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Emergency Heat and How to Use It

Female turning on emergency heat at the thermostat

Emergency heat – it sounds scary and we’ve all seen it on our thermostats. But do we all know what it is and how to use it? It’s a setting that is a mystery to many who don’t understand its purpose yet it is in almost all of our homes.

The emergency heat switch is a setting found on most heat pumps yet its purpose and function often confuses people. What is it? When is it used? Should it be turned on when it gets really cold? If you have ever pondered these same questions, don’t worry, we’re here to give you all the answers.

Understanding Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are an essential part of your HVAC system. They are responsible for both the heating and cooling process. In the winter, even when it is cold outside, your heat pump can source sufficient ambient heat from the outside air and transfer it into your home. Heat pumps are popular especially in milder climates because of their energy efficiency.

What is Emergency Heat?

All heat pumps need a supplemental heating source especially when it is too cold to draw heat from the outside air. The supplemental heat can also be known as “back-up” or “second-stage” heating with your heat pump being the “first-stage”. When temperatures drop below 40 degrees outside, your heat pump struggles to extract heat from the air. In this case, the heat pump uses a strip of electric heat coils to help warm the air. Setting your thermostat to emergency heat shuts off the heat pump and uses only the backup heat coils to heat your home. As you can imagine this uses a lot of electricity and can be very expensive.

When Do You Use It?

As it is aptly named, emergency heat should only be used in emergency situations. It is reserved for when the “first-stage” heating fails or there is something wrong with the heat pump itself. When the heat pump is no longer capable of providing heat, switch your thermostat to emergency heat and call for service.

Should It Be Turned on When It’s Really Cold?

The simple answer is no. Only turn the emergency heat on when the heat pump is not working at all to heat your home. Running your heat pump on emergency heat is less efficient and can be very expensive.

If you find yourself in the cold this winter because of a failing heat pump, give Bradley Mechanical a call. We provide heat pump repair, maintenance, and installation throughout all of Central Virginia. Our heat pump technicians are certified and trained professionals who have many years of experience working on heat pumps and HVAC systems. We will work fast and efficiently to troubleshoot your problem, diagnose the issue and then determine the best course of action to get your heating system back online. Give Bradley Mechanical a call today at (804) 748-6728 and “We’ll Get You Outta the Fix You’re In.”