We just got our heat pump installed. I tried to do my homework on
deciding which way to go. They just finished installing yesterday so
this morning we decided to try out the system. We live in the Pacific
Northwest. Right now the temp is about 50 degrees so not too cold. I
started out at 58 degrees in the house and turned it up to 62 degrees.
A half hour later of constant running and the house has come up one
degree. I called the company to ask them if this was normal. I was
told that to come up 4 whole degrees to expect 2 to 2 1/2 hours for
that amount of temp to come up. WHAT?? Everybody told me how
"efficient" this was going to be. I told them this system is very
INefficient if it takes that long. They said, oh no, this will cost
you much less than plain electric heat. I told them that was called
"COST EFFECTIVE" and had nothing to do with efficiency. Well, they
didn't know what to tell me - that this was the way heat pumps work.
Why didn't somebody address this before. Or didn't I research this
enough. It never occurred to me that it wouldn't heat my home. I'm
really upset by this whole $8,000 experience. BTW, my house is 1900 SF
and I got a 2 1/2 ton 14 SEER American Standard with a 3 ton air
handler. Thanks for letting me vent. karel
I can't speak to the efficiency of heat pumps, but I know this: 12 years
ago, we had an ice storm here in upstate NY. My house was unheated for a
week, so it got down to 35 degrees inside. Once power was restored, it took
about two days for the place to feel comfortable again. It's not just the
air you're heating, but all the objects in the house, too. The thermostat
has no way of knowing how cold your furniture is. Get your house up to a
comfortable temp for a few days, and THEN see how much the thing runs in
order to maintain that temp. There may still be issues, but in just one day,
I don't think you can accurately determine that.
I don't recall if it was 91 or 93. But, only two services were able to reach
our street, which had a 6" layer of ice on it: The phone company (which
amazed me), and the cloth diaper delivery guy, who said NOTHING could stop
him. Must've been 91. My son was out of diapers by the time he was 4.
The blizzard was in March of 93 but I remember upstate NY getting
hammered by an ice storm around that time as well, maybe 91, not really
sure. We drove up through it several years later and we could still
see the damage, broken trees and such. Kind of looked like a tornado
had gone through.
Doug Kanter wrote:
In my line of work, efficiency is just a measure of energy input vs.
energy output. Your system consumes very little energy and converts
the vast majority of it to heat, making it very efficient. That
doesn't mean it will heat your house quickly, it just means it doesn't
waste a lot of the energy it consumes. Electric heat is less efficient
(even if it heats your house quickly), because it uses more electricity
to produce the same amount of heat. It seems the metric you are
disappointed with would be BTU per hour.
I realize that quibbling over definitions is not going to make you feel
better, in fact, it may just annoy you. I understand your
disappointment if you were told that high efficiency meant that the
system worked quickly. Especially since it tends to be the case that
the more efficient the system the slower it will work. Sounds like
there was a misunderstanding along the way.
Thanks so much Jeff and nlbauers. Those explanations are very
understandable to a non-techno type such as me. I wish these
explanations were presented to me sooner by the different companies,
but, I suppose, they were there to sell me a system and if I didn't ask
the correct questions they were under no obligation to point out
certain inadequacies. I just had no idea that it would take soooo long
to heat my house. Our other house has oil heat and it heats up almost
instantly. Thanks, Karel
Your welcome, and I'm not saying that nothing is wrong with the system
or that it should take that long to heat the house. You should contact
the company and make sure everything is working properly and that the
unit is sized correctly for your house. There may be a problem, I just
want to make sure that you and the people you are talking to understand
The other thing to watch out for so that your bill does not skyrocket
is this: Most heat pumps have "heat strips", these look like large
toaster coils. If your thermostat has an "emergency" setting, then
most likely you have heat strips.
Now here is the expensive part about heat strips. Most heat pump
stats have a 3 degree offset for these strips. This means; if it is 65
degrees in the house and you set the thermostat to 69 degrees (greater
than 3 degrees) these heat strips will come on until the 3 degree
differential is satisfied.
So now you have the heat pump doing its thing and the heat strips
doing their thing. This gets expensive really fast. To solve this
problem, never set the thermostat more than 3 degrees above the room
temperature as indicated on the thermostat.
Sorry to hear about your experience with heat pumps, but I do this for
a living and never recommend them to my customers unless there is no
other soulution. When the outside air temperature goes below about 50
degrees they work like crap, usually pumping only luke warm air.
Lastly, if you had the system installed over the summer I would demand
the company come out and check the freon level. If there is even the
slightest leak then it will also blow luke warm air since it must be
properly charged to run in the heat AND ac modes.
Learn your terms better, karel. Efficiency is definitely a term applied
to heat pumps (We have two heat pumps in our home and two in our
business.) The term relates to how many BTUs of heat are delivered in
the house per unit of electrical energy consumed, in comparison with
directly converting that electrical energy to heat with resistance heating.
Heat pumps typically don't have a very high "recovery rate" which means
there's only so much heat (BTUs per unit time) they can put out and
that's usually somewhat lower than with a gas or oil fired system. So,
they will take a while longer to raise the temperature than those other
systems, but what you need to look at is how much electricity they
consume while holding the house at the selected temperature once it gets
to that temperature.
If your life style is such that you don't need to keep the place warm
for 16 to 18 hours a day, and maybe want to come and go several times a
day, then a heat pump may not have been such a good choice for you if
you want to "turn the heat down" down while you are away and want it to
warm up again quickly when you come back in.
You didn't mention whether your system is equipped with auxillary
electric heaters. (All our own systems are.) If you don't have them,
then adding them might be a good way for you to accomplish the rapid
temperature rise it seems you feel you are missing.
I second the suggestion of adding heat stirps if they are not already
installed. That will give you quick warmup and then you can switch to the
more effecient heat pump for maintaining the temperature you desire. If
they are installed your thermosat should have a switch labeled "Aux" or
something to that affect. That will activate the heat strips during times
when you want a quick heat up. Just remember to switch them off when the
space reaches your comfort zone.
The heat strips will come on automatically instead of the heat pump if the
outside temp is something lower that around 40*F.
That's the system I have here in Central Florida. The times when the house
has really cooled down in the "winter" the auxilliary heat (heat strips)
bring the home up to our comfort zone very quickly.
BTW, the heat strips are installed in the outside unit where the heat pump
Our auxillary heaters are located in the inside air handlers, downstream
from the "coils".
We're in the Boston area, so the outside temperature does go as low zero
degrees F a few times during the winter, and the auxillary heaters are
pretty much working full time on those occasions.
From what I've been able to tell, our winter heating bills are fairly
on a par with those of our neighbors who use fuel oil or gas heat, and
the cleanlyness, low maintenance and additional safety* gained by using
heat pumps for winter heating make sense to me.
This spring we had the two outside heat pump units at home replaced with
new ones at a cost of about $3,300 (Including an optionally purchased 10
year warranty from Trane.) The old units had survived 19 years without
needing maintenance or repairs beyond my DIY capabilities, but one
failed in February and the other seemed "feeble" so I figured shelling
out what amounted to only $165 a year "replacement cost" was a pretty
* See another post here from me today regarding a major gas company
screwup in the town next to the one we live in.
Well, the PNW is not Florida, so heat strips
(auxiliary heat coils) are a must have. Any
installation without them is remiss. How would
you heat a house when the temp drops to 10 F if
you didn't have the auxillary heat coils? BTW, I
don't know for certain, but I think heat strips
are located in the air flow system. Heating the
compressor unit would be very inefficient.
A heat pump reverses the inside and outside coils, ( very simplified ).
Heat pumps do not work very well below 45 F. Some would say 40F. I live in
the desert and have my windows during the times when it is below triple
digits, so heat is not an issue for me.
Call the folks back with your best sugar voice and ask to speak to the
"trouble shooter or owner". Then politely ask for them to measure the heat
output, while you are there. Have them explain the process to you.
Inside all of the paper work you got on your unit. There are charts on what
to expect on the cooling, and heating output of the system. These charts
are based on a given outside temp and some other factors.
SEER has nothing to do with heating.
I can not see your installation from here, seems small for the size of the
Might be time to call AS, but they will probably send you back to the
All the answers about efficient are irrelevant.
Any system that starts at 58 degrees and takes a
half hour to raise the temperature 1 degree is
inadequate. The slowest heating systems are those
with heat grids in the ceiling, and it doesn't
take that long, I know, I lived in an apartment
that had that type of system. We turned the heat
down in the day and turned it up when we got home,
but we didn't turn it down much more than 8
degrees. I think two 1500 watt heaters would heat
faster than your heat pump.
I don't know if it isn't working correctly or if
it is sized wrong, but I think it is the former.
Heat pumps are slow because the output temperature
is lower than gas or oil heat. However, you
should be able to go from 58 degrees to 68 degrees
in less than an hour with the unit running
constantly with your size house. It might take
longer to stabilize, i.e., for temperature to not
drop for a while when the furnace goes off.
Lot's of people here (Boise) have heat pumps.
It may be efficient but it sure does not sound effective. There are a
lot of things that go into sizing and the operation of a heat pump so it is
possible the slow recovery time is due to it running in its most efficient
mode. It could be normal. When it gets really cold you will find that it
will actually put out more heat, but it will be working on direct resistance
heat and that is only 100% efficient. Right now you should be above 100%
efficient (yea I know that sounds screwy but heat pumps can operate at over
100% pumping more heat than energy consumed.
Your unit size sounds fine to me. I live in a 2000 square foot house
in Myrtle Beach, SC and I have a 2-ton heat pump with 4KW strip heat.
Please note that it is usually a bad idea to run strip heat unless it
is below about 35 degrees outside.
If you switch the thermostat to "Emergency Heat", you shut off the heat
pump compressor (the cheap heat) and run strip heat ONLY. Strip heat
is typically only 1/3 as efficient as the heat pump at your conditions.
That means it costs three times as much to operate as the heat pump
for the same amount of heat. Emergency Heat also means you will get
LESS heat, NOT more heat. Use Emergency Heat only if there is
something wrong with you outdoor unit, like a broken fan blade or heavy
If you post your email address with spaces around the "dot" and "at", I
will email you our 4-page instruction sheet on "Care and Operation of
Your Heat Pump". That should explain a lot of things you need to know.
Don't set a heat pump temperature back at night in the heating season,
it will increase your electric bill.
Hope this helps
O'Neill-Bagwell Cooling & Heating
sixfoot7 @ sccoast dot net
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