All typical heating systems used in houses have got an “EM Heat” setting on the heating system’s thermostat. Naturally, being human and curious, we want to use all settings available to enjoy all available features provided. However, we need to understand what the setting is for and how to use it and address it in this article.

What is EM Heat Setting on Thermostats

The EM Heat or emergency heat setting on a thermostat is to control the secondary heating system in your house in case of emergencies. If the main heating system stops working for any reason, and the house goes too cold, the emergency heating system will turn on.

Generally, a heat pump or primary heating system will control the heat in most homes and only activate their secondary heat (gas, oil, or electric heating) when supplemental or second-stage heating is required. This typically happens when the temperature goes below 35 degrees Fahrenheit in colder climates, and the system needs to tap into your secondary heat source.

Therefore, we can see that the EM Heat or emergency heat setting will override the primary heat and tap into the secondary heat supply when activated.                  

When Should I Use EM Heat Setting on My Thermostat?

First of all, we need to understand that EM Heat stands for emergency heat and should only be used in emergencies when something is wrong with the first stage heating, namely the pump (primary heat) itself. Whenever it gets really cold and the temperature goes below 35 degrees a heating system is designed to switch automatically between the primary and secondary stages as needed. Therefore, temperatures below 35 degrees Fahrenheit is therefore not an emergency, and you don’t need to activate the “EM Heat” setting as soon as this happens.

But in the case of a tree falling down and crashing right into your heat pump, destroying it, that is an emergency. Likewise, if your heat pump ice up and cannot function, that is another example of an emergency when you should use the EM Heat setting. 

An emergency that will validate the use of the EM Heat setting on your thermostat can be seen as when something happens to your heat pump itself that will prevent it from working normally. Whenever such an emergency occurs, you can use the “EM Heat” setting on your thermostat and immediately get the help of a qualified HVAC technician to repair your heat pump.

Let’s Look At How EM Heat Works

As mentioned earlier, the heat pump situated outside serves as your primary heat source that is supplemented by a secondary heat source in the form of gas, oil, or electrical heating located inside your house.

The secondary heating is designed to supplement the primary whenever the air outside becomes too cold to heat the house. Manufacturers use different methods to accommodate the switching between primary and secondary heating. Whenever your primary heat pump freezes up, the emergency heating will temporarily kick in to allow for the defrosting of your heat pump, and a light will indicate it on your EM Heat setting.

Whenever you manually put on the EM Heat, the primary heat, that is your heat pump, will be ignored, and you will only use the secondary heat supply. As we have said before, this should only be done in emergencies in order to give a qualified HVAC technician the time to repair the primary heat pump system.

Is It More Expensive To Run EM Heat

Running your home heating on emergency heat can be pretty costly, especially if your secondary heat runs on electricity as well. For that reason, it should only be used as designed through automatic switching determined by your thermostat. Manual switching to emergency heat should only be done in genuine emergencies, as we have stipulated before.

Manufacturers of heating systems have the economy in mind when developing the heating systems. The primary and secondary heating and switching between them is planned in order to supply the right amount of heating at minimal costs. Any interference with their system, like manual switching to emergency heat, will incur additional charges. Ensuring that we utilize heating economically, it is imperative to stay within the manufacturer’s standards and not use emergency heat if not needed.

Manufacturers supply a warranty on most products as long as you stay with the instructions on how to use the product. Heating systems are built with the same idea in mind, and as long as you stay within the guidelines and get your itchy finger away from the “EM Heat” switch, you will save money. On the contrary, using the emergency heat button whenever you want will cost you additional money, and you will waste your hard-earned money.

Can You Switch The Emergency Heat Off?

As explained, emergency heat might incur additional costs that none of us want to have, so we can ask whether it would be advisable to turn it off? The answer is a definite no. The system is designed to use the emergency or secondary heat source whenever it is demanded by the outside temperature and the ability of the primary heat pump to supply heat. The system will decide when it is needed, and you don’t have to put it off.

To Conclude

The heating system is designed with a primary heat pump, sucking and heating air from the outside of the house. Whenever the air on the outside gets too cold, the secondary heat source inside the house that might be oil, gas, or electric heating, will kick in to supply heat.

Under normal circumstances, the system will switch smoothly between the primary and secondary heat sources to supply heat to your home as controlled by the thermostat setting. The only time you will need to use the emergency heat setting is when undeniable proof exists that the outside heat pump is not functioning as expected, and that is an emergency that will call on the use of the EM Heat setting.


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