“When Should I Set My Thermostat to ‘Emergency Heat’?”

December 22, 2014

Your curiosity is killing you.

When exactly do you need “emergency heating”? 
 
When it gets so cold outside that water freezes mid-air?
 
Actually, the answer is simple: Only switch your thermostat to “Emergency Heat” when your heat pump isn’t working properly.  
 
For example, your heat pump isn’t providing hot air due to compressor issues or damage caused by a storm.
 
OK, so that answers the original question, but...what the heck does the “Emergency Heat” setting actually do?
 
To answer that, you need to know how a heat pump works.

Understanding how your heat pump works

During winter, your heat pump transports heat from the outside air to inside your home. (Think of it like a big heat sponge.)

But when outside temperatures drop below 40 degrees, your heat pump automatically switches on a secondary/auxiliary heating unit to help heat your home.
 
Note: Your secondary heating unit may be an inefficient electric heating coil or a furnace (if you have a hybrid heat system).
 
“Emergency Heat” manually locks down your heat pump and switches 100% of heating over to the secondary unit. 
 
Here’s why that’s bad.

Wasting money with the “Emergency Heat” setting

The default secondary heating unit (the electric heating coil) is big energy gobbler. 

Since “Emergency Heat” turns that sucker on 100% of the time, you can expect a jaw dropping electric bill in the mail. 
 
Now, if your secondary heating unit is a gas furnace, turning on “Emergency Heat” isn’t that big of a deal. 
 
But you still should allow the heat pump to run normally, allowing the furnace to automatically provide secondary heating only when needed. 

Only use “Emergency Heat” in case of a real emergency

OK, so now you know “Emergency Heat” literally means, “Only switch me on if the heat pump isn’t blowing hot air.”

The secondary heating unit should keep you warm enough until a heat pump technician can come to repair your system.
 
Got any other questions about your heating system? 
 
Ask us. We’re all ears!