How Do Heaters Work in a Tesla? Heat Pump Advantages

Teslas do not have the benefits such as ICE vehicles where they can simply extract the heat from the engines. They had to actually create extra heaters. So, how does a Tesla heater function?

Teslas use two types of heaters. One heater used in pre-2020 models uses electric resistance. This is a high-quality filament where hot air passes through. The other is a heat pump used in all current models. It uses a refrigerant that heats when exposed to low temperatures and opposite in Summer.

Check out the rest of this article to find the advantages and disadvantages of Tesla’s Approach to EV Heating. It can be a bit technical, but bare with me.

Tesla Uses a Fresh Approach to Heating Cars

Many conventional cars use engine heat to warm up the cabin. This is an efficient system because the engine uses its own heat and fan to do all the work. All you have to do is point it in the right direction, and you are good to go.

In contrast, Teslas use an electric resistance heater or heat pump to warm the air as it circulates through the cabin. 

How Each of Tesla’s Heaters Work

The electric resistance heater is basically a high-quality filament. When electricity flows through the filament, it heats up pretty fast. The air picks up heat as it passes through the hot filament and is distributed throughout the cabin.

Did you know?

The electric resistance heater can heat the cabin to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius) in 5 minutes. This is because it can generate a lot of heat very quickly. 

On the other hand, the heat pump consumes a negligible amount of electricity to pass heat from one location to another. It uses a refrigerant that heats when exposed to low temperatures. This heat is then distributed into the cabin by a fan. In the summer, it does the reverse and takes heat out of the car’s interior.

Heating SystemPower ConsumptionEfficiency Usage
Electric Resistance1.6 kWhGoodPre-2020 models
Heat pump0.8 kWhExcellentCurrently used in all models

This table shows the two heaters Tesla has used in its cars and how they compare against each other.

Here is a Youtube video that talks about this topic in-depth: 

Advantages of Tesla’s Approach to EV Heating

I have found that the electric resistance heater does a great job of evenly heating the cabin. However, the most significant advantage of this new approach is that it’s much more efficient than the old engine-driven system. 

For example, the electric resistance heater only uses as much power as is needed to heat the cabin to the desired temperature. That means it will not use any resources while in the standby state. This allows you to save the juice and use it for other important things like range.

The heat pump is more effective than the filament method because it uses even less power. It is also very effective at heating and cooling the cabin.

I wrote a related article where I uncovered which kind of coolant Teslas use and how it works exactly. Also find out how often you will need to change the coolant in your Tesla. Check it out!

Disadvantages of Tesla’s Approach to Heating Their Cars

The major drawback of an electric heating system is excessive power usage. Heaters are power-hungry devices, and this will put a strain on the battery.

In freezing weather, the heater may use so much power that the range of the car will be reduced significantly. This is not a big problem in range plus vehicles, but it’s something to be aware of.

Another potential disadvantage is that heaters will not work if the power is too low. This is not a big deal if you live in an area with a reliable power grid, but it’s something to think about if you live in a rural area.

Overall, I think the advantages of the electric resistance heater outweigh the disadvantages. I’m glad that Tesla chose this approach for heating their cars.

Random Fun Fact:

Nissan started using heat pumps long before Tesla in 2013. While this heating system isn’t used in all Leaf models, the Leaf was the first major electric or hybrid vehicle to use this kind of heating system. 

The Maximum Heat a Tesla Can Push Out

Tesla can push out the heat you need to keep the vehicle in your desired climate, but the maximum power that the heater can use is 1.6 kWh. 

However, it will only use this much power when it first turns on. After that, it will use only what’s necessary to keep you nice and warm.

Some People Find Tesla’s Heating Solution Too Taxing

The main complaint I’ve seen about Tesla’s heating solution is that it’s too power-hungry, especially the filament one. This is a fair criticism because the system can actually eat up your range.

The heat pump is a better idea. It is practical and does not need as much power to control the climate. I think this is a win-win.

Random Stat:

Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular, with Tesla leading the way. In 2017, they sold over 100,000 vehicles, and their Model 3 was the best-selling luxury car in the US.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Can a Tesla Heater Run?

You can run the heater for 36 hours when stationary, but this number can drop significantly when driving in colder weather.

Does the heat pump use a lot of power?

A heat pump is more effective than a filament-based heater using half of its power consumption at 0.8 kWh.

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Erwin Meyer
Erwin Meyer

Thanks for visiting The goal of this site is to be a helpful resource for Tesla and EV owners as this is where my passion lies. I was a TSLA shareholder before the hype and still am. I also believe in Tesla’s speedy mission to accelerate the world to a sustainable future.