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“Grandma Heat”: How We Find Just the Right Heating for Comfort and Savings


Did your grandma have something like this in her home?

Hey everybody! Happy October, a fun time of the year—but also one where I have to get serious about discussing cold weather. It’s coming up fast and everyone here at Russell & Abbott wants you and your family to be safe and cozy through the season. But we don’t want you to have to pay too much to be cozy, and, unfortunately, many people don’t realize they’re paying for extra heat they don’t need.

That’s where our team comes in! I’m going to explain how we can find the ideal amount of supplemental heat for your heat pump so you can make it through the iciest winter day without burning through your bank account. Except we don’t call it “supplemental heat.” We call it “grandma heat,” and I’ll dig into why below.

Heat Pumps and Grandma Heat

We’re “heat pump country” because heat pumps are ideal for our climate! They handle summer weather without trouble, and they can deal with most winter days. But when winter gets too cold, a heat pump will struggle, and it needs extra heat from another source. This extra heat is what we call “grandma heat.”

Why is that? Well, did your grandma have a small electric heater in her house to help her keep warm? Many grandparents did, making the sight of these electric heaters familiar. Heat pumps rely on electrical resistance heating, like these old heaters use, to help them when the weather gets too cold, so we call this extra heating “grandma heat.”

It’s our goal to find the right amount of units of grandma heat for your heat pump that will hit the ideal balance: the warmth you need on the coldest days without energy waste. The tricky thing with grandma's heat is that it’s expensive to use—it drains more electricity than the heat pump—so you don’t want too much of it. 

Finding the Right Amount of Grandma Heat

I’ll let you in on a dark secret that a lot of less, well, reputable HVAC folks do when they put in a heating system for a house. They install a heater that pumps out enormous amounts of heat, more than the house needs, because they don’t want to be bothered with an emergency call later on. Sure, the house will stay warmer for longer if the heater gives out, but the rest of the season, year after year, that heating system drains massive amounts of energy—often from expensive grandma heat.

We never do this! When we come into your home, we’ll ask you questions to find out what temperature your household needs for comfort. We then do a load calculation to determine how much heat your heat pump must put out to reach that temperature, and how many units of grandma heat it’ll need when the outside temperature drops too low. This way you’ll never have to pay for excess heat you don’t need.

For example, let’s say we find a home that’s been using 10 units of grandma heat, but we find that it only needs 8 units with the right heat pump. That’s a 20% savings. Calculate that over the years, and you can see how this adds up!

This is how we make heat pumps in Knoxville, TN, and everywhere else we service, work the best for our customers. These extra steps and personal attention are what have made us a trusted part of the community. 

Stay warm,