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Heat Pump Auxiliary Heat Always On? Get It Under Control

Is your heat pump’s auxiliary heat constantly running, causing your energy bills to skyrocket? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Many homeowners face this frustrating issue with their heat pump systems, but there are ways to get it under control and restore efficient operation.

What is Auxiliary Heat in a Heat Pump?

To understand why your auxiliary heat is always on, let’s first clarify what it is and its purpose. Auxiliary heat, also known as supplemental or emergency heat, is a secondary heating source integrated into your heat pump system. It’s designed to kick in when the outside temperature drops below a certain point, typically around 30-35degF (depending on your system), where the heat pump struggles to extract enough heat from the outdoor air to keep your home comfortable.

heat pump auxiliary heat always on

The auxiliary heat, usually in the form of electric resistance coils or a gas furnace, provides the additional warmth required to maintain the desired indoor temperature. While this feature ensures your home stays cozy during extreme cold snaps, it’s not intended for continuous operation. Prolonged reliance on auxiliary heat can lead to excessive energy consumption, higher utility bills, and potential wear and tear on the system.

Common Causes of Excessive Auxiliary Heat Usage

There are several reasons why your heat pump’s auxiliary heat might be running excessively or continuously, even when outdoor temperatures don’t necessitate it. Here are some of the most common culprits:

Negative Impact of Constant Auxiliary Heat Operation

While auxiliary heat is a valuable feature when used sparingly, its continuous operation can have several adverse effects on your home and wallet:

  1. Increased energy consumption and higher utility bills: Auxiliary heat sources, particularly electric resistance coils, are notoriously energy-intensive. Constant use can cause your energy bills to skyrocket, offsetting the cost-saving benefits of a heat pump.
  2. Accelerated wear and tear on auxiliary heating components: The auxiliary heating elements are designed for intermittent use, not continuous operation. Prolonged use can lead to premature failure and the need for costly repairs or replacements.
  3. Reduced overall system efficiency and performance: Heat pumps are designed to operate most efficiently when transferring heat from one location to another. When the auxiliary heat is constantly engaged, it undermines the system’s primary function, leading to decreased efficiency and suboptimal performance.
  4. Potential for uneven heating or cold spots in the home: Auxiliary heat sources may not distribute heat as evenly as the heat pump, resulting in some areas feeling warmer than others or the development of cold spots.

If your heat pump’s auxiliary heat is running excessively, it’s essential to address the issue promptly to prevent further problems and unnecessary energy waste. Here are some troubleshooting steps and solutions to consider:

  1. Checking and cleaning the outdoor unit: Inspect the outdoor coil for any dirt, debris, or ice buildup that could be obstructing airflow. Carefully clean the coil according to the manufacturer’s instructions, taking care not to damage the delicate fins.
  2. Inspecting and replacing air filters regularly: Clogged air filters can restrict airflow and reduce the heat pump’s efficiency, leading to increased auxiliary heat use. Replace filters according to the recommended schedule or sooner if they appear excessively dirty.
  3. Adjusting thermostat settings and programming: Review your thermostat’s settings and programming to ensure the temperature setpoints and schedules are appropriate for your needs and comfort preferences. Consider lowering the indoor temperature slightly to reduce the load on the system.
  4. Scheduling professional maintenance and repairs: Regular maintenance by a qualified HVAC technician can help identify and address potential issues before they become major problems. If a component like the reversing valve or refrigerant levels needs repair or replacement, it’s best to have it done promptly by a professional.
  5. Considering a heat pump replacement if necessary: If your heat pump is old, outdated, or consistently underperforming, it may be time to consider replacing it with a newer, more energy-efficient model. While this can be a significant investment, the long-term savings on energy bills and improved comfort can make it worthwhile.

By taking proactive steps to address the root cause of excessive auxiliary heat usage, you can restore your heat pump system’s optimal performance, reduce energy waste, and enjoy a comfortable indoor environment without breaking the bank.