For a homeowner, browsing a home show, picking up some swag, and finding out what’s new and exciting, can be a fun way to spend an afternoon. We’ve had booths at quite a few home shows, and of all the questions we’re asked, one tops the list. Homeowners with electric baseboard or electric wall heaters want to know, “how do I lower my heating costs?”
When we answered, a “Ductless Heat Pump”, more questions followed. When should I consider a a Ductless Heat Pump? What do they do? How do they work?
In times past, a significant reduction in heating costs came with a price; a major upgrade requiring a whole new heating system, including duct work. As the name implies, Ductless Heat Pumps do not need ducts, and they run on electricity, so they don’t need gas either. These two features alone solve the two major problems most homeowners with electric baseboard or wall heaters are faced with when looking for more efficient options: No gas to the house or neighborhood… and no ducting in the home.
Ductless Heat Pumps now begin to look like the ideal candidate for an efficiency upgrade.
We typically tell homeowners their electricity consumption can drop by up to 25%, but it is not uncommon to hear customers report back after installation that they’re only paying a third of what they use to before they added the Ductless Heat Pumps. In fact, at one of our recent home shows we had several of our customers walk into our booth just to tell us that their savings exceeded their expectations, and how much they love the heat.
How are dramatic savings like this even possible? First of all, whether we’re talking about Ductless Heat Pumps or conventional heat pumps for forced air duct work, the Pacific Northwest is an ideal climate. For most of the heating season the temperature doesn’t get so cold outside that heat pumps become inefficient or won’t work. Homes in this climate can utilize the efficiency of a heat pump with less heating time spent on an alternate back up heat.
Another reason Heat Pumps are less costly than electric baseboards or wall heaters is because they’re more efficient. It takes a lot less energy to simply move heat that already exists in the outside air to the inside of your home, than it does to power an electric heating element. In the summer, the process is reversed. The Heat Pump moves heat from inside your home to the outside and voila!… You get low-cost air conditioning!
Depending on the Ductless Heat Pump you choose, you can expect a typical unit to efficiently provide heat to the inside of your home down to about 15-degrees Fahrenheit. It may seem strange that there is heat in the air below freezing temperatures, but the reality is, when we measure temperature, we aren’t measuring cold, we’re measuring heat. So, 15-degrees is not a measurement of cold, it is a measurement of the heat that is present; heat that can be captured and used for heating our homes.
For homes in areas that see temperatures below working operation of a Ductless Heat Pump it’s necessary to have a source of back up heat. Again, this just illustrates why homes with electric baseboards or in-wall heaters are ideal candidates for these types of systems. Your back up heat already exists in the form of your old electric heaters.
Though the units are unobtrusive and quiet, there are a couple of things to compare when getting estimates for a Ductless Heat Pump. Remember to look at the HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) rating and compare it with the other brands you’re getting estimates on. This rating is the efficiency of the unit when used in heating mode for one season. If heating is going to be your primary use for this unit, focus on HSPF.
If cooling is your primary use, then focus on the efficiency rating used for Air Conditioning, the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating. Also compare the lowest outside temperature the unit will be able to operate at and still heat the home. Efficiencies and working outdoor air temperatures will vary depending on the brand and model.
Once you’ve have decided a Ductless Heat Pump is ideal for you, find a good installation company with great customer service that can detail the efficiencies and installation of this unit. When we see problems with these units it is typically installation related. It never hurts to check them out online, and with the Better Business Bureau. Choose a company that will stand behind the product they install for you. Lastly, always get three estimates, or as many as needed until you find someone you’re comfortable with.
So, to answer the question, “How do I lower my heating bill” I say, try a Ductless Heat Pump! They heat! And cool!
Bruce Davis Jr.
Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating, Inc.
Bruce is a second-generation plumber and HVAC technician. He earned his Commercial Plumbing License and later became N.A.T.E. Certified and E.P.A. Refrigerant Certified for HVAC service and repair for commercial and residential HVAC appliances. Bruce has years of experience as an HVAC Technician, Boiler Technician, and Plumber. He is now General Manager for the company he has been with his entire career and oversees the Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning business for Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating, Inc.