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How To Fix Emergency Heat Automatically Activating In Heat Pumps

How To Fix Emergency Heat Automatically Activating In Heat Pumps

During the chilly winter months, having a reliable heat source is essential for maintaining a warm and comfortable home. Many homeowners rely on heat pumps to keep their indoor environment cozy. However, there’s a common question that often arises: Does emergency heat in a heat pump automatically turn on when needed? In this article, we will delve into the details of emergency heat in heat pumps, when it activates automatically, and what to do if it doesn’t. We will also explore various reasons why your heat pump may not be heating your home effectively and offer insights into temperature settings and maintenance tips.

Does Emergency Heat Activate Automatically?

How To Fix Emergency Heat Automatically Activating In Heat Pumps

In most cases, homes equipped with thermostats featuring an emergency heat setting will have this function automatically engage when the outside temperature falls to freezing or below. The purpose of this automatic activation is to ensure that your home remains warm, even in the most frigid weather conditions. While the emergency heat mode is effective in maintaining indoor comfort, it does consume more energy, which can result in a higher energy bill. However, the trade-off is the assurance of a warm home regardless of outdoor conditions.

In instances where temperatures plummet dramatically and your heat pump struggles to keep up, it’s advisable to consider manually activating emergency heat sooner. This proactive approach not only prevents your home from becoming too cold but can also save you money in the long run. To manually activate emergency heat, locate the switch on your thermostat and set it to the “on” position. Some thermostats also feature a light indicator to signal when emergency heat is engaged.

If, despite your efforts, emergency heat still doesn’t activate automatically, there might be an underlying issue with your heat pump. In such cases, it’s prudent to contact a qualified technician to inspect and diagnose the problem.

Common Reasons For A Malfunctioning Heat Pump

If your heat pump fails to provide the desired warmth, several factors could be responsible:

How To Fix Emergency Heat Automatically Activating In Heat Pumps
  1. Clogged Air Filter: A blocked or dirty air filter can impede your heat pump’s performance, potentially forcing it into emergency heat mode. Cleaning or replacing the air filter according to the manufacturer’s guidelines can resolve this issue.
  2. Refrigerant Leak: A refrigerant leak can hinder the heat transfer process, preventing your heat pump from heating effectively. Contact a technician to identify and rectify the leak and recharge your heat pump with refrigerant as needed.
  3. Thermostat Problems: Malfunctioning thermostats can prevent your heat pump from operating correctly or cause it to engage emergency heat prematurely. Verify your thermostat’s functionality by turning it on and off; if issues persist, consult a technician.
  4. Blocked Outdoor Unit: Accumulation of snow, leaves, or debris on the outdoor unit can disrupt proper functioning. Regularly clear away obstructions to ensure optimal performance.
  5. Reversing Valve Issues: A malfunctioning reversing valve can hinder your heat pump’s ability to switch between heating and cooling modes. Professional assistance may be required to repair or replace the valve.
  6. Power Issues: Blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers can disrupt your heat pump’s operation. Address these electrical issues by replacing fuses or resetting circuit breakers, or contact an electrician for assistance.
  7. Incorrect Heat Pump Size: An improperly sized heat pump may struggle to heat your home adequately. Consult a technician to determine if a different heat pump size is more suitable for your residence.
  8. Dirty Coils: Dirty coils can hinder heat transfer efficiency. Clean the coils by removing dirt and debris or using a coil cleaning solution as needed.
  9. Faulty Capacitor: The capacitor provides power to the compressor, which is crucial for refrigerant circulation. A malfunctioning capacitor can impair your heat pump’s heating capabilities and requires professional attention.

Setting The Right Temperature In Winter

For optimal energy efficiency and comfort, it’s recommended to set your heat pump to 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter months. This temperature strikes a balance between warmth and cost-effectiveness. However, consider adjusting the temperature based on individual preferences and the presence of pets or small children in your home.

How To Fix Emergency Heat Automatically Activating In Heat Pumps

Scheduled Maintenance For Your Heat Pump

Regular maintenance is essential to ensure your heat pump functions efficiently and to prevent potential issues. Schedule maintenance at least once a year to keep your heat pump in top shape. If you reside in an area with high dust or pollen levels, more frequent maintenance may be necessary due to faster coil dirt accumulation. Additionally, if you notice any unusual performance issues, prompt maintenance can prevent them from worsening.

Energy Consumption Of Heat Pumps

Heat pumps do consume electricity for operation, but they are renowned for their efficiency. Heat pumps represent one of the most energy-efficient heating and cooling systems available. To further optimize your heat pump’s energy efficiency, consult with a technician who can recommend improvements or adjustments to your system.


If your heat pump resorts to emergency heat settings during the winter, it’s crucial to address the issue promptly. There could be various reasons why your heat pump isn’t functioning optimally, and consulting a professional is the best course of action. Whether it’s routine maintenance, addressing common problems, or optimizing your heat pump’s settings, taking proactive steps ensures a warm and comfortable home throughout the winter.

How To Fix Emergency Heat Automatically Activating In Heat Pumps

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Written by HVAC Contributor

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