When it comes to the emergency heat switch on a heat pump thermostat, many people become confused.  What it is exactly?  What does it mean when it’s on?  When do I use it?

Here’s the short answer:  You should only set the thermostat to “emergency heat” when your heat pump stops heating altogether. And if that’s the case, you should be calling a HVAC professional for help.  Otherwise, we suggest keeping your thermostat on “heat.”  Many people think that emergency heat is designed to be used during especially cold temperatures, but it’s really designed to be turned on by the homeowner during emergency situations when something happens to your heat pump.

Want more explanation than that?

A heat pump works like an air conditioner but in reverse by moving heat, instead of cold air, around from one place to another heating your home.  During the winter, it moves heat from outside to inside of your home.

However, when the temperature outside drops your heat pump struggles to extract heat from the outside to meet the warmer temperature you have set on your thermostat.  To help make up for this colder weather, your heat pump starts to use backup heat sources to supplement its efforts.  Some heat pumps use electric heat coils (think like inside a toaster) to boost heat; but these use substantially more electricity resulting in a higher energy bill for you.

So how does this all relate to the emergency heat?

When your thermostat is set to emergency heat, your heat pump will stop trying to extract heat from outside to heat your home.  The heat pump will now only use the backup electric heat coils to heat your home.

This means your heat pump is acting as an electric furnace, which costs even more to run than a gas furnace. So yes, when it’s very cold outside your heat pump will be running longer, but it’s better than paying more money to turn on the heat strip for the same amount of heat.

For all-electric systems, if we ask you to turn on your emergency heat it’s not to spike your energy bill, it’s to help keep you and your family warm until your heat pump can be fixed.

If your heat pump is having trouble heating and you need to switch to emergency heat, please contact us, City Heat and Air Conditioning at 865-938-1005 or click www.cityheatandair.com to visit us online.