Most people plan to spend a bit more on their power bills in the winter time, both because they’re often indoors more (and using electronics) and to keep the house warm. But a common complaint is that the bills more than double, leaving a lot of folks shocked.
The first places most people start when investigating this are things like windows, old appliances, or dirty air filters. These are indeed good places to start, but if your heating system includes a heat pump, it may very well be the source. Making sure airflow isn’t being restricted is important, but heat pumps in general tend to struggle in freezing temperatures.
One source of winter heating bill increases is whether the heat pump is on. That seems obvious, but there are a couple things that can cause it to stop suddenly.
You might not realize it, but your outdoor heat pump might not be running. This kicks the system into emergency/backup heat, which is expensive.
Common things that can cause this:
- The heat pump is iced up due to a refrigerant leak or other malfunction
- The circuit breaker to the heat pump is tripped
Both of these happen pretty commonly. Heat pumps are supposed to reverse themselves occasionally during cold weather to prevent freezing up, since the process by which they create heat can make the outside of the unit colder. If this process isn’t working correctly, it can ice up and stop the unit from working at all.
As circuit breakers go, you might be surprised how often this one comes up. Sometimes on service calls the immediate solution is as simple as flipping the breaker to the heat pump. However, if it’s tripping the breaker repeatedly that can be a sign of an issue with the heat pump.
If the heat pump is still running, it might not be running well due to things like:
- Low refrigerant charge or flow issues
- Bad reversing or compressor valves on the unit
- Inadequate duct work or equipment size (for the size of the home)
Heat pumps work best when they are pumping warmth from a secondary source, such as a gas furnace. This is a bit more of an upfront investment, but is far more efficient going forward. Gas heat is typically 3 times more efficient as source energy goes than electric coils.
For homes without a furnace setup like this, the heat pump is working a lot harder to regulate the temperatures. When temps drop into the freezing range and below especially, heat pumps can struggle to keep up.
Call us if you’ve been experiencing high heat bills and aren’t sure what to do next!