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What You Need to Know About Your Heat Pump’s Emergency Heat Mode

There’s no doubt that the heat pump represents the future of home heating and cooling. While traditional heating requires the use of expensive fuels to bring the home to a comfortable temperature during the winter months, heat pumps simply draw in ambient heat from the outdoor environment. This means much lower energy costs as well as a significantly reduced environmental impact.

In some cases, however, you may need to activate your heat pump’s emergency heat mode. There are several reasons you might have to do so; however, it’s important not to turn the emergency heat on unless it’s absolutely necessary. Here, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about your heat pump’s emergency heat mode.

How a Heat Pump Works


As we mentioned, a heat pump works by drawing in ambient heat from the outside. It actually works in much the same way as your refrigerator does. After all, all a refrigerator is really doing is moving heat energy from one place to another. It does this through the use of special coils containing a refrigerant chemical. This chemical draws in heat energy naturally. Once this has happened, the coils become quite hot while the air around them begins to cool significantly.

To heat a home, the now-heated refrigerant is pumped from outside into the indoor component of the heat pump. The heat energy that has been absorbed begins to warm up the air, which is then circulated through a room by a blower motor. During the summer, this process can be reversed, and heat energy can be absorbed from within the home and dissipated outside, cooling the home and serving as an air conditioner.

There are many benefits of heat pumps over other methods of heating and cooling. We’ve already mentioned the reduced energy costs, but there’s also their ability to cool only specific rooms of the home. This means you can avoid wasting energy on heating rooms that no one is currently occupying. Heat pumps also do not require a complex system of ducts in order to operate; this is beneficial because many buildings do not have these. This is either because they are too old and were constructed before ducts became common, or they are too new and were constructed after ducts began to fall out of style.

What Can Go Wrong

Under most circumstances, a heat pump is the best method for heating your home. However, as with any piece of technology, it has its limits. When the weather becomes extremely cold—well below freezing—the heat pump may struggle to pull enough ambient heat from the environment. The heat pump is also vulnerable to physical damage, which can take place during inclement winter weather. For example, after a severe snowstorm, the pump may freeze over or a tree limb may be blown onto it, causing it to cease functioning.

If you have trouble with your heat pump, your first step should be to contact the professionals at Entek. Our dedicated team of HVAC technicians is highly experienced with this relatively new technology, and we offer 24/7 emergency services if necessary. In the meantime, you may have to turn on your heat pump emergency heat mode to keep your home warm while you wait.

What Is Emergency Heat Mode?

Most heat pumps come equipped with an emergency heat mode, also called an auxiliary heat mode. When it’s turned on, your heat pump will essentially become an electric heater, generating the heat itself using electricity rather than pulling it from the environment. This may become necessary if your heat pump is failing completely to provide any heat energy, which can happen if the outside temperature is too cold (although, it would have to be extremely cold) or if the mechanism is damaged.

When Should It Be Turned On?

Deciding when to turn on your heat pump emergency heat mode is more about understanding when not to turn it on. When it’s particularly cold outside, you might hear your heat pump running continuously and sounding like it’s working extra hard. Some homeowners hear this and, assuming the heat pump is struggling, switch on the emergency heat mode to avoid driving up their energy bills. Do not do this. It will backfire, as the emergency setting is a great deal more expensive to run than the normal “heat” setting due to the need to generate its own heat.

So while a heat pump is normally a good deal cheaper to operate than a natural gas or propane furnace, turning on the emergency setting will become more expensive than either one.

You should only turn on your heat pump’s emergency setting if it’s truly an emergency, as in, your heat pump is not heating your home at all. It’s not to be used just because it’s cold outside. Only if the weather outside is cold enough to be dangerous and is preventing your heat pump from operating or if the heat pump is actually not operating properly.

If you notice that your heat pump is not providing any heat, switch on the emergency heat mode and contact your HVAC professional for an emergency repair.

Alternatives to Emergency Heat Mode

Because your heat pump’s emergency setting is so costly in terms of energy usage, you may want to consider an alternative method of heating your home instead. For example, if your home has access to a natural gas or propane line, you might ask the professionals at Entek to install a more traditional heating method for you to use as a backup when it’s absolutely necessary.

If it comes down to it, though, your heat pump emergency heat mode is there to keep your home safe during the winter if there’s a problem. Don’t be afraid to use it if necessary, and periodically ask your HVAC professional to provide maintenance to your heat pump to ensure that it remains in good working order, even as the coldest days of the year arrive.

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