Due to their efficiency and running costs, heat pumps are growing in popularity in the United States, specifically in states with temperate climates.
We have previously discussed the electric heater and heat pump debate and there was a clear winner. Unlike electric heaters, heat pumps provide both heating and cooling, improve air quality, are much more efficient and arguably much safer.
Heat pump thermostats are a must have accessory for all savvy home owners who wish to save money on their energy bills. Not only do they provide you with maximum convenience, allowing you to control the temperature of your home, but they also enable you to take control of your energy use.
So, which heat pump thermostat is best? In this post we will compare some of the most popular thermostats available and assess them based on important metrics such as functionality, interface, features, cost and reputation.
Quick Picks: Best Smart Thermostats Compared
*All links above will take you to the latest prices on Amazon.com or you can read our in-depth heat pump thermostat reviews below.
The Nest Learning Thermostat is named so since it is able to learn how you use your heating and cooling systems and make the necessary adjustments as a result. You can change the temperature manually and program it for different times of the day or days of the week, but if not the Nest will anticipate how you like it.
The learning process takes around 7 to 10 days typically. After which it will make adjustments based on your patterns of use helping you to save both time and money.
Auxiliary/Emergency Heat Compatible
It’s also worth mentioning that this is heat pump thermostat is compatible with those units that use auxiliary or emergency heat. This means that if the thermostat detects that the external temperature drops below the aux heat lockout temperature, it will turn it on in order to reach the desired temperature setting.
It’s also worth noting that this thermostat is compatible with multi stage heat pumps, and up to two stgaes of heating and cooling.
Made by a Canadian brand, the Ecobee4 is another great choice smart thermostat with some very unique and useful features.
Perhaps the most noteworthy feature is that it can be used in sync with Alexa devices, such as the Echo Dot. Allowing you to make temperature adjustments via voice command.
The Ecobee4 also comes with room sensors. These are placed in different rooms allowing the thermostat to monitor and make adjustments on a room by room basis. They can even recognise when someone is present and turn on or off as a result, helping you save even more on your energy bills.
Like other smart thermostats, this model has the ability to learn from your heating and cooling habits and can be controlled from your smart phone, tablet and more. It can also be used in conjunction with Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings.
Heat Pump (O/B) & Auxiliary Heat (Aux/E) Friendly
Similar to the Nest, the Ecobee4 is compatible with heat pumps. This includes 4 stages of heating & 2 stages of cooling) as well as Heat pumps with auxiliary/emergency heating (2 stages of aux heating).
Just like the other models listed, the Honeywell as a range of innovative features that make controlling the temperature of your home as convenient as possible. This includes wi-fi control that allows you to regulate and change the temperature in your home remotely and from different devices using an internet connection.
Although the Honeywell doesn’t have the same learning feature as the Nest and Ecobee, it does have remote control functionality via a mobile app, as well as wi-fi control and voice command with Alexa. You can also program it to fulfil various different heating and cooling cycles based on the time of day and to fit your weekly schedule.
Heat Pump Compatibility
The good news is that like the others listed, the Honeywell is heat pump compatible and supports auxiliary/emergency heating. It is able to provide up to 2 stages of heating.
The Honeywell software refers to the aux heat as “back up heat” and it does require a little more effect to wire. However, it’s pretty straightforward and the interface will alert you when it has recognized that the wire has been connected, which is a useful feature.
The only real disadvantage of this unit is the lack of the learning feature. Otherwise the interface is incredibly intuitive, easy to use and includes a password protection to ensure your settings are secure.
What is a Heat Pump Thermostat?
Similar to many other types of heating and cooling appliance thermostats, the heat pump variety allow homeowners to control and modulate the temperature of their home. You can also control it based on important factors such as time of day, year and location.
They allow you to set a desired temperature and the thermostat is then able to sense and regulate the room temperature as necessary. Either by releasing heat or cool air.
You can also schedule the thermostat to turn the heat pump on and off at certain times of the day. This is where thermostats can really help save energy and money. If you are out at work or won’t be in, your heat pump will not be active and there is no need to worry about forgetting to turn it off.
Additionally, you can be content knowing that your home will be just the right temperature when you get up in the morning or arrive home from work in the evening.
How Does a Heat Pump Thermostat Work?
The mechanical thermostats of yesteryear used a mercury based thermometer to detect temperature changes. However, since the majority of new thermostats are digital we are going to concentrate on their inner workings instead.
Digital thermostats no longer use mercury and instead use a thermistor to detect temperature changes. This component allows electric resistance changes based in accordance with external temperature changes.
Then another important component referred to as the microcontroller is able to detect these changes and convert them into temperature measurement. This can then be displayed on the digital interface.
Digital heat pump thermostats revolutionised home temperature regulation and compared to their older mechanical brothers can do so much more. One of their biggest advantages is their programmable settings.
This ability to program the thermostat allows homeowners to choose when the heat pump is turned on at at what temperature. Therefore is a great way to save money.
For example, you can choose to have it on high in the mornings and evenings when you are just getting up or arriving home from work. You can also set it to reduce the temperature when you are not going to be in or at night when you are in bed sleeping.
Watch How to Set up a Heat Pump Thermostat for Energy Saving
Types of Heat Pump Thermostats
There are a variety of different heat pump thermostats available today. The majority are digital and some have more sophisticated features than others, which is typically reflected in the price.
1. Manual Thermostats: The manual variety are the most basic type of thermostats available. These are interfaces installed on the wall that allow you to set a single temperature.
2. Programmable Thermostats: As their name suggests, these types of thermostat allow you to program the unit in a variety of different ways. This largely depends on the model you choose, but the majority allow you to set a different temperature based on the time of day and over a 7 day period.
3. Wi-fi Thermostats: These thermostats are equipped with wi-fi capability. This means they can connect with your smart phone and other digital devices, allowing you to keep tabs on the temperature of your home remotely.
This can allow you to adjust the thermostat temperature on demand even when you’re not at home. This is ideal for cold snaps during the winter or for making minor adjustments so that the temperature of your home is just right for when you arrive home.
4. Smart Thermostats: Just like wi-fi thermostats, smart thermostats can be controlled remotely from different devices. The difference is that they provide you with a wide range of other helpful information, that can help you learn how to use your heat pump more efficiency, saving energy and money.
Some units even allow you to track your monthly energy use and as a result better understand how you could further limit your energy use.
What Should You Look For In A Heat Pump Thermostat?
Probably the most important factor to consider is whether the thermostat is compatible with your current heat pump system. Therefore always make sure to read the manufacturers guidelines and if necessary reach out to their customer service and ask directly.
Another important consideration is wiring. In order to connect the thermostat to your heat pump you are going to need to possibly re-wire the system. As you may expect there is a lot of variation depending on the heat pump model and thermostat brand. Therefore, make sure to check the manufacturers installation instructions before buying.
Many heat pumps have what is referred to as an auxiliary or emergency heat source. This is typically a heat strip that uses electrical resistance to get warm and is used when the outside temperature is so low that the heat pump can no longer transfer heat efficiently.
If your heat pump does have this feature, then make sure to check the thermostat supports auxiliary heat. This is important since many thermostats only support the heat pump itself and not other external heat sources.
Thermostats are a not only a sure way to help you better control how much energy you use and therefore make savings, but also makes regulating the temperature of your home much more convenient.
If you want a way to set up different heating and cooling cycles for different times of the day and make a schedule for the entire week, a smart thermostat is the best choice.
Preferably, one with a learning feature, as this will get used to your behaviour and adjust your system accordingly. This can be incredibly useful for those with busy lifestyles and for those serious about making savings. They may cost a little more upfront, but are certainly worth it in the long run.
About the Author
Dave Miller is a HVAC technician with over 10 years in the industry. Dave created HeatTalk with the ambition for it to become a resource for individuals looking for answers, whether they be a layman, student or a professional.