By Seth Wheeler
Time to Rethink How Heat Pumps Are Used
For a long time, heat pump technology was like pecan pie and sweet tea – something best enjoyed in the south. In New England, winter laughed at heat pumps, which back then produced heat only when temperatures were in the mid-30s or warmer. But all of that changed with the advent of ductless mini-split heat pumps that maintain high efficiencies at sub-zero temps. Now, New Englanders are using heat pumps for more than just supplemental heat during the “shoulder” months, they’re using them as the primary heat source year round. Heat pumps are typically three to four times more efficient than fossil fuel furnaces or boilers and can save up to 70% on heating costs for an electrically heated home.
This new way of heating requires a new way of thinking. In 2015 manufacturers began producing systems that could attach a single outside condenser to multiple indoor distribution “heads.” That is why New Hampshire Electric Co-op (NHEC) recommends a “whole house” approach that maximizes the value of your heat pump investment. NHEC offers its members an incentive of up to $500 per ton (of heating or cooling capacity) for the installation of heat pump systems and an additional incentive of $250 per ton if the system is sized to meet 80% or more of your home’s total heating needs.
Size It Right
It is important to size your system properly, though, so you will have heat (and cooling) where you need it, when you need it. A qualified HVAC contractor can help homeowners install the right system designed to heat and cool evenly.
Use It Right
A multi-zoned heat pump system can be your primary heat source. But that does not mean it’s business as usual. When you wash your hands, do you turn on every faucet in the house? Similarly, do you turn on every light in the house when all you need is one? That’s kind of what you were doing when you turned up the heat with your old oil or electric system. You were getting heat in the living room where you wanted it, but so were those empty bedrooms that were part of the same zone. It’s much more efficient to distribute heat only to the space you are using. Heat pumps offer individual temperature control in each room. And with the ability to remotely adjust the temperature of each heat pump head, you can turn up your bedroom heat on your smart phone while you’re still cozy in the living room!
Starting with Sealing
Warm air can escape a leaky house just as easily, whether it’s generated by an oil furnace or a heat pump. It’s crucial to make sure your home is adequately insulated and weather-sealed. The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Program provides a home energy audit and up to $4,000 in incentives towards the installation of recommended weatherization measures. NHEC offers an additional weatherization incentive of $250 per ton to members also installing heat pump systems.
NHEC wants members to think about heat pump technology as one piece of a whole-house energy system strategy. From high efficiency heat pumps, weatherization, lighting and appliances to solar PV, we have programs to make your whole house energy efficient and maximize total energy savings by combining numerous programs.
Seth Wheeler is the Communications Coordinator at New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, which is a non-profit electric distribution cooperative serving 83,000 homes and businesses in 115 New Hampshire communities. Learn more about energy efficiency programs available for members at www.nhec.coop/energysolutions.