Do we have a broken heat pump, or are they really this mediocre when they're working right?
November 13, 2010 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Apparently, the warm air from a heat pump is less warm than the hot air from a gas or oil furnace. But how much less warm? Help this clueless transplant from the frozen north tell if his heat pump is broken, or just limping along in the lukewarm way it's apparently supposed to?

Air comes out of the vents. If you put your hand on the vent, it is slightly warmer than room temperature, though I'd hesitate to say it was actually "warm" in the normal sense of the word. If you stand a few feet away, it feels like you're standing in front of a fan — there's absolutely no perceptible heat, and in fact the moving air makes it a bit chilly.

Obviously the heat pump is doing something, since right now it's 55° outside and 70° inside. But I have a very hard time believing that it's working as well as it should be. Please help me convince myself one way or the other.
posted by nebulawindphone to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't speak from any recent heat-pump experience - but I know that a new high efficiency heating system my family put in, and I seem to recall a heat pump some family had years ago, both blew air that was only slightly warmer than the in-room ambient - they key is just that they are on longer.

As long as your indoor temperature remains where it should be you are probably okay and things are probably working fine - the lower exhaust temperature is just a function of higher efficiency (the energy required to heat stuff to higher and higher temperatures does not follow a linear graph)
posted by TravellingDen at 9:38 AM on November 13, 2010

What is the temperature in the house, and what is the thermostat set at? If the heat pump is regulating the temperaute, everything should be fine. Do you know if you heat pump has a back-up (gas or electric) system? Some do, in case the pump can't provide enough heat, but I think that's more common in cooler climates. But, like I said, if the heat pump is matching the set temp, you're fine.
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:45 AM on November 13, 2010

When I was in a heat pump house, it felt as you describe -- only appreciably warmer when the backup (electric coil) system was on.
posted by deeaytch at 10:36 AM on November 13, 2010

It can take weeks for a heat pump to warm air in a house in winter.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:57 AM on November 13, 2010

Many times, especially in northern climates, a heat pump is not going to provide the total of your heat, especially if you are near the top end of the "comfort zone" but it will raise and maintain the temperature of your dwelling so that auxiliary (higher energy consumption) system have to work less to make up the difference. If you kept the thermostat at 64-65 there is a decent chance the heat pump could provide all your warmth, anything higher than that is likely going to kick in the backup system.

Seriously though you are at 70 right now? I don't think you've much to worry about.
posted by edgeways at 11:50 AM on November 13, 2010

Did you live there during the cooling season? Did the AC work pretty well? Probably normal.

It is never going to be that comforting blast of hot air like combustion heat. But with the outside temperature being 55, I would think that it should at least be warmish. Might want to go outside and visit the compressor and see what it is doing. The coils should be cold, the exiting air should be colder than the ambient air, and the compressor should be running continuously. If it is running on and off every few seconds, it is somehow broken.

I would also go to the air handler unit and see if you can tell how hot the air is at the source. Could be an vent balancing issue where the warm air hits the thermostat before the entire house is warm, and your vent never really gets a good stream of hot air. Or the circulator fan is always on, but the heater is only running occasionally?

A heat pump is just an air conditioner running in reverse. The cold side is now outside, and the hot side is inside. It should feel as hot as the summer cold air is cold, relatively speaking.
posted by gjc at 3:07 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

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