If you examine your thermostat, you may come across settings for auxiliary heat and emergency heat. These options are commonly used by homeowners but may not always be well understood. Both of these heating settings are designed to provide extra heat, but there are some key differences between auxiliary heat vs emergency heat.
Heat Pump: Understanding Auxiliary & Emergency Heat
- 1 Heat Pump: Understanding Auxiliary & Emergency Heat
- 2 When to Use Auxiliary or Emergency Heat
- 3 For All Of Your HVAC Concerns, Call Townsend Energy
When it comes to heat pumps, manufacturers often label the system’s components with terms like “auxiliary” and “emergency.” These labels refer to the different ways that the system can provide additional heat.
A heat pump system consists of an outdoor unit, which is the heat pump itself, and an indoor unit, which is the auxiliary heating system. When the weather is relatively warm, the heat pump can extract enough heat from the outside to keep the indoor temperature comfortable. However, in colder weather, the heat pump may not be able to generate enough heat on its own to maintain a comfortable temperature in the home. In these situations, the auxiliary heat system comes into play. It helps supplement the heat pump by providing additional heat as needed.
The emergency heat function, on the other hand, is a manual setting that can be used if there is a problem with the heat pump. This setting bypasses the heat pump and uses an alternate heating source to heat the home.
What is Auxiliary Heat?
Auxiliary heat is a setting on a heat pump system that is used when the outside temperature is too cold for the heat pump to efficiently heat the home on its own. It supplements the heat pump by providing extra heat using a secondary source, such as electric heating coils, to ensure that the desired indoor temperature is reached.
When the auxiliary heat setting is activated, the heat pump will continue to pull in as much heat as it can from the outside, but it will also use the secondary heat source to maintain the desired indoor temperature. If the outdoor temperature increases and the heat pump is able to efficiently heat the home on its own, the auxiliary heat setting will automatically turn off.
What is Emergency Heat?
Emergency heat is a setting on a heat pump system that is used in emergency situations, such as when the heat pump is not functioning properly. This setting is activated manually and bypasses the heat pump, using an alternate heating source, such as a furnace, to heat the home.
The emergency heat setting is meant to be used as a temporary solution when there is not enough time to call a technician for repairs or when the heat pump is not working. It serves as the secondary heat source for the system, allowing the home to continue to be heated while the heat pump is being repaired or replaced.
When to Use Auxiliary or Emergency Heat
Auxiliary heat should be used as a backup to the heat pump when the thermostat registers a difference of at least 3 degrees between the actual temperature and the desired temperature. This indicates that the indoor temperature is too low, and the auxiliary heat will be activated to supplement the heat pump and provide extra heat to bring the temperature up to the desired level.
Emergency heat, on the other hand, should only be used in emergency situations when there is a problem with the heat pump’s functioning. This is a manual setting that can be turned off once the issue with the heat pump has been resolved by an HVAC technician.
Heat Pump Produces Inadequate Heat
There may be times when the heat pump is unable to produce enough heat to keep the home at the desired temperature. This can occur when the outdoor temperature is too cold for the heat pump to efficiently heat the home on its own. In these situations, the auxiliary heat mode can be activated to supplement the heat pump and provide extra heat.
The auxiliary heat mode uses the heat pump’s electric resistance heating function to provide additional heat. When the auxiliary heat mode is turned on, the heat pump will continue to pull in as much heat as it can from the outside, but it will also use the electric resistance heating function to help maintain the desired indoor temperature.
Your Unit is in “Defrost” Mode
In cold weather, it is not uncommon for ice to build up on the outdoor unit of a heat pump system. When this happens, the system may switch to “defrost mode” to melt the ice. During defrost mode, the heat pump will stop heating the home and instead push hot refrigerant to the outdoor unit to melt the ice.
While the heat pump is in defrost mode, the auxiliary heat mode will take over to ensure that the home is still heated.
How to Tell if Your Heat Pump is in Defrost Mode
There are a few signs that your heat pump may be in defrost mode:
- You may notice water or steam coming from the outdoor heat pump.
- The outdoor unit fan may stop running.
- Some models may have a blinking light indicator that indicates when the heat pump is in defrost mode.
If you see any of these signs, it is likely that your heat pump is in defrost mode. This is a normal operation of the system and is meant to melt any ice that has built up on the outdoor unit. During defrost mode, the auxiliary heat mode will take over to ensure that the home is still heated.
How to Prevent Auxiliary Heat from Activating
There are a few ways you can help prevent the auxiliary heat mode from turning on:
- Lower the set heat temperature: If you set the thermostat at a temperature that is too high, the auxiliary heat may be activated to compensate for the heat pump’s inability to generate enough heat. To avoid this, try setting the temperature between 62 and 68 degrees. This will keep your home warm without putting unnecessary strain on your heating system.
- Make your home more comfortable: There are some simple steps you can take to help your heating system work more efficiently. Make sure windows and doors leading outside are closed and locked. Instead of turning up the heat, try wearing thick or layered clothing to stay warm.
- Shut off unused rooms: If your system allows you to turn off the heating in specific areas, consider doing so for rooms that are not being used. Close the doors or vents in these rooms to help redistribute warm air to the rest of the house.
- Thermostat constantly on auxiliary heat setting: If you find that your thermostat is consistently set to the auxiliary heat mode for long periods of time, it may be a sign that there is an issue with your system. It could be a problem with the system itself or with the size or capacity of the system. In this case, it is a good idea to contact a professional HVAC technician for an inspection.
- Schedule seasonal heat pump tune-ups: Regular maintenance is important for the health and efficiency of your heating system. A well-maintained system is more reliable and has a longer lifespan. It is a good idea to schedule an inspection before the winter season to have any issues fixed and any damaged parts repaired or replaced.
The heat pump works especially hard during the winter months. While it is designed to be reliable even in extreme temperatures, it may not always function at its best if it is subjected to too much stress due to high demand. By taking a few simple precautions, you can help ensure that your heat pump is ready to handle the challenges of winter. This can include setting the thermostat at a reasonable temperature, making your home more comfortable, shutting off unused rooms, and scheduling regular maintenance check-ups.
For All Of Your HVAC Concerns, Call Townsend Energy
For heating and cooling services in Northeastern Massachusetts, Southern New Hampshire, and Maine, call Townsend Energy. Our technicians have the skills and integrity to provide you with HVAC services that will increase your comfort, efficiency, and reduce your energy costs.
Should you need repair work or a replacement system, we can help you make the choices that will accommodate your needs and finances. What’s more, we stand behind our work with a satisfaction guarantee. Contact Townsend Energy today. Also, we can provide simple maintenance for your system, as well as give you a free estimate in the comfort of your own home for any job or installation you are considering.