A heat pump works like a heater in the winter and an air conditioner in the summer. Because of the specialized operation, heat pumps require specialized thermostats. Not all HVAC thermostats are designed to work with heat pumps.
This article will explain heat pumps and how thermostats operate them. We will also cover the different types of thermostats and what you should look for when buying or replacing your heat pump thermostat. When you are ready to buy, look through our list of the 7 best heat pump thermostats, reviewed and compared for your convenience.
Heat pump thermostats have a simple job. They work to turn the heat pump on or off based on input criteria, such as time, current temperature, or other smart home features (geofencing, for example).
The basic function is temperature based. When the interior temperature falls below the set number, the thermostat switches the heat pump on. Once the set temp is reached, the thermostat turns the heat pump off. This switching can also be triggered by schedules or specific times of day, or not at all if you aren’t home.
Advantages of Installing a Thermostat
The primary benefit of installing a thermostat is automatic control. You don’t need to get up and turn the heat pump on when you get cold and off when you get too hot. You can set a temperature on the thermostat, which will then regulate the temperature of your home based on that setting.
Since the thermostat is more sensitive to temperature changes than we are, it is more efficient, saving money on your energy bill, and in some cases lowering your energy costs, offering tax breaks, or other money-saving options.
Considerations Before Buying Thermostats for Heat Pumps
Before you go and spend your money on a new heat pump thermostat, there are several things you need to plan for, think about, and consider.
Type of Thermostat
There are three types of thermostats, and they each perform a little differently. We will inspect these later on. For now, you should know that the three types are mechanical, electrical, and smart.
Mechanical thermostats are the least expensive and have virtually no functionality. You set a temperature and turn them on or off. We can program electric thermostats with time and date schedules and manual or automatic switching.
Smart thermostats can also be programmed, but also connect wirelessly to your smart home devices or mobile phone. Through an app, you can program, schedule, and operate the thermostat from anywhere.
Not all thermostats work with all HVAC equipment. You will need to ensure that your chosen thermostat will work with a heat pump. If you want it to control other devices, it will need to be compatible with the type, brand, and size.
Your heat pump thermostat can replace most other thermostats when compatible, running your air handler, AC, heat pump, ventilation, and fans. Some models will even run humidifiers and dehumidifiers.
Wiring & Installation Requirements
Mostly, heat pump thermostats are considered a DIY project. They don’t take a lot of knowledge or effort to install.
You will need to understand the basic wiring. If you are replacing an existing thermostat, you can take pictures or label the wires. A new install will need some extra knowledge. When all else fails, you can always hire an HVAC technician to install the thermostat for you.
We can program electric and smart thermostats. If this is an interest for you, you will need to avoid mechanical thermostats. Programming allows you to change the set temperature based on time of day or day of the week. The thermostat will only turn on the thermostat when the set temperature is reached and only between the scheduled times.
Smart thermostats are the only versions with WiFi accessibility. Connecting to your home network, you can use mobile apps, voice commands, and third party controls to run the heat pump. You may even be able to have the thermostat learn your habits and begin to run the heat pump on its own without any input from you.
Aesthetics & Design
Some thermostats are just ugly. There isn’t a nice way to say it. A big, square block on the wall that may or may not light up. On the other hand, some thermostats go out of their way to be aesthetically pleasing. With futuristic controls, sleek styling, and a multitude of faceplate designs to match your décor, you can find one that fits your style.
Price & Warranty
The price will be a consideration as well. We buy mechanical thermostats daily for a few bucks. Smart thermostats can cost hundreds. Electronic thermostats fall in between. Whatever your budget calls for, the market has an option for you.
If your thermostat has a warranty, you need to check the fine print. Always read the expectations, requirements, and time frames involved in making a claim.
7 Heat Pump Thermostats Reviewed
Now we find your next heat pump thermostat. The reviews and ratings below cover the 7 best heat pump thermostats for your specific needs.
1. Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat
Our Top Pick
|Works With||Heating & Cooling|
|Compatibility||Heat pump, AC, Ventilation, some dehumidifiers|
Our top pick, the Emerson Sensi WiFi thermostat, is one of the easiest heat pump thermostats to use. A complete DIY installation, with step-by-step instructions, is completed in less than 30 minutes. The mobile app tailors the installation process based on your specific system and walks you through every step of the process.
If you want to run a heat pump, though, you must have a C-wire. This is also true for those that plan to integrate with Apple HomeKit. The wireless thermostat is programmed and run locally or through an extensive, user-friendly app.
You can create schedules, set or change temperatures, and take full control of your energy savings right from your mobile device, no matter where you are. The Sensi thermostat also integrates with Alexa, Google, and SmartThings. You can even create recipes on IFTTT.
It lacks in the aesthetics department, though, with a sizeable white bezel and square mono-color face. If you are looking for an eye-pleasing design, you may not find it here. However, you will find 23% annual energy savings (on average), and a 3-year warranty should anything go wrong.
- Step-by-step mobile app guided install
- Runs all residential HVAC equipment except baseboard heating.
- 23% annual energy bill savings
- Does not work with power extender kits, so C-wire is required for heat pumps
2. Google, T3007ES Nest 3rd Gen
Most Popular With Consumers
|Works With||Heating & Cooling|
|Compatibility||Heat pump, air handlers, ventilation, heating, and cooling systems|
The Google Nest learning thermostat is the pioneer of smart thermostats. The first generation was a success and started the entire industry. The T3007ES is the 3rd generation Nest thermostat and, by far, the most popular model.
This thermostat will run any HVAC system or component (with correct wiring, of course). For heat pumps, you will need the C-wire, though you can use a power extender kit (PEK) for direct wiring. The PEK may require professional installation. Most heat pump owners won’t need this, as they should already have a C-wire installed.
With the Nest, you won’t have to guess if you are saving energy. Each beautifully crafted thermostat is eye-pleasing, easy to use, and learns your habits. The patented Nest Leaf appears on the display when you have settings that the most economical.
The mobile app will guide you through the setup and installation, and allow you to control the entire system with a few clicks on your phone, tablet, or laptop. With Nest Farsight, you will see the bright LCD screen from across the room, which will light up when you walk by, showing you the date and time, current temperature, or weather in your area.
- Learning thermostat knows your habits and adjusts accordingly
- Nest Leaf shows you if you are being efficient enough
- Farsight will recognize your movements across the room and light the display
- May require professional install id you don’t have a C-wire
3. Honeywell TH9320WF5003
Best Honeywell Thermostat For Heat Pump
|Works With||Heating & Cooling|
|Compatibility||All HVAC systems 4H/2C and 2H/2C|
The Honeywell 9000 (TH9320WF5003) is the best Honeywell thermostat for heat pumps. It comes with integrated smart home features, works with Amazon Alexa, and features a large touch screen for simple local controls and viewing.
You can set up “scenes” that will allow the system to run based on your specific needs at any time of the day. You can also control it from the mobile app to get feedback, create zones for heating and cooling as well as connect the thermostat to any 4H/2C or 2H/2C system.
If you don’t like the look of the display, you can customize it as well. The LCD panel is available in 5 different colors to match your décor, though there isn’t anything you can do about the plain white bezel.
With a 5-year warranty and user-friendly controls, not to mention a price point that rivals most smart thermostats in this class, you won’t be disappointed. A C-wire is required for heat pump installation, so make sure your wiring is correct before purchase.
- Works with Alexa for voice controls
- Works will all HVAC systems using a C-wire
- Customizable touch screen
- Zone creation and scene enabling allow you to fine-tune controls.
- Not the most beautiful model on the market
- In-depth operation features can get confusing
Best Thermostat For Heat Pump With Auxiliary Heat
|Works With||Heating & Cooling|
|Compatibility||All HVAC systems with 4H/2C or 2H/2C connections, including gas, oil, electric, HRV, ERV.|
You are here because you are looking for the best heat pump thermostat. While we definitely understand you and give you plenty of options to choose from, the Ecobee4 is arguably the best thermostat for heat pumps with auxiliary heat.
The set up is simple. With the Ecobee mobile app, you can identify your specific system and get step-by-step instructions for the install, set up, and use. Not only that, but Amazon Alexa (with a speaker) is built-in. You can now ask your thermostat for the weather, time and temperature, or that cookie recipe you’ve been dying to try.
The Ecobee4 also comes with a room sensor (you can purchase more). The sensor acts as a temperature gauge as well as an occupancy monitor. When set up, the sensors relay the room temperature to the thermostat to help even out the temperature in the home.
Using the Follow Me feature, the system will activate to keep the rooms you occupy at the perfect temperature. If you move from one room to another, the room you occupy (with a sensor in it) will be the base temp the thermostat uses to activate the system.
- Includes room sensors
- Amazon Alexa built-in
- Eye-catching display and aesthetics
- Can get touchy if not installed far enough away from heat sources or direct sunlight
5. Honeywell RTH7600D
Value For Money
|Works With||Heating & Cooling|
|Compatibility||Heat pump, air handlers, heaters, and air conditioners|
Honeywell offers you the best value for the money with the electric thermostat RTH7600D. This touch-screen thermostat has a simple installation with minimal setup. Program the date and time and your preferred temperatures, and you are good to go.
You can schedule a 7-day program with 4 time periods per day. The thermostat also learns how long it will take your particular heat pump to heat or cool to a desired temperature. It then adjusts itself to accommodate this time, so your rooms don’t rise or drop in temperature too rapidly.
While it won’t save you as much energy as a more expensive smart thermostat, it can cut your bill by up to 12%. This means that, on average, the thermostat will pay for itself in the first 9 months of use.
For heat pumps, you will need a C-wire for installation and operation. This Honeywell thermostat is not compatible with a PEK, and homes without a C-wire won’t be able to use it. However, if your heat pump is already installed, the chances are great that your C-wire is there and ready.
- Must have a C-wire for heat pump operation
- Cannot change the appearance or display information
6. Honeywell RTH3100C1002/E1
Best Digital Non-Programmable Thermostat For Heat Pumps
|Works With||Heating & Cooling|
|Compatibility||Heat pumps only|
If you want a thermostat explicitly designed for heat pumps, the Honeywell RTH3100C1002 is the model for you. This is a mechanical thermostat, so there aren’t any complicated setups, mobile apps, or touch screens to learn.
A simple 15-minute install is all you need to start using the system. After you have run the wires, mounted the thermostat and tested for operation, you only need to select the operational mode, decide if the fan should be on, or set to auto mode and then choose your desired temperature.
The thermostat won’t learn your habits, and it isn’t a gorgeous, eye-catching model. However, with a small footprint and a simple white design, it will blend into most decors.
You also have the option to activate emergency heat mode manually (as long as your heat pump has auxiliary heat). However, you shouldn’t have to use this setting, ever. If that your heat pump isn’t working correctly, this setting is a temporary override until the service technician arrives.
- Simple installation
- Designed specifically for heat pumps
- Emergency heat mode switch
- Has no outstanding features
- Not the most eye-pleasing design
7. Honeywell YTH6320R1001
Dual Fuel Heat Pump Thermostat
|Works With||Heating & Cooling|
|Compatibility||Any HVAC equipment wired to module|
With the Honeywell FocusPro Wireless (YTH6320R1001) model, you can connect any system to the thermostat. This is the best dual-fuel heat pump thermostat you will find. Now with wireless Redlink, you connect all of your HVAC devices to the module.
The Redlink uses wireless technology to activate the system and doesn’t cause interference with other wireless devices. There is even a backup for power outages and air handler issues. When enabled, the heating is maintained at 62 degrees (F) and cooling to 82 degrees (F) until power is restored or the problem is fixed.
You can program the thermostat to control the heat pump, air handler, and return fans with a simple, easy-to-understand interface. Once set up, the system will run flawlessly, and the display will show your internal and external temperatures as well as humidity.
The energy-saving thermostat will help cut your usage and reduce your annual energy bill. With a 1-year warranty, you can rest easy knowing you are covered and that your house will maintain proper temperature year-round.
- Wireless thermostat and module
- Redlink prevents interference with other wireless devices
- Installs in minutes
- Wireless sensors may not reach to second floor
Types of Thermostats for Heat Pumps
As we talked about earlier, there are three types of thermostats for heat pumps. Let’s take a closer look at those types now.
Mechanical thermostats are the original standard. They are generally less expensive because there isn’t a lot going on. Once connected to the wiring, you can select the operation mode, which is usually heat only, heat and cool, or heat, cool and fan.
These thermostats are either on or off. You will turn them on and slide a dial or temperature selector to your desired temp range. The thermostat will then continuously turn the system on and off to keep the house at the desired temperature.
Electronic thermostats are a little fancier than a mechanical one, and they have a few more features. Most will come with a digital display (may or may not be a touch screen). You can use them like a mechanical thermostat by setting the mode and temperature and turning them on or off.
However, you can also program them. They use the date and time you set as the base for programming. You can then scroll through the days, and hour ranges within those days, to establish a schedule. During the scheduled times, the thermostat will turn the system on and off to maintain temperature. You can even program them to turn off while you are away (working hours) and on when you are home.
Smart thermostats take the electronic type and crank it up. These models connect to the internet through your home’s wireless network. They can display the date, time, and weather forecast (some even have alarms and work with your security system).
You can program them locally, like an electronic type, or through the use of a mobile app. A lot of the smart thermostats will even pair with Amazon Alexa devices, Google Assistant, or other smart home integration methods. Samsung’s SmartThings, Wink, IFTTT, are some 3rd party examples.
Some smart thermostats will have additional features such as geofencing, which activate the systems (or disable them) when you enter a set radius of your home. You can have the system off all day while at work and only kick on when you are within 2 miles of your driveway, for example.
Smart thermostats are the most expensive of the three, but they offer the most control and the highest energy efficiency of the thermostat types.
Understanding Heat Pumps
Heat pumps are among the most economical and efficient heating and cooling systems around. Depending on the region you live in, heat pumps can drastically reduce your energy bills and keep you warm (or cool) when you need it most.
Instead of working like a heater to add warmth to the air, a heat pump is more of a transfer station. You can think of them as the traffic cop sending traffic where it needs to be. Except in this case the traffic is warm air. In essence, a heat pump is a two-way air conditioner.
When the heat is on, the heat pump will move the warmer air into your home to keep you cozy. In the summer, the heat pump works the other way and removes the hot air from inside your home, keeping you cool.
Heat pumps also have what is known as emergency heat. This is a secondary heat source (usually heater coils in the air handler) that come on when the temperature outside is too cold to operate normally. This secondary heating is an automatic process and will come on by itself when needed.
If you find that you have to turn on the emergency heat manually, it is an indication that something may be wrong with your heat pump system.
Installing Heat Pump Thermostats
Installation is fairly straightforward, though there are a few things you need to pay careful attention to. No matter which of the three types of heat pump thermostats you go for, they all install the same primary way. The difference will come after the installation during the setup.
For most thermostats, the installation process will go like this:
- Turn off the breaker controlling the heat pump and any connected devices.
- Remove the faceplate of the existing thermostat, clearing off any dust or debris so you can see the wires.
- Label the wires or take a photo to note the colors and where they are connected.
- Remove the wires from the old thermostat and remove the base plate from the wall.
- If you plan to paint or repair the drywall, now is the time you want to do that.
- Run the wires through the back of the new wall plate and secure the plate to the wall.
- Using the labels or photos you took earlier, connect the wires to the correct terminals in the new thermostat.
- Push the excess wires back into the wall and attach the new faceplate.
- Restore power by flipping the breakers back on.
- Your new thermostat should light up and begin the setup sequence (electronic or smart thermostats).
- Turn the thermostat on to make sure everything works properly.
Heat Pump Thermostat Troubleshooting & Repairs
There are a lot of individual systems that can cause problems with your heat pump. If something isn’t working correctly, one of the last things we consider is the thermostat. Thermostats, though, are simple to diagnose and should be one of the first things we look at.
Here are a few things you can do to verify or eliminate the thermostat as your issue.
- Make sure the thermostat comes on. Many thermostats have a battery that runs the body/screen. If this battery dies or doesn’t have enough power, the electronics inside won’t turn the thermostat on.
- Eliminate (or verify) the thermostat by checking the wiring. Remove the faceplate and connect the red (power) wire to the white (heat) wire. If the system comes on, the thermostat is bad.
- Mechanical thermostats can fail if the wires are shorted because of dust. Clean off the wires and terminals and test the thermostat again.
You can test the wire continuity, 24-volt power supply, and other features of your system with a voltmeter and the wiring of your thermostat. This video explains, in detail, the proper steps for these tests.
Recommended Thermostat Settings to Save on Electricity
Your HVAC system can be a massive drain on your energy consumption and increase your monthly power bill. There are things you can do to help control these costs.
Maintain an even setting on the temperature of the thermostat. The setting should be low, but not so low you are too uncomfortable. For heating, a setting between 68 and 71 (F) will be the most efficient. In the summer, a cooling temperature of 76 to 78 (F) is the most economical.
Investing in a smart thermostat is the best way to get savings on your monthly bill. Smart thermostats will learn your habits and begin to run the system only when needed and only long enough to maintain the proper temperature. Smart thermostats with learning capabilities can save over 20% annually on your power bill, and many have claims of 33% or more in yearly savings.
Frequently Asked Questions
At what temperature does a heat pump switch to emergency heat?
The actual temperature will vary between models and capabilities. Though, the emergency heat mode should switch on around 34 degrees (F).
How do I reset my heat pump?
The best method of resetting your heat pump is to shut off power at the thermostat. Turn the thermostat off for 60 to 90 seconds to allow the heat pump to cycle off. Restore power to the thermostat and switch it on, allowing 10 minutes for the heat pump to activate.
Why do heat pumps require a particular type of thermostat that’s different from an air conditioner’s?
Heat pumps have a reversing valve that controls the airflow direction. Unlike an air conditioner thermostat, the heat pump thermostat needs to have the ability to send the power signal to the heat pump control board to initiate this switch.
What are the signs of a bad thermostat?
There are a few things you may notice when your thermostat is going bad. The system might stay running (or stay off). Your temperature may be warmer or colder than the set temp. The heat pump may cycle on and off continuously. Of course, if the thermostat doesn’t power on, it may be dead, as well.
At what temperature does a heat pump not effective?
A properly working heat pump is always effective. Most of the time, they are over 100% effective (better than central air). When the temperature drops to 20 degrees (F) or below, the effectiveness can drop to 100%; however, it will never fall below 100% effectiveness unless there is a problem.
Can I really save on electricity bills with a smart thermostat?
Yes. Smart thermostats have better control over the system; they don’t run as long or require as much power. Learning thermostats also know when you are home or not (motion sensors, geofencing, etc.) and will only run the system in minimal mode, fan mode, or not at all, to save on energy consumption. Most smart thermostats can save an average of 23% after the first year.
There are a lot of types and brands of thermostats for your heat pump out there. It’s challenging to know which one to choose. Mechanical, electronic, or smart, there is a thermostat for your heat pump.
This review and comparison guide should have helped you narrow down your thermostat options. If you aren’t sure which one to purchase, we highly recommend the Emerson Sensi ST55.
Last Updated on