Heating accounts for over 35% of most winter power bills, so choosing the best option to heat your home makes a big difference. Over 25% (or 40% according to GenLess) of all New Zealand households now have heat pumps as a cost-effective alternative to traditional electric heating, gas, coal, oil or wood.
They keep your home warm and dry by moving heat rather than generating it, extracting warmth from outside and transferring it inside. When it's warm outside a heat pump can work in reverse as an air conditioner. They usually take 10 to 20 minutes to bring a room to the desired temperature, and maintain it easily.
If you already have a heat pump we’ve got some pro tips to use it efficiently during winter, and if you're thinking about buying one, we cover some of the things to look for.
Keep it clean
Just like cleaning the filter in your dishwasher or washing machine, cleaning the filter in your heat pump can make it run more efficiently.
Clean both the indoor and outdoor heat pump filters regularly — at least once a year. It's simple and quick to do this yourself unless the outside unit is difficult to get to. The best time is when you head into the cold season, and ideally check the filters once a month during winter. You can always clean them more frequently if they're particularly dirty.
Find the perfect temperature*
There’s a balance to keeping warm and dry without churning through electricity and money. Find the middle point to help with both.
Set your heat pump temperature to 18ºC degrees or above to prevent damp and mould, but below 21ºC degrees to save on power. The higher the temperature, the more energy the heat pump will use, so somewhere between 18ºC and 21ºC is the sweet spot.
Don't set your heat pump to the maximum — it won't heat the room any quicker, but it will use more energy.
* The recommended temperature is 18ºC or 20ºC for children or the elderly, and 16ºC for bedrooms overnight.
Spend more time on the couch
Spending more time in the space your heat pump is warming will make the most of the energy you're using, usually that's in the living room, with the couch, TV, and Xbox.
It might sound obvious, but heat pumps use the most energy when they're heating a room up to a set temperature. Once it’s warm they only need to make small adjustments to keep it cosy. If your heat pump is mounted on the wall, close the doors to rooms you’re not using so they're not stealing any warmth.
Don't run your heat pump constantly
A lot of people believe a heat pump running 24/7 is the most efficient, cost-effective way to heat their home. Not true because you're using and losing more energy overall. It's better to only run your heat pump when you're home. It will also save you money.
Got a timer? Use it.
There's nothing like arriving home, or waking up to a nice, warm home in winter.
If your heat pump has a timer, you can set it to turn on just before you get home or before you wake up in the morning. Doing that also means you'll be less tempted to crank the heat pump at a high temperature when you get home to a cold house, or wake up in one.
Take a look at your Octopus Energy Off Peak and Night Rates. If you switch on your heat pump before 7am you'll be taking advantage of our most economic rate.
Use the timer function to heat the space 15 minutes before you use it, or invest in a Smart WiFi controlled heat pump so you can control it remotely using an App on your Smartphone.
If your home is properly insulated, your heat pump won't have to work as hard and you won’t pay as much in bills each month. Check that the insulation in your home is up to scratch and if not, it’s a good idea to add extra.
You can stay even cosier by installing thermal curtains which keep more heat in the room, or by putting draft stoppers at the bottom of your doors to minimise any heat that might escape through the cracks.
The better insulated your home, the better it will hold the heat and the more energy efficient the heat pump will be.
Tips for choosing the right heat pump for your home
When it comes to choosing your heat pump, it's important to consider things like the size of the space you want to heat, the type of heat pump you want, and how efficient it is.
Here are a few pointers.
Types of heat pumps
There are a few different types of heat pump to choose from, depending on your needs.
It's well worth doing a bit of research into the different types of heat pumps, how they work, and what they look like, to see what might be best for you. Heat pump suppliers should also be able to give you good advice on what could work well for your home.
Single split system
The most common heat pump in New Zealand, with one outdoor unit connected to an indoor unit that heats the room it’s installed in. Single-split systems are pretty easy to have installed and they're also cost-effective.
Multi-split systems connect one outdoor unit to multiple indoor units to heat different rooms in your home. These systems are good for larger homes requiring several indoor units without multiple units outside. With both single and multi-split systems, you can choose a floor console, ceiling console, ceiling cassette, or high-wall unit.
Ducted heat pumps
Another type of heat pump is a ducted heat pump, which works a little differently. They’re a type of central heating system that blows heated air through concealed ducts into multiple rooms in your home. They can be more expensive than the other options, but will heat your whole house, and are well hidden, so they’re a good option for people who don't like the look of a heat pump unit.
Do the maths
Heat pumps are the most efficient way of using electricity to heat your home, but some models are more efficient than others. To help you out the GenLess Efficient Appliance Calculator lets you filter and compare heat pumps being sold in New Zealand.
You can find the type of heat pump that meets your needs, and compare the different models based on their energy efficiency rating.
Big isn't always best
It's important to know that one size does not fit all. Choosing the right model for your space, using it correctly and regular maintenance save on those winter power bills for years to come.
If you’re looking at buying a heat pump, it’s important to choose the right-sized heat pump for the space you want to heat. If it’s too small, it’ll struggle to heat the room. If it’s too big, you’ll pay more than you need to.
A good heat pump supplier should be able to come to your place and assess how big the space is, how many windows there are, and the climate you live in, then give you advice that’s tailored to your home.