The thermostat that controls your heat pump has a switch that is most likely displayed as “Em Heat” or “Emer Heat”. This controls the use of your Emergency Heat.
Many people believe that this function is meant to be used whenever it is excessively cold outside—however, this is actually not the case.
In order to adequately explain when it is necessary to use your Emergency Heat, you must first understand its intended purpose.
What Is Emergency Heat?
Used for the heating and cooling of your home, the heat pump is a type of HVAC system that either extracts heat from your home to cool or directs heat from the outside air into your home for heating.
The heat pump—referred to as first-stage heating—is the primary method that is used to heat your home. However, in northern climates where it is common for the temperature to drop below 40 degrees, it is necessary to have a second-stage, or backup heating option.
When the outdoor temperature gets to be this low, it is difficult for the heat pump to collect any heat to transfer into your home. Instead, the supplemental heating system will automatically turn on and work together with the heat pump to help maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.
The Emergency Heat option on your thermostat is a manual switch that allows this supplemental heating system to run by itself, without the operation of the primary heating stage (the heat pump). It is only necessary to use your Emergency Heat when the heat pump itself is not performing.
Take a look at this interactive video on how to turn your Emergency Heat on and off:
When Do You Need Emergency Heat?
Coming home to a cold house during the snowy winter months is not the ideal position to find yourself in. However, if this does happen to you, it is likely that your heat pump is no longer functioning and needs to be repaired.
Though the average lifespan of a heat pump is about 15 years, you may run into other troubles throughout that time that can cause the heat pump to become inoperative—this is the type of situation in which your Emergency Heat becomes necessary.
Switching the thermostat to the Emergency Heat mode will allow the backup heating system to operate on its own so that you are still able to heat your home even when your heat pump fails. Hence the name “Emergency Heat”—it should only be used in case of emergency heating situations.
Why You Should Avoid Using Emergency Heat
So, why not just use the emergency heat freely? Most supplemental heating systems are made up of a strip of electric heat coils (similar to those you see in a toaster oven) in order to generate and transfer enough heat throughout your home.
This strip of coils must work in place of the heat pump in order for your home to return to a comfortable temperature.
However, because a small strip is having to make up for the entire heat pump unit, there is much more energy being used to create the same amount of heat.
Because the coils require so much more energy, they are much more expensive to operate than your first-stage heating system, meaning your energy costs will spike throughout the time that your backup heating system is being used. For this reason, it is important to use your Emergency Heat only when it is absolutely necessary.
Although the heat pump seems to be the best all-around heating option in terms of efficiency, comfort, convenience, and many other aspects, you may want to consider other heating options if you live in a climate that frequently drops below 40 degrees.
Get Free, No-Obligation Estimates on Heat Pump Repair Services Today!
If you ever come home to find that your heat pump is out of commission, it is nice to know that the Emergency Heat is there to fall back on. However, it is important to address and resolve the issue as soon as possible to avoid rising energy bills and further damage to your HVAC system.
Pro HVAC Service specializes in connecting individuals and businesses with affordable HVAC contractors that can diagnose and fix the problem in no time.
For free, no-obligations estimates on heating repair services in your area, simply fill out the form to the right or give us a call at (844) 769-5995. Within minutes, you will receive multiple estimates from reliable HVAC technicians that are able to complete your HVAC service quickly and within budget.