How To Save on Power Bills if You’re Using A Heat Pump

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Heat pumps are one of the most efficient ways of keeping toasty over winter. But to keep your power bills down, they must be used properly. Canstar breaks down what you need to know.

Heating can account for over 35% of a winter power bill in New Zealand, according to Genesis Energy, and more than 25% of all Kiwi households now use a heat pump, making them New Zealand’s third most popular heating solution.

But while heat pumps can be a cost-effective option, choosing the right model for your space and using it correctly can have a big impact on your electricity usage. So take our tips below on board, and you’ll likely save on those big winter power bills.

How does a heat pump work?

Simply put, it extracts heat from one place and transfers it to another. A heat pump warms a home by extracting warmth from the air outside using its external unit and transferring it into your home. It can do this even when it’s freezing outside. When it’s warm outside, it reverses directions and acts like an air conditioner (removing heat from your home). They usually take about 10-20 minutes to bring a room up to temperature.

Your heat pump checklist

  1. Insulate. The better insulated your home, the better it will hold the heat and the more energy efficient the heat pump will be. So, insulate first, starting with a home’s ceiling and floor. This means you can buy a smaller heat pump, so your power bill will be lower.
  2. Opt for quality. Choose a quality brand from a reputable supplier.
  3. Think about size. Make sure it’s the correct size for the room you’re heating. If it’s too small, it may cost you more to run and will struggle to provide enough heat when you most need it. The NZ Tenancy site has a good heating assessment tool you can use for free. 
  4. Install correctly. Make sure your heat pump is well-installed. Correct location and installation of both outdoor and indoor units is essential for best performance and for avoiding draughts or unnecessary noise. Energy Wise NZ has a great guide for installation of heat pumps.

Using your heat pump in winter

A basic guide to using your heat pump:

  1. Press your mode or master button until you’ve selected the heat setting.
  2. Press the fan button.
  3. Set the temperature between 18-22C. Running a heat pump at 26C will use 50% more power than at 21C, so avoid cranking it up.
  4. Use the swing button to adjust the direction of the air flow down into the room. You want to direct the warm air down across the floor where it will rise up, warming the room. 
  5. Avoid using the auto mode, instead use the heating mode. In auto mode, the heat pump tries to maintain the set temperature by constantly changing between heating and cooling, as the room temperature fluctuates, and this can waste a lot of energy.
  6. Genesis Energy recommends avoiding the low and quiet fan settings during very cold weather. It’s also normal for the heat pump to sometimes stop heating or blow out cold air during very cold weather, while the outdoor unit defrosts. This usually only takes a few minutes.

Compare heat pumps with Canstar

How to save money using a heat pump

  • Keep the setting low on your heat pump (18ºC). Don’t set your heat pump to the maximum as it won’t heat the room any quicker, it just uses more energy. Think about setting it to turn on 15 minutes before you need it instead. A lot of heat pumps have timer functions. 
  • Only heat the space you’re using. Don’t have a heat pump going in a bedroom when you’re not in there.
  • Clean both your indoor and outdoor heat pump filter regularly, at least once a year. It’s quick to do this yourself unless the placement of the outside unit is tricky to get to.

  • Turn it off when you’re not using it. 
  • Keep curtains and doors closed when you are using it.
  • Consider a WiFi controlled heat pump so you can control it remotely using an app on your smartphone.

How to save money powering a heat pump

The easiest way to save money using a heat pump is to get a better deal on the electricity you use to power it. To help you compare, Canstar rates NZ power companies for customer satisfaction and value for money, see the table below for some of the results:

Canstar Blue’s 2019 review of NZ power companies compares Powershop, Electric Kiwi, Flick Electric Co., Energy Online, Nova Energy, Pulse Energy, Meridian Energy, Mercury Energy, Genesis Energy, Contact Energy, GLOBUG and Trustpower on customer satisfaction. The table below is an abridged version of our full results, available here.


See Our Ratings Methodology

I’m buying a heat pump, what do the numbers on the label mean?

A heat pump label has two numbers that can tell you more about the heat pump’s performance:

  • Capacity output: the amount of heating or cooling (kW) you will get out of the heat pump.
  • Power input: the amount of power the heat pump uses (kW) to produce the cool or hot air.

Look for the EECA star rating. EECA is NZ’s government agency that seeks to improve the energy efficiency of our homes. They have a star rating system for appliances to help consumers make good energy choices. The more stars, the more energy efficient the electrical appliance is by their standards.

It’s worth taking a look at your power bill, too, and comparing electricity providers before the cold sets in this winter, so you’re on the cheapest plan. Some NZ companies even offer a free hour of power that you can use to heat your home for no cost. Click the link below to compare with Canstar:

Compare electricity providers for free with Canstar!

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