If you have an electric heat pump, chances are you’ve heard a little bit about heat strips, auxiliary heat or emergency heat. Maybe you’ve even seen that bright green, blue or red indicator light on your thermostat when temperatures drop outside. But, did you know that this “auxiliary heat” is far less efficient than your heat pump’s compressor?
A heat pump operates by moving heat from the outside to inside (heating mode) and inside to outside (air conditioning mode). Unfortunately, the compressor can’t produce enough heat when the outdoor temperatures drop to a certain point (usually somewhere between 30 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit), so the heat pump needs auxiliary resistance heat produced by heat strips to provide heat for your home.
During the colder months, it’s important to understand the relationship between your thermostat and how your heat pump works. Here are some quick tips to maximize the efficiency of your heat pump, avoiding excessive use of the heat strips and reducing your energy consumption:
- Remember the optimum setting for your thermostat in winter is 68 degrees or lower.
- If you decrease the temperature in your home overnight or while at work, warm the house slowly upon your return.
- Never raise the thermostat higher than needed. Bump your thermostat up 2 degrees at a time until your desired temperature is achieved; adjusting this setting by more than 2 degrees could activate your heat strips.
- Avoid manually setting the thermostat to emergency heat.
Also remember that on those days when temperatures are below freezing, your heat strips will activate. On these days in particular, it’s important to limit your use of exhaust fans (which can carry conditioned air outside) and keep windows and doors closed to limit the loss of heat.
Check out the Energy Star Web site for more information on heat pumps.