If your house was anything like mine, on the coldest nights, both of the HVAC units in my house ran almost constantly. As a result, I’m the proud owner of a $390 electric bill (Over 1 1/2x my regular bill).
This is not uncommon as I’ve heard similar stories from neighbors and friends. As a Church Hill resident who has owned a couple of homes and familiar with many more are heat pumps the culprit?
One thing about heat pumps in general, when they’re heating a home, is they’re pulling heat from the outside air to heat the refrigerant and then release that heat into your house. This refrigerant is supercooled so generally much colder than outside air BUT as the temperature drops so does the amount of heat that can be pulled in.
While heat pumps are extremely efficient for more mild winters, like we normally have in Richmond, they’re not great for extremely cold temperatures. If it is unusually cold, and we have a cold snap like the beginning of January, you will find that in order to heat your house your Auxiliary heat will be kicking in which for many is electric. Those auxiliary heat strips are NOT efficient and they will increase your heating bill dramatically.
One solution that many new homes are built with is a gas backup to your heat pump instead of electric. This is called a dual fuel system. Gas furnaces get much hotter and are more efficient at heating homes during extreme cold. Something to consider if you’re buying a house or you have to redo your existing system. A lot of newer homes will have two HVAC systems with the downstairs heat pump having a gas backup and the upstairs a regular heat pump with electric auxiliary.
Save Money & Plan Ahead: Make sure and plan ahead for increases in your utility bills during the height of summer and winter. Also, make sure that you set your thermostat a little lower. 65 or 68 can make a big difference in your utility bill compared to 70 or 72. Also, invest in insulation and energy efficiency! Not only will you save money, in the long run, you will also make your house infinitely more comfortable.
Stay warm out there and if you have any suggestions or thoughts please let us know.
A few resources:
RREA – Richmond Region Energy Alliance – You can schedule a free home inspection ($40 donation recommended). They’ll make recommendations like improved insulation, new windows, encapsulating the crawl space, etc. to help you understand how to heat and cool your home more efficiently.
Dominion Energy Assistance – Dominion Virginia Power has a number of programs to assist families that might have trouble paying for their electric bills.