By: Patricia Cermignano

Emergency Heat- this phrase sounds scary, but what does it really mean? We, at Bob Cermignano Air Conditioning & Heating, Inc., have been asked this question many times over the winter season, and while the term Emergency Heat does have a negative connotation to it, the meaning behind the term is not exactly what it seems.

Emergency Heat, also known as Auxiliary Heat, is the second stage of heat that your thermostat utilizes when the temperature is too cold for your heat pump to remove heat from the outside. The outdoor temperature that usually triggers the Emergency Heat setting to turn on is 35°F and below.

Now that we know what Emergency Heat is, it is important to understand how it works and when it is appropriate to use it. In order to truly understand how Emergency Heat works, it is vital to know how a heat pump operates. According to Bryant®, a heat pump is "a product that works just like an air conditioner in cooling mode; however, in heating mode, the refrigerant flow is reversed and the heat is extracted from the outside air to heat your home." A heat pump's source of secondary heat is typically electric, although it can be oil or gas in as well. Electric second stage heat is found in the form of coils inside an air handler; whereas oil or gas heat is connected into your furnace. Most people think that when it gets very cold outside, it is necessary to turn their Emergency Heat setting on, but this is not true. If your heating system is working properly, the Emergency Heat setting will turn on automatically if the outdoor temperature is too cold for the primary source of heat to work alone. The only time someone should manually turn on the Emergency Heat setting is if there is a problem with your heat pump. For instance, if there is physical damage to the outdoor unit or if a heat pump continues to freeze up or short out.

If you manually turn on the Emergency Heat setting, it is important to call your certified HVAC technicians right away as there may be issues with your system that require immediate attention. Not only is it inefficient to heat your home solely by Emergency Heat, but it is not cost effective either. For any specific questions, please contact our office at 610-642-6323 or visit our website at www.bobsredtrucks.com.