Heat Pumps: When to Switch to Emergency Heat
If your home is a bit chillier than usual, it might be time to utilize the emergency heat setting on your thermostat. On the coldest days of winter, even well-maintained heat pumps may not be able to meet your home heating needs. That's when homeowners can crank things up with the flip of a switch.
What does the emergency heat setting do? We'll walk you through the basics of the emergency heat feature and show you how to turn it on.
What Is Emergency Heat?
If you have a thermostat with an emergency heat switch or function, odds are you have a heat pump. This feature will turn off your heat pump and switch your home's heating system to another HVAC heating system in reserve, usually a new electric furnace or your pre-existing natural gas, propane, or heating oil furnace.
At What Temperature Should You Switch to Emergency Heat?
There isn't a universal temperature to turn on this feature. The home size, preferred thermostat setting, and outdoor temperatures all factor into the decision. As its name implies, you should only switch to emergency heat on the very coldest days to prevent damage to your heat pump.
We recommend using your emergency heat in two scenarios:
- Your heat pump is broken, and you're awaiting emergency repairs
- Your heat pump is iced over or unable to maintain a safe indoor temperature level
Remember, your backup heat source may be more expensive than your heat pump, so switch back as soon as repairs are made, or the outdoor temperatures warm up.
Related: What Is More Expensive: Heating or Cooling?
How to Switch to Emergency Heat
Making the switch is easy! In most cases, you'll be able to switch to emergency heat by selecting the "EM Heat" setting on your thermostat. Locating this setting may differ slightly based on your thermostat manufacturer, but you can usually follow these steps:
- From the home screen, select "Menu"
- From the menu screen, select "System"
- From the system screen, select "EM Heat" or "Emergency Heat"
Listen for the backup heating system to turn on. In the next 30 minutes or so, your indoor temperature should match your preferred thermostat setting if it wasn’t before.
I Don't Have a Digital Thermostat; Where Is The Emergency Heat Switch?
Some units have a physical switch on the thermostat itself or the heat pump. If you're not sure how to activate the emergency heat setting, contact your heat pump manufacturer for details.
Will My Heat Pump Automatically Switch to Emergency Heat?
Not always. Homeowners in the coldest regions should consider automating their home heat system using a smart thermostat. Called dual-fuel HVAC systems, these measure current energy needs and automatically switch from heat pump to furnace and back again. This is considered the most energy-efficient system for those in the coldest climates. Your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning technician can help you decide if a dual system is right for you.