If the temperatures start to drop outside, keeping your home warm quickly and efficiently becomes a top priority and quite challenging too. Heat pumps are proficient in regulating temperatures to keep your home cozy during winter. Albeit, they bear some restrictions like the inability to produce heat when outdoor units freeze in icy conditions. That is when the emergency heat setting on your home thermostat becomes your lifesaver. 

What Is Emergency Heat?

Healthiest temperature for your home

Have you ever wondered what happens if your primary heat pump becomes damaged or is unable to meet your home heating needs? Unfortunately, these situations can arise during extremely cold weather.

Sometimes the damage is physical, like a block of ice falling on top of your outdoor heat pump, or perhaps the entire unit has frozen over. Additionally, this physical damage may lead to more technical damage.

The snow and ice in colder climates may cause improper airflow because your heat pumps are unable to pull in the outside air, which will lead to water blockage inside your heat pumps and cause them to freeze and crack. As a result, your heat pump will have extensive damage, and that damage may even lead to unit failure.

In such cases, you will recall the emergency heating option most thermostats have. Emergency Heating is a backup or supplementary heating source in case of events like when your primary heat pump fails to achieve your set temperature, or any other emergency arises. It is also called Auxiliary Heating.

Emergency heat comes in various types; if you have an all-electric home, then the emergency heat will use an electric-resistant heating system such as electric baseboard heaters; however, your backup heating can also use a furnace powered by natural gas, propane, oil, and fuel.

When to use Emergency Heat?

It needs to be clarified when you should use this setting. As its name implies, this backup heating should only be used in case of emergencies or situations requiring a backup. You must ensure you don’t turn on your emergency heating in any other case, as your energy expenses may increase and will be reflected in your bills.

You should only turn on emergency heating in cases where your first-stage heating faces any problems in its functioning. There are two main reasons why you would require the use of emergency or second-stage heating:

  • Your primary heating source has failed. You will immediately notice a difference in your home’s heating if this occurs, as your home will stop feeling warm, and as such, this will prompt you to shift to emergency heating.
  • Freezing temperatures can cause issues such as ice buildup leading to inefficient home heating. Your primary heat pump will find difficulty in pulling air from the outside; this may cause freezing and lead to heat pump failure.

How does Emergency Heat work?

condo thermostats

Emergency Heat is a secondary heat source that comes into play when your primary heating system fails. It can be a lifesaver during a winter power outage or furnace malfunction. This backup heating system typically uses electric resistance heating, which is less efficient than your primary heating system, but is reliable when you need it the most. 

When the heat pump sensing element detects outdoor temperatures too low to extract heat from the air, it automatically switches to emergency heat mode. This will cause your system to run on electric heat strips that work as a backup heat source. However, it is important to remember that running your heating system on emergency heat for extended periods can cause your electric bills to skyrocket. Therefore, it is crucial to have your primary heating system fixed as soon as possible.

When does your Emergency Heating turn on?

You can manually turn on the emergency heating in your smart thermostat; when you do, you will notice a red light indicator. In this case, your primary source is automatically turned off, and your secondary source is activated to provide you heat and warmth. However, if you want to turn off the emergency heating mode, you must also do that manually. It will not turn off automatically.

In other cases, some thermostats can automatically turn on the emergency heating if the temperature falls below a certain degree. And they turn off automatically when it achieves the desired temperature level. 

Is Emergency Heat costly?

One of the most common mistakes made is activating your emergency heat with the intent of making your home warmer than before. This is a misconception, especially if you have an electric-resistant backup source. As a result, your energy bills will only skyrocket, and your home will not turn warmer.

Apart from electric-resistant sources, which are very expensive to run, you’ll find that even oil and gas heating sources are also costly compared to the regular running of your primary heat pump.

Furthermore, turning your emergency mode on is not a permanent solution, as many think it is. It should only be turned on during emergencies where issues of your primary source arise and during the time it takes to fix it.

Why is your Emergency Heat light on?

thermostat for radiator

If you haven’t turned on your backup heat, but the emergency heat light is still on, then it means there is something wrong with your heating system. You should immediately call for HVAC professionals to inspect for any damages to your heat pump.

Something is probably damaged, so fix it immediately to minimize the time your heating system is on and prevent extra costs and energy waste. 

The takeaway

Any potential issues arising are why it is important to get experts to check your heating system to prevent any breakdowns, damages, or other system failure events that may lead to activating the emergency heating.

This is so that you can save on the excessive energy costs you might have to give in the future and maintain your home HVAC systems to encourage smooth and efficient running.

What is the emergency heat setting on your thermostat? was last modified: May 19th, 2023 by Billy Guteng
Your opinion matters, leave a comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments