If your electric bill is higher than anticipated in the wintertime, the answer may be found in how often the heat strips in your heating system are activated. Heat strips are the emergency or auxiliary part of your heating system, designed to work when it is exceptionally cold, and they require more energy to operate than the normal operations of your system. Although it is necessary for your heat pump to use heat strips to perform some tasks, such as defrosting your unit, there are some things you can do to prevent your heat pump from using them frequently.

If your home is well insulated, keeping the thermostat at a low, regulated temperature should keep you from using your heat pump, and heat strips, excessively. If you lower the temperature when you are sleeping, or when you leave the house for an extended period of time, don’t raise it more than two degrees at a time when you wake up or return home. Raising it any more than two degrees at a time will cause the system to go into the auxiliary mode and activate the heat strips, which will increase your energy use unnecessarily.

Using a programmable thermostat is an excellent way to ensure your heat strips only come on when needed. In the event you have turned the heat down while away, prior to returning, you can raise the thermostat setting in two-degree increments using the app on your phone, resulting in a comfortable temperature upon arrival without utilizing the unit’s heat strips.

Under normal conditions, the cost of running a heat pump for a JOEMC member is around 30 to 35 cents per hour. When operating in the auxiliary/emergency heating mode, that cost goes up to around $1.30 per hour. If your heat pump is operating in auxiliary/emergency mode without due cause (outdoor temperatures are above freezing or no drastic adjustment to your thermostat), it is possible that your system is malfunctioning. You should contact a licensed heating and cooling professional and have it serviced immediately.