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A Question from Malabar: What is the Emergency Setting on My Heat Pump?

Monday, December 12th, 2011 at 8:00 am

While installing or inspecting your Malabar home’s heat pump, you may have noticed that little switch or button labeled something like “Emergency Mode.” And then, you probably scratched your head and thought, “what is that for?”

Hopefully, the emergency setting is not something you will ever have to use. But, it is there for a reason, so it’s possible you may have to resort to it at some point. In that case, it makes sense to know what it is first.

The emergency setting on your heat pump interrupts the normal operation of the device. The compressor shuts off, so the heat pump no longer pumps heat from the outside into the home. Instead, the internal heating element is activated. This backup system is designed to provide a sufficient, albeit minimal, amount of heat when the heat pump is not working properly. The idea is that the element can keep your home warm enough while you get the heat pump fixed.

That’s what the emergency setting is, but when would you use it?

It’s not a trick question. As the name implies, you only want to use this setting in an emergency. For example, if the heat pump has frozen and isn’t operating, the best course of action is to switch on the emergency mode and call a professional to repair it.

You would also want to use the emergency mode when recovering from a power outage. Any time a heat pump is without power for more than thirty minutes the refrigerant can cool and get too thick to properly flow through the coils. Turning the pump back on in this situation can damage it, so instead you would use the emergency mode for a while to warm the refrigerant back up, then return to operating the heat pump normally.

The emergency setting is not to be used in place of a supplemental heating system. If there is an uncharacteristic cold snap, and your heat pump can’t keep up, then it makes sense to use the emergency setting to keep the house warm. However, if you live in a colder northern climate, where temperatures routinely drop below 30 degrees in the winter, you should have a supplemental heating system in addition to the heat pump. Using the emergency heat setting regularly is not a good idea.

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