How do I know if my heat pump is working properly? Good question. If the heat pump stops working properly, the backup furnace will take over and this could double your bills. Read this on how to test your heat pump.
Even older heat pumps are much better than the electric furnace. However, if your heat pump is too old, then its ability to move heat may be less than what it should be. Call Precision Comfort Systems, your Central Indiana heat pump specialists, to evaluate your current heat pump. We can tune it up or eventually replace it so you are getting the most from the current heat pump technology.