How to Choose the Right Heat Pump and Save Money

Heat pumps can be an efficient way to save money and fight the winter cold. Canstar guides you through what to know, and how to get the right heat pump for your space.

Power costs can soar during the winter months if your household is running inefficient heating appliances. So for those looking for a more efficient alternative, heat pumps are typically a good choice. Not only are they comparatively cheap to run, but they also come with a range of settings designed to provide greater control over your heating options. 

According to the Electricity Authority, space heating makes up 15% of the average household’s energy consumption. That’s a significant expense. So being prepared for the colder weather will give you a head start in keeping a handle on your power bills. And the best way to be prepared is through the installation of efficient means of heating your home, such as a heat pump. Of course, you’ll also want to ensure your home is well insulated to retain that heat!

 In the following guide, we’ll take a look at:

Whether a heat pump will be suitable for your household
The sort of savings on offer
The different types of heat pumps
Choosing a suitable size
Tips to efficiently run your heat pump

Is a heat pump suitable for your household?

Heat pumps are a great option for most households. They are efficient and comparatively cheap to run, are capable of providing instant heat, and can also be used for cooling your household when the weather heats up.

However, if you’re looking to heat a small space or only require very intermittent heating, it might be worthwhile considering other options. For instance, an electric heater (such as a panel or fan heater) isn’t efficient at heating a large space over long periods but may be a good option for a small bedroom or study.

Likewise, not any old heat pump will be appropriate for a larger space. If your heat pump has to put in extra work to heat up a space that’s too large, you could find yourself with a higher electricity bill. Or just a cold room…

With this in mind, you need to weigh up the dimensions of the space you are heating and any other specific features that may impact heating/cooling, such as windows and high ceilings. It’s important to get this right from the get-go, as a heat pump is very much a long-term investment.

As we explore below, in addition to the heat pump itself, there is a range of additional factors you should consider to ensure you’ll get full value from your investment.

What sort of savings can heat pumps provide?

It can’t be stressed enough when shopping for a heat pump, you need to weigh up the initial costs versus the long-term running costs. While a heat pump may initially cost more than other types of heating, such as a fan, panel or convection heater, the running-cost savings can quickly add up, potentially hundreds of dollars per year.

When considering running costs, a good starting point is to look at the costs of maintaining a temperature range between 18 and 21ºC. This range helps combat damp and mould and can also help save power on heating costs.

As advised by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, the Zoned Energy Rating Label provides insight into how a heat pump will perform in New Zealand’s climate zone. It includes a star rating and how much electricity (kWh) the unit will use per year for heating and cooling.

Using this kWh figure, you’ll be able to get a rough estimate of how much a heat pump will cost to run (your tariff rate per kWh x total kWh used per year). It’s important to compare this figure to other units and heating options, and to project long-term running costs over a 5- to 10-year period.

When it comes to figuring out running costs, Gen Less’ Efficient Appliance Calculator – which allows you to create a heat pump shortlist by inputting a range of components – can provide insight into the options available and yearly running costs.

Compare electricity providers with Canstar Blue

Finding affordable power involves shopping around. And to help you find the best value electricity retailer, Canstar Blue rates NZ power companies for customer satisfaction and value for money, see the table below for some of the results, or you can click on the buttons below for the full results of our survey, and to compare bundled utility providers.

Canstar Blue’s latest review of NZ power companies compares them on customer satisfaction. The table above is an abridged version of our full results, available here.

See Our Ratings Methodology

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What type of heat pump should you choose?

There are a number of different heat pump types available, and what is best for your household will depend on a range of factors. It will certainly be worthwhile doing your research and consulting with heating experts when settling on a particular model. And many heat pump providers will be able to offer you a consultation to determine which type and size heat pump will be most appropriate, and the estimated costs involved.

Keep in mind that a heat pump is a long-term investment (with a potential lifespan of well over 10 years), and you should be comfortable with your choice of model.

There are three types of heat pumps typically available:

  • Single split systems – the type most commonly used in New Zealand, with an outdoor unit connected to an indoor unit, which heats the room it’s installed in.
  • Multi-split systems – comprise one outdoor unit which connects to multiple indoor units, heating different rooms in a house.
  • Ducted heat pumps – are a type of central heating system that blows heated air through concealed ducts into multiple rooms.

Typically, single and multi-split systems are available as a floor console, ceiling console, ceiling cassette, or high-wall unit. Ducted heat pumps, which are typically more expensive, are well hidden and a good option if you don’t like the look of a heat pump unit. However, they can be more intrusive to install.

As we look at below, there are a number of factors to keep in mind when determining what size unit is best suited for your household.

→Related article: Daikin: New Zealand’s Favourite Heat Pumps

What size heat pump is best?

Obviously, if a heat pump is too small, it won’t be able to effectively heat a room. While if it is too big you’ll probably pay more for the unit upfront and then be faced with more expensive running costs.

With this in mind, it’s certainly worthwhile arranging for a heating expert to conduct an in-home assessment. Of course, shopping around will provide greater insight into your options and price ranges.

As a rule, single split systems will be suitable for smaller spaces, while multi-split and ducted heat pumps are good options for larger spaces. 

Factors to keep in mind include:

  • Room size – the larger the space you want to heat, the larger the heat pump you’ll require. However, as noted above, if you only want to heat a small space, it will probably be worthwhile looking at other options.
  • Insulation – effective insulation is a key component in keeping households warm during winter. If your insulation is not up to scratch, you’ll be working your heat pump harder to keep the temperature at an optimum level.
  • Windows and doors – check to see that your windows and doors are sealed properly, while also ensuring that heat is not escaping from any other points.
  • Location – your local weather conditions should be taken into account. As advised above, the Zoned Energy Rating Label will provide insight into how a specific heat pump model will perform in New Zealand’s climate zone.
  • Orientation – the positioning of your residence and room, along with windows and doors, will have a bearing on temperatures throughout the day. You won’t need to run your heat pump as much if you’re getting warmth from the sun.

Tips for maximising heat pump usage

Of course, if you run your heat pump efficiently, you’ll consume less electricity and save more. Once you’ve picked out a suitable model, you should take the time to ensure that the settings are configured for efficient use.

There are a range of factors to keep in mind, from your household’s individual patterns of usage to performing regular maintenance.

It’s worthwhile considering the following:

  • Timer – can be used to warm the room just before you get home, and set to switch off the heat pump when you don’t need it.
  • Thermostat – set it above 18°C to combat damp and mould, and below 21°C to save power.
  • Heating mode – should be used. Auto mode has the potential to waste energy, constantly switching between hot and cold.
  • Very cold weather – set the fan to “auto”, as “low” and “quiet” won’t deliver full blast.
  • Filter – every couple of weeks clean the filter with a vacuum cleaner and/or warm water.

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About the author of this page

 Martin KovacsThis report was written by Canstar author Martin Kovacs. Martin is a freelance writer with experience covering the business, consumer technology and utilities sectors. Martin has written about a wide range of topics across both print and digital publications, including the manner in which industry continues to adapt and evolve amid the rollout of new technologies

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