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#932295 - 02/06/18 12:14 AM High heat pump energy usage in winter
galacticroot Offline
Handyman

Registered: 01/07/03
Posts: 1171
Hi, I recently bought a house with a heat pump. Normally, my electric bill is around $200-$250/month, but it was nearly $800 last month. They estimate every other month, so it could have really been two $500 months, but it's still a huge increase. I assume the heating system is responsible for most of that.

When I bought the house, I checked into previous electric bills and it was more or less the same way last year. About $150-$200/month in mild weather, $250-$300/month in the summer with air conditioning, jumping to $600-$800 in December or January.

Does that sound like just a normal drop in efficiency due to cold weather or is it more likely a sign that something might actually be wrong with the system?

The unit is nearly 15 years old, so I don't expect it to handle cold weather as well as a newer one might. I noticed the 2nd stage electric heat switching on occasionally on some of the coldest days, but it has generally been off.

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#932525 - 02/08/18 04:13 PM Re: High heat pump energy usage in winter [Re: galacticroot]
JMac Offline
Super Handyman

Registered: 10/14/03
Posts: 2051
Loc: Cary, North Carolina
It sounds like your emergency heat is kicking in. Emergency hit kicks in when the air temperatures are below the operating range for your heat pump and it can't get enough heat out of the cold air to function. It will also kick in when the system is having issues.

You don't list your location, are you in a fairly cold climate? What have the temperatures been like lately? How old is the system and has it been serviced lately?
_________________________
Any advice given here is general in nature. Local codes always trump advice given on a internet bulletin board. When in doubt consult your local codes enforcement agency.

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#932555 - 02/08/18 11:45 PM Re: High heat pump energy usage in winter [Re: JMac]
galacticroot Offline
Handyman

Registered: 01/07/03
Posts: 1171
I'm in Maryland. It was mostly in the 10-20F range outside this winter. The system is actually closer to 18 years old and I'm not sure when it was last serviced.

Yes, it's definitely the auxiliary heat that's using the energy. The auxiliary heater is 19.2KW. My estimate is that it would have been running about 15-20% of the time based on the usage which is entirely plausible.

My main question is whether I should expect this 18 year old heat pump to work without auxiliary heat in 10-20F weather.

I'm wondering if I should look into getting a newer one now or wait until the current one fails? I'm not sure how much of a performance difference there would be, but if it could bring the bill down to maybe $350/month in the winter it would easily save money in the long run.

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#932720 - 02/11/18 01:07 PM Re: High heat pump energy usage in winter [Re: galacticroot]
dora Offline
Search and Rescue
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/16/02
Posts: 22514
Loc: Somewhere under the sun
There's a few things you could check such as making sure that the area around the pump is clear of debris so air isn't blocked. As JMAC suggested you should get a tune-up as well as lowering the thermostat at night. Also make sure you have sufficient insulation in your home. I'd suggest looking into a different type of emergency heating besides electric. A gas or propane would be way less pricey, course you'd need to install a furnace as well. Here's a link that'll give you some details about heat pumps in winter.
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Life is about using the whole box of crayons!

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#932785 - 02/12/18 02:25 PM Re: High heat pump energy usage in winter [Re: galacticroot]
JMac Offline
Super Handyman

Registered: 10/14/03
Posts: 2051
Loc: Cary, North Carolina
I had a heat pump a little north of you in south central PA back in the mid 1980s. It did a pretty decent job keeping the house warm, but I eventually installed a wood stove that kept it down right toasty.

At 18 years your unit is approaching end of life. Newer units are much more efficient. If I was in a colder region and didn't have access to natural gas I would probably look at a ground-sourced heat pump for my HVAC system.









Edited by JMac (02/12/18 02:28 PM)
Edit Reason: adding a image
_________________________
Any advice given here is general in nature. Local codes always trump advice given on a internet bulletin board. When in doubt consult your local codes enforcement agency.

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