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What is a Heat Pump’s Emergency Heat Setting?

small_3128796890If you have a heat pump installed in your home, you might have noticed a strange setting on your thermostat: emergency heat. This setting can be confusing for St. Louis area homeowners, especially if they just recently switched from a gas furnace to a heat pump. So let’s take a look at what a heat pump’s emergency heat setting is and when it should be used!

All heat pumps have a backup heating source

Heat pumps are energy-efficient alternatives to standard gas furnaces. They work by using electricity to extract heat from the air outside and move it into your home. This works great down to a specific outdoor temperature, but when it gets severely cold outside heat pumps begin to lose their efficiency and effectiveness. That’s when a backup heating source is used to heat your home until the temperature warms back up.

The backup heating source in heat pumps can come in a few different forms. Some heat pumps use electric resistance heating as their backup, which can quickly consume a whole lot of energy. More energy-efficient systems, known as hybrid heating systems, use a much more efficient gas furnace as their backup heating source.

No matter what kind of heat pump you have, the switch between using the heat pump and using the backup heating source is done completely automatically by the system.

What is a heat pump’s emergency heat setting?

Emergency heat is a setting on a heat pump’s thermostat that can be used instead of the normal “heat” and “cool” modes. When this setting is turned on, your heat pump will be turned off and your backup heating source will be the only thing that’s used to heat your home.

When should a heat pump’s emergency heat setting be used?

It might be tempting to switch to the emergency heat setting when it’s extremely cold outside, but remember that the switch to the backup heating source is done automatically when heat pumps are working normally.

A heat pump’s emergency setting should only be used when your heat pump stops working properly. If you detect something wrong with your system, you can use the emergency heat setting to keep your home warm while you wait for a Jerry Kelly technician to arrive.

This setting should not be used if your heat pump is working properly, because the backup source will consume more energy than the heat pump (especially if it uses electric resistance heating as it’s backup).

If you have any questions about the emergency heat setting on your heat pump, or if you’d like a heating and cooling system serviced or installed in your home, contact Jerry Kelly, your St. Louis heating and cooling contractor. We service the St. Louis area, including towns like Des Peres, Frontenac and Ladue.

photo credit: sean dreilinger via photopin cc