New to a Heat Pump? What You Need to Know, So You Don’t Freak Out

By: Brian Schutt  |  November 4, 2014

We’ve compiled our most important tips given from actual customer questions to help home owners across Central Indiana save money, understand their systems, and be more comfortable. 

Why More Heat Pumps?

More than ever before homes in the Indianapolis area are using a heat pump combination, rather than a traditional air conditioner – gas furnace combination. For a long time limitation in the technology made our climate an unlikely place to find a heat pump in your home, but with improvements in technology and new developments opting for electric only infrastructure, more home owners are finding themselves living in a heat pump conditioned home for the first time. Leaving all the technical details aside, I wanted to give some practical details of what having a heat pump in your home will look like to help your run it more efficiently and what normal operation will look like.


Thermostat & Emergency Heat heat pump thermostat emergency heat setting indianapolis homesense

The main difference you will notice between a traditional thermostat and a heat pump thermostat is a setting called “Emergency Heat”. Emergency Heat (also called backup heat, heat strips, heat pack) is a backup heat source that comes on when A) the heat pump can not reach the temperature setting, or B) the temperature setting increases and the system tries to raise temperature more quickly.

Located inside your fan coil, your emergency heat pack serves as a backup source of heat for your home

Located inside your fan coil, your emergency heat pack serves as a backup source of heat for your home


It’s on point B, that new heat pump home owners should be educated. Emergency heat, when activated, pulls a significant amount of electricity. Significant like 10+ times the amount of electrical that your heat pump uses. Therefore, if this kicks on too much you’ll see your electrical bills skyrocket. We strongly recommend that home owners with heat pump keep a consistent indoor temperature setting to avoid the point B scenario above. For example, if you get home from work and want to kick up your temperature setting from 65 to 68, you’ll likely engage your emergency heat to help the system drive that quick increase in temperature. The more cost effective recommendation is to just keep your temperature set at 68 during the day. The only caveat to this is if you’ll be gone for an extended period of time.


Heat Pump Defrosting

Because the heat pump operates during the winter, the outdoor temperature has an impact on the system. As the outdoor temperature drops, the heat pump coil temperature also drops. At some point you will see frost start to develop on the outdoor system to the point that the system starts to look like an ice cube. This requires that the system periodically goes into a defrost mode. This is a normal part of the system, but many times home owners are concerned since this can be an audibly loud process.  

As you’ll see in this short video taken by one of our Indianapolis area customers, the heat pump will frost up as temperatures drop. This is normal, and should be expected.

Indoor Air Temperature

One of the other common questions we get is about the temperature of the air coming from the vents in the winter. This is just a fact of how the systems are designed to operate. To reach a thermostat set point of 68, a heat pump will provide a lower temperature but a longer run time to reach that set point, whereas a gas furnace will have a warmer temperature from the vents, but a shorter run time. When I say lower, expect the temperature from the vents to be 95 – 100 degrees with most heat pumps, where a gas furnace might have 120 degree temperature coming from the vents. This will cause some home owners to say they “feel” warmer in a home with a gas furnace. Ultimately, the indoor temperature will be about the same, it just is a different approach to reach that comfort level.

Have any other questions about your heat pump? Tweet us at @TrustHomesense or call our office at 317.670.0171.

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