What is a Heat Pump?
Heat pumps warm or cool your home by moving heat from one area to another. They are able to extract heat from the air or ground even when it’s cold outside. They can be an energy efficient heating solution!
In Newfoundland and Labrador, heat pumps are usually used for heating. Heat is extracted from the air or ground and moved inside your home to provide heating. Because the process involves moving heat that already exists rather than generating it, a heat pump can heat a room or an entire home using much less energy than electric resistance heating systems such as baseboard heaters. Heat pumps can also provide air conditioning. A heat pump uses the same process as a refrigerator to keep your house cool (though not quite as cold!).
Learn about on-bill financing here.
Benefits of a Heat Pump
Heat pumps can offer a number of benefits when the right product is chosen, installed properly and operated correctly:
- Save Money: Save as much as 40% on electric heating costs in areas where the heat pump is used. Savings can be hundreds of dollars every year; however, savings vary widely.
- Comfort and Convenience: No need to adjust the thermostat—heat pumps provide comfort all day and night, while still using less energy. Plus they provide air conditioning in the summer.
Is a heat pump right for me?
A heat pump is a big investment starting at about $3,000 for a mini-split and up to $20,000 or more for a central-ducted system. To make sure that a heat pump is right for your home, consider these factors:
- Keeping the heat in: Make sure your home is well insulated and draft proof first. We can help with that! Check out our Insulation Program for more details. If your home is air tight, a heat pump may be the next step to help you save energy.
- Payback: A heat pump usually lasts 10-15 years, so calculate how much you need to save to make it worth the investment. Use our heat pump calculator to help you calculate the payback.
- House layout: For ductless heat pumps, open concept layouts or large rooms yield more savings on your energy bill.
- Expect some maintenance: You will need to clear snow from the outside unit in the winter and clean or change filters regularly.
- Keep in mind, you have to keep your current heating system when you add a heat pump. Mini and Multi-split heat pumps can only heat a portion of your home around where the indoor head is installed. Plus, you will need a backup heat source for times when it’s really cold outside.
Choosing an Installer
Heat pumps are a sophisticated technology and are not a do-it-yourself project. You should have your heat pump installed by both a:
- Journeyperson Refrigeration And Air Conditioning Mechanic – List of residential installers that have confirmed their journeyperson certification. Installers on this list have been confirmed by the Department of Advanced Education and Skills to have met the qualification requirements of a Journeyperson Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic.
- Registered Electrical Contractor (Electrician) working under permit – Service NL maintains a listing of electrical contractors that are eligible to obtain a permit to do electrical work in Newfoundland and Labrador. Visit Service NL for a list of active electrical contractors in the province.
The installer must visit your home to assess your home’s unique characteristics including size, layout, insulation, and air tightness.
DANGERS OF NOT HAVING A PROFESSIONAL INSTALLER:
- Void the manufacturer’s warranty
- Reduce energy savings
- Shorten the unit’s lifespan
- Lower comfort
- Cause safety issues
Your installer should provide you with:
- Instruction on the operation and maintenance of the equipment
- An owners manual
- Warranty information
- Contact information for questions or troubleshooting after installation is complete
- Click here to find a list of questions to ask the installer to help maximize your savings
Choosing a heat pump
We recommend working closely with your installer to determine what heat pump is right for you.
A more efficient heat pump has a higher HSPF.
Efficiency varies widely: some heat pumps are very efficient at -20°C, while others provide very little heat at -10°C. The Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) can be used to compare efficiencies. Choose these ratings for a unit that will operate efficiently in our climate:
Bigger is not always better. Getting the properly sized unit for your home can increase your comfort level and help your heat pump work at peak efficiency. Your installer should visit your home to assess its unique characteristics including size, layout, insulation and air tightness. These details will help inform the placement and sizing of your heat pump. The larger the unit, the more BTU’s. A unit with higher BTU’s may be required if you are looking to heat a large space.
Mini vs Multi
You may want to consider heat one or more areas of your home with a heat pump. Cost and comfort will be two considerations when making your decision.
- A mini-split heat pump consists of one outdoor unit connected to one indoor head covering one area of your home. In some instances it may make sense to install two mini-splits.
- A multi-split heat pump has one outdoor unit with two or more indoor heads covering multiple areas of your home.
If installing a central-ducted heat pump, ask your installer for a unit with a “variable speed drive” or “soft start.” This will maximize efficiency and reduce the chance of flickering lights.
Newfoundland Power and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro offer financing for residential customers to assist with purchasing a heat pump. The unit must be professionally installed and meet minimum eligibility criteria.
After your installer has visited your home to provide a quote, and you know the name of the installer and the unit, contact us to start the financing process.
Newfoundland Power 1-800-663-2802
Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro 1-888-737-1296
Maintenance and operational tips for mini and multi-split heat pumps
Proper operation and maintenance of your heat pump will help save energy:
Please check with your installer to see how often or when professional servicing of your heat pump is required.
Here is what you can do to keep your heat pump operating efficiently.
Clean air filters. Dirty filters, coils, and fans reduce airflow through the system. Reduced airflow decreases system performance and can damage your system’s compressor. Filters should be cleaned every 30 to 60 days.
How do I clean my filters?
- Turn off your heat pump.
- Open the front cover of your indoor heat pump unit.
- Pull out the mesh filters on either side.
- Wipe off any dirt or dust and we suggest running it under cool water.
- Pat dry the filters with a paper towel to remove most of the water.
- Reinstall the filters.
- Turn on either heating, cooling or fan mode for a few minutes to complete drying off the filters.
Start by shutting off the power.
- Remove debris from the unit when necessary. On the condenser/compressor, remove the fan cage and fasteners using a screwdriver. By hand, or with a vacuum, clean leaves and other debris.
- Gently spray the unit with a garden hose, removing dirt, grass clippings, and debris. (DO NOT USE A PRESSURE WASHER).
Air Conditioning Mode
Don’t turn the unit off directly after running in air conditioning mode. Turn the unit to the Fan Only feature to dry moisture that could otherwise sit stagnant on the coil. Stagnant moisture could lead to mold or mildew.
In heating mode, a heat pump extracts heat from the outside air and transfers it inside. When it gets colder outside ice can form on the outdoor unit coils. Your heat pump will start a defrost cycle to melt any ice built up.
If the unit is operating correctly a typical defrost cycle only lasts about 3 to 5 minutes. This is the norm when temperatures outside are in the 5 to -5 C range. The duration can increase as the temperature drops or in storm conditions.
A ductless split heat pump is meant to be used in areas of the home where there is already an existing heat source, such as baseboard heaters or an oil furnace. It is important that you coordinate the temperature settings for the two heating systems. To maximize energy savings, the heat pump should be operated as the primary heating system. When the heat pump is in use, the thermostat for the backup system (which is less efficient) should always be on a lower temperature setting than the heat pump. Set the thermostat of your baseboard heaters or furnace at a slightly lower temperature (approximately 2°C lower), so they don’t compete with your heat pump.
How does it work?
A heat pump system typically consists of two parts: an indoor unit, commonly called an air handler, and an outdoor unit, which contains a compressor – the “engine” of the heat pump. The compressor circulates a high pressure liquid refrigerant that absorbs and releases heat as it travels between the indoor and outdoor units.
Even when temperatures fall below zero, heat pumps are able to extract and transfer heat. Some heat pumps are very efficient as low as -20 °C, while others provide very little heat at -10°C.
When outside temperatures become too cold for the heat pump to be able to extract heat efficiently, a backup heating source is required. In the case of a ducted central system, the built in electric backup heating system typically activates automatically helping to keep your home warm and comfortable. In the case of a ductless split system, a separate heating source is required and will operate independently of the heat pump. The temperature at which this happens depends on the efficiency of the heat pump system you install. See more on this in the Choosing a Heat Pump tab above.
Although it may seem counterintuitive to think that there is heat in the outside air when it feels very cold to us, there is actually heat present at much lower temperatures than we see in Newfoundland and Labrador: all the way down to absolute zero or -273°C!
Types of Heat Pumps
Central-Ducted Heat Pump
To maximize the energy saving benefits of your central ducted heat pump, we recommend that you discuss system programming options with your installer to regulate the temperature at which the built in backup electric heat will activate. Ideally, the system should be programmed for a staged implementation of the backup heat.
Additionally, it is important to remember that your heat pump is not like a furnace or baseboard heat where you frequently need to adjust thermostats. With this type of heat pump, you will typically have one or two central thermostats for the home. The general rule is to “set it and forget it” to allow for continuous temperature regulation. Constantly adjusting the thermostat is more likely to activate the backup heat, using more energy. The exception to this rule is during times when the home is vacant for extended periods of time. For example if you are away on vacation for a week or more, it may make sense to set back the thermostat temperature by a few degrees.
Ductless Split Heat Pump
A ductless split heat pump provides heating for one or more localized zones or rooms. There is an outdoor unit which contains the compressor, and one or more indoor air handling units. There is no ductwork, but rather the air handling unit provides heating or cooling directly to the room it is located in. A separate backup heating source is required when using a ductless split system, to provide supplementary heating when the temperature drops to a point that the heat pump can no longer extract heat from the air.
Ductless split systems can be divided into two main categories: mini and multi splits. A ductless mini split heat pump consists of a single indoor air handling unit and provides heating or cooling to a single room or zone; a ductless multi split heat pump contains multiple indoor air handling units and provides heating or cooling for multiple rooms or zones.
Air Source Heat Pump
The majority of heat pumps installed in Newfoundland and Labrador are air-source heat pump; meaning they extract heat from the air. Ductless mini or multi split systems are types of air source heat pumps. A central-ducted heat pump is most commonly an air source heat pump.
Ground Source Heat Pump
Central ducted heat pumps may also be ground source or geothermal heat pumps, meaning they extract heat from the ground. They require drilling of deep wells and large land lots and usually require a higher upfront investment. They do however provide heating or cooling even more efficiently than air source heat pumps because the temperature of the ground is more consistent than the air in winter. In Newfoundland and Labrador, it is more common for businesses to install ground source heat pumps than home owners.