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Winter Heat Pump Efficiency and Settings

  • Blog

Given that heating costs account for more than 35% of winter electricity bills, choosing the best home heating solution is crucial.


Currently, over 25% of New Zealand households use heat pumps, making them the third most popular heating solution in New Zealand.


When you want to make the most of your heat pump, it’s important to know that one size doesn’t fit all. Choosing the right model for your space, using it correctly, and regular maintenance can help you save on your winter electricity bills for years to come.


Below, we will discuss some things to consider when purchasing a new heat pump. Additionally, if you already own a heat pump, we’ll provide some practical tips to help you understand the best ways to use it effectively during the winter.


Heat Pump Efficiency

Heat pumps are a highly cost-effective alternative to traditional electric heating options because they transfer heat rather than generate it. They are the most energy-efficient and cost-effective way to heat your home during the cooler months, keeping it warm and dry.


Winter Heat Pump Settings in New Zealand

Using the correct settings will help you use your heat pump more effectively throughout the winter. Familiarize yourself with your device’s remote control and make sure you use the “heating” setting during the winter (often represented by a sun icon on many models). Adjusting the swing setting can also improve efficiency – directing warm air toward the floor will cause it to rise, warming up the entire room.


Optimal Winter Heat Pump Temperature

In New Zealand’s colder months, it’s recommended to set the heat pump temperature to around 18-22 degrees Celsius. While this may seem low for keeping your home extra warm in the winter, setting the unit to a very high temperature will consume more energy and place unnecessary strain on the heat pump.


If the weather is cold, and you plan to run the heater overnight, lower the temperature to around 16-18 degrees Celsius. This will ensure you wake up feeling comfortable and using the heat pump remains cost-effective.


How Does a Heat Pump Work?

A heat pump works by extracting heat from the outdoors and transferring it into your home to provide heating. When it’s warm outside, it reverses direction and functions like an air conditioner, removing heat from your home.


Heat pumps are an effective way to heat rooms in the winter. They typically take about 10-20 minutes to reach the desired room temperature and maintain it easily.


Split System Heat Pump

The most popular and easy-to-install system in New Zealand is the split system, designed to heat only one room (usually your living area). If you choose the right size and location, it can warm your entire house. They are particularly suitable for open-plan living areas.


Ducted Multi-Heat Pump System

Each room has a vent and is served by ducts running through the ceiling. They are less invasive but come with higher installation costs. For an average-sized 150-square-meter home, the cost of a ducted heat pump system is $15,000 or more.


Excess heat from the heater is distributed to rooms through ultra-efficient inline duct fans.


Your home can be ventilated with a small amount of dry air through filtered eave inlets to counteract moisture buildup (from cooking, drying, clothes, showers, etc.).


Free, filtered warm air is automatically collected from the roof space to offset heater costs. (Note: This feature is disabled in summer mode.)


As air circulates continuously around the house, rooms heat up, and persistent condensation issues disappear.


What Are the Operating Costs of a Heat Pump?

Heat pumps are the most efficient way to keep your home comfortable and warm in cold weather. Compared to other forms of heating, using a heat pump can save you money.


The operating costs of a heat pump depend on how often you use it and its energy output. According to data from genless. govt.nz, running a heat pump for 6 hours a day for 6 months a year, with an energy output of 6 kWh, costs about $400 per year.


How Much Power Does a Heat Pump Use?

Compared to other home heating methods such as electric heaters, gas heaters, or wood burners, heat pumps have relatively low power consumption – the lowest cost per unit (kWh) of heat released.


Using a heat pump in your living space instead of an equivalent heating solution can save you approximately $500 per year. In some cases, oil or fan heaters may still have a place in your home, especially for quickly heating small spaces like a study or bedroom.


Tips for Saving Money with a Heat Pump

The best way to use a heat pump is to keep it at lower settings (18°C – 20°C). Don’t set it to the maximum – it won’t heat the room faster but will consume more energy. Program it to turn on 15 minutes before you need it.*


Regularly clean the indoor and outdoor heat pump filters – at least once a year. You can easily do this yourself unless the outdoor unit is hard to reach.


Only heat the spaces you are using. Don’t install heat pumps in bedrooms or rooms that are not in use.


Turn off the heat pump when not in use. It can run according to your needs, but make sure to turn it off when not in use.


Close doors and curtains to retain heat.


If possible, insulate your home. The better your home’s insulation, the better the heat pump’s energy efficiency.


Use the timer function to preheat the space 15 minutes before use, or invest in a heat pump with smart Wi-Fi controls so you can control it remotely via a smartphone app.


*For children or the elderly, recommended temperatures are 18°C or 20°C, and for overnight in bedrooms, a temperature of 16°C is suggested.


How Much Does it Cost to Install a Heat Pump?

Installing a heat pump may seem like a significant upfront cost, but considering the cost savings from cost-effective home heating in the long run, purchasing a heat pump is a wise investment for your home.


What Is the Cost of a Heat Pump?

The cost of a heat pump unit ranges from $1,500 to $3,500 (excluding installation costs). If you choose a cheaper model, keep in mind that its efficiency may not be as high as more expensive counterparts, and if it breaks down and needs reinstallation, your costs will be higher.


When you’re ready to choose the right model for your home, Consumer New Zealand provides a comprehensive buying guide for New Zealand heat pumps.


Installation Costs of a Heat Pump

The installation cost for a single system heat pump can range from $750 to $1,350. This can again be roughly half the cost of the unit, but proper installation is crucial for energy efficiency.


Ensure that your installation personnel follow the EECA Heat Pump Installation Best Practice Guide. Don’t be afraid to shop around, as the installation costs for heat pumps can vary more than the cost of the units themselves.


Tips for Choosing a Heat Pump

A heat pump can be an efficient way to heat your home with electricity, but you do need to choose the right one for your home.


The size of the heat pump is the primary factor to consider because it will determine your heating efficiency. However, you also need to select a reliable brand. Installing a heat pump in your home is an investment, so choose a reputable brand to ensure that the equipment you install is durable.


What Size Heat Pump Do I Need?

Having the right-sized unit for your space and insulation level is crucial. Too small, and the heat pump will consume more energy to maintain the space’s temperature. Too large, and efficiency will decrease because you’ll need to keep turning the unit off to prevent overheating.


Many factors determine the size that’s best for you, such as your location, room size, insulation level, and the number of people living in the house.


Look for Energy Star Ratings

Energy Star ratings help demonstrate the efficiency of your heat pump. The least efficient heat pumps in New Zealand have an efficiency of 250% (providing $2.50 worth of heat for every $1 of electricity used). The most efficient models on the market exceed 500% efficiency.


Compared to non-qualified models, heat pumps that meet ENERGY STAR® standards use less energy, and 4-star rated heat pumps on the energy rating label emit 55% less emissions than similar 1-star heat pumps.


How to Choose the Right Size Model

The size of the heat pump you need depends on:


Where you live – Some heat pumps perform poorly in cold conditions, so if your outdoor temperatures frequently drop below -5°C, you’ll need a heat pump with good performance, or the unit will spend extra energy defrosting.


Climate – Coastal or geothermal areas require corrosion protection.


The insulation level of your home.


How many windows do you have and whether they are single or double-glazed?

Ceiling height and room size.


As a rough guide, in well-insulated homes, you’ll need around 120 watts per square meter. In homes with lower insulation, aim for around 150 watts per square meter.


To find the most energy-efficient model for your home, try using a heat pump sizing calculator first and check out this handy energy-efficient appliance calculator.


Additional Heat Pump Features

Most heat pumps in New Zealand come with basic features like timers, dehumidification mode, and variable fan speeds, allowing you to have better control over when and how the unit runs.


If you’re looking for extra convenience, pay attention to some advanced features. Wi-Fi connectivity enables remote control of the heat pump via a smartphone app, and heat pumps with ionizing capabilities help remove particles from the air, which can be beneficial if you have allergies.


Placement of the Heat Pump is Key


Proper Placement of the Outdoor Unit


The outdoor unit needs good airflow, as much winter sunlight as possible, and as little frost as possible. They should be protected from factors that could cause corrosion, such as seawater.


South-facing walls are not suitable for outdoor units. Also, avoid placing them under decks or in other poorly ventilated areas.

These devices can produce noise, so consider this when selecting a placement location.


Indoor Placement


Heat pump units come in three types: high wall, floor console, or ceiling cassette.


Floor console installations are best for quick heating but require enough floor space and shouldn’t be obstructed by furniture.


High-wall units are a good choice and are becoming less obtrusive on the wall with newer models.


If you lack wall or floor space, you can opt for indoor units mounted in ceiling cassettes.


Interested in Energy Efficiency?

Our Climate Change Center is full of innovation and inspiration to help you and your family become more sustainable and energy-efficient. Check out and read more about how you can do your part for climate change.


Note: Some terminology and recommendations may be specific to the New Zealand context. Please adapt the information to your region and local guidelines as needed.

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