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Air-Source Heat Pump Optimization

Many Nebraska homes use an air-source heat pump (ASHP) to provide indoor comfort during the winter season. Considering 40% of average annual residential energy is used to keep homes warm, ASHPs provide higher energy efficiency than any furnace. As a result, owners reduce the impact of increased energy needs during the three coldest months of December through February.

But much like any appliance, how ASHPs are used and maintained will affect how much energy they save. If your home or business is heated by an ASHP, consider the following recommendations to get the most from your system.

Properly Install an ASHP

Optimal performance starts with proper installation of the right heat pump. Oversized heat pumps can cycle on and off more often than they ought to, which often leads to premature breakdowns. This can also lead to unbalanced temperature and humidity levels throughout the home causing possible comfort and health concerns. A variable capacity heat pump (i.e., one where the compressor’s speed can vary), will alleviate those concerns. Be sure the HVAC professional you select performs a load calculation on your home to determine the right size of ASHP is installed. The load calculation identifies the amounts of heating and cooling your home will require throughout the year. For accuracy, the contractor measures windows, doors, walls, ceiling height, etc. and uses a computer program to assess all values.

Change Air Filters Regularly

Changing air filters every one to three months helps your system move air more easily and ensures better indoor air quality. Electrostatic and reusable filters should be washed quarterly. The frequency of cleaning can range from weeks to months depending on use and dust volume. After a couple of times, you should have an idea of how often your system requires this maintenance.

Use a Smart Thermostat

A smart thermostat can help you take advantage of energy savings by setting the thermostat back during nighttime and unoccupied hours, then preventing  auxiliary or emergency heat from engaging while returning to the previous setting. Many smart thermostats program themselves by learning your household’s routines and can easily be adjusted via a mobile device on days that are not routine. Consult your HVAC technician to identify which smart thermostats are compatible with your heat pump.

Keep Outdoor Units Clear

The key to an ASHP’s winter efficiency comes from its ability to capture heat from outdoors and transfer it into the home. For that to happen, the outdoor unit must have adequate space around it for proper airflow. Clear any debris or obstructions that may hinder the heat pump’s performance. Know that when an ASHP goes through its defrost cycle, the moisture driven off the outdoor coils can pool and refreeze under the outdoor unit. During extended cold periods, the refrozen ice can continue to build up and restrict airflow under the unit. Most ASHP outdoor units are installed on extended legs to prevent this from being a problem. Otherwise, excess ice must be removed.

Perform Routine Inspection, Maintenance and Cleaning

Since ASHPs provide heating and cooling to your home, they likely operate for more hours than other residential HVAC systems. At a minimum, have a professional HVAC technician perform a system tune-up to clean outdoor coils, check refrigerant levels, inspect critical components and advise how to get the best performance from your particular ASHP system.

Your local public power utility wants to help you keep your home or business comfortably warm this winter. They may also provide EnergyWiseSM incentives to defray the cost of purchasing a heat pump, smart thermostat or having your heat pump system tuned-up by a professional HVAC contractor. For more ideas on how you can make your home or business EnergyWiseSM, contact them for more information.

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