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How much cheaper is it to heat a house with a heat pump versus an electric furnace or baseboard heater?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

It costs about half as much to heat your house with a heat pump as an electric-resistance type heater according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Because heat pumps use electricity to move heat from the exterior of a home to the interior, instead of generating it, they can actually be up to four times more energy efficient. But there are several variables that tend to bring that number down to approximately twice as efficient:

  •  Heat pumps with a lower SEER rating, like 10, will be less efficient than ones rated up towards 20 or more.
  •  As temperatures drop toward freezing, a heat pump becomes less efficient.
  •  When the temperature goes significantly below freezing, a heat pump system will switch to an electric resistance heat coil in the air handler.

     Heat pump systems are best suited to moderate climates where they will operate mostly in a range above freezing. Because natural gas is currently low priced, it is a more economical for colder northern climates. At the other extreme, many homes in the Florida Keys have only a straight-cool air conditioner, with electric resistance heat coil in the air handler, because the lower cost of the system more than offsets the additional expense of electricity for a heat coil on the few days that it needs to be used in their sub-tropical climate.

    If you don’t know whether your system is a heat pump or not, look at the manufacturer’s logo medallion on the condenser (exterior) unit. It may be clearly marked as a heat pump. If not, see the data plate on the side of the condenser. Look closely near the bottom of the data plate, and it may say in small letters “heat pump.” When you see “cooling air conditioner” or “condensing unit,” that means the system will not reverse the flow of the refrigerant to provide both heating and cooling the way a heat pump does.

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  To learn more about heating and air conditioning systems, see these other blog posts:

How can I find out the SEER of my air conditioner? 

My air conditioner won't turn on. What's wrong? 

How can I find out the size of my air conditioner? 

How can I tell whether the condenser (outdoor unit) is an air conditioner or heat pump? 

Where is the air filter for my central air conditioner and furnace? I can’t find it? 

Does an old air conditioner use more electricity as it ages? 

How did homes stay cool in Florida before air conditioning? 

What is wrong with an air conditioner when the air flow out of the vents is low?

Why has the thermostat screen gone blank? 

Why does it take so long to cool a house when an air conditioner has been off for a while? 

What are the most common problems with wall/window air conditioners?  

Will closing doors reduce my heating and cooling costs? 

   Visit our HEATING AND AIR CONDITIONING page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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