light on only during very cold days. The
light may also indicate a problem with your
heat pump, such as a clogged air filter.
Setting your thermostat to the lowest
comfortable temperature is the best approach
to conserving energy and saving money.
SMECO recommends a setting of 68 to 70
degrees during the winter. Frequent or
drastic changes to your thermostat setting
may cause you to use more energy. Avoid
increasing your thermostat setting by more
than one degree at a time. A change in setting
greater than one degree at one time will
cause your electric back-up heat to come on.
Whenever your electric back-up heat comes
on unnecessarily, you will be wasting energy.
contractor to discuss the proper operation of
your existing thermostat or the selection of a
new, energy-saving thermostat.
Change Your Filter
The filter is the most important item to keep
up with. This is also the most neglected
part of the heat pump — and the cause of
many high energy bills! Your filter collects
dust particles that otherwise would clog
your indoor coil. When your filter is not
cleaned or changed periodically, you run
the risk of substantially increasing energy
consumption, reducing comfort, and
causing equipment damage.
You should clean or replace your filter every
month. The filter is located in the indoor
unit or the return air grille. If you can’t
find your filter, call a heating contractor,
manufacturer, or SMECO for assistance.
Watch For Signs of Trouble
Ensure proper air flow
Air that has been heated or cooled is
distributed throughout your home by the
duct system. Conditioned air is distributed
through vents located in each room. Proper
air flow is critical for efficient heat pump
operation. Don’t close off more than 10
percent of the vents in your home. Don’t
block a vent’s air flow or try to deflect its
Proper air flow is also important for the
outdoor unit. Keep grass, shrubbery,
leaves, and dust away from the unit for
unobstructed air flow.
Using Your
to Save Energy
and Money
Leaks in the duct system are the most
common and serious cause of high energy
bills with heat pumps. The most critical
leaks are those nearest your heat pump’s
indoor unit, where the air pressure is
greatest and the air temperature is highest.
A heating contractor can test your duct
system and seal any leaks.
Other than changing the filter, maintenance
should be performed by a qualified
technician. Call a heating contractor when
you experience the following:
When your heat pump is operating in
the cooling mode, there is no back-up
setting. You can adjust your thermostat
setting up or down without worrying
about additional systems coming on. For
economical operation, however, you should
aim for the highest comfortable temperature
when selecting your thermostat setting.
For the summer, SMECO recommends a
temperature of 76 to 78 degrees.
There are many types of thermostats. Please
feel free to contact SMECO or a heating
Unusual sounds or noise
Auxiliary heat or emergency heat
indicator light always on
Outdoor unit continuously iced over
No air flow out of registers
Unit operating constantly
in mild weather
A Basic Guide
Heat Pump Basics
If you’ve moved into a home with an
electric heat pump and you have no
operating instructions, this brochure will
give you basic information on how your
heat pump works and how best to operate
it. For specific details on your heat pump,
please contact the manufacturer.
How Your Heat Pump Works
Any appliance that takes heat from one
area and moves it to another is a heat
pump. The heat pump in your home works
on the same principle as your refrigerator,
but on a larger scale.
Most heat pump installations involve
what is called a split system. The outdoor
unit contains the compressor and a heat
exchanger, called a coil. The indoor unit
contains another coil, a fan that blows air
through your duct system, a return grille,
and electric heating elements.
The outdoor and indoor units are connected
by copper tubes that move a gas refrigerant
(such as Freon) between the indoor and
outdoor coils. This refrigerant has the ability
to absorb heat from the air, even at very low
In the Event of an Outage
What should you do if you experience a
power outage lasting longer than 30 minutes
in the winter? Switch your thermostat to
emergency heat. When power is restored,
allow the heat pump to heat your house for
about one hour in the emergency setting.
This will allow the compressor heater to
warm up any refrigerant that may be in the
After an hour has passed, you may switch
your thermostat back to normal heating.
(On many newer heat pumps, this
procedure is not required; ask a heating
contractor to be sure you know what steps,
if any, are required for your unit.)
These diagrams show how your heat pump works differently to cool or heat your home.
1. Outdoor coil extracts heat from outdoor air.
1. Indoor coil extracts heat from home’s air.
2. Refrigerant gas carries heat to indoor unit.
2. Refrigerant gas carries heat to outdoor unit.
3. Circulating indoor air picks up heat and
carries it throughout the home.
3. Outdoor coil transfers heat to outdoor air.
When you are heating your home, the
refrigerant absorbs heat from outdoor
air drawn across the outdoor coil. The
refrigerant becomes hot but is made even
hotter by going through the compressor.
The absorbed heat is carried by the
refrigerant through the copper tube to the
outdoor unit. The refrigerant goes through
the compressor, then moves through the
outdoor coil, which transfers the absorbed
heat to the outdoor air.
This hot gas travels through a copper tube
to the indoor coil. The fan draws air through
your return grille and pushes the air across
the indoor coil. The hot gas transfers its heat
to the air blown across the coil and into the
duct system.
When you are cooling your home, your heat
pump simply reverses the flow of refrigerant.
The refrigerant absorbs heat from room air
blown across the indoor coil. In this manner,
heat and humidity are removed from the air,
and cool, dry air is distributed throughout
your home by way of the duct system.
Set Your Thermostat Wisely
When the outdoor temperature drops below
32 degrees, your heat pump may need help in
heating your home. Electric heating elements
will come on automatically to help heat your
home during extremely cold weather.
Many thermostats have an indicator light
that tells you when the electric back-up
heat is on. It may be labelled emergency
or auxiliary. Generally, you should see this
Open as PDF
Similar pages