I have noticed my heating bill is higher than my cooling bill now that I have installed a Heat Pump. I am trying to find a way to reduce this winter cost but am not sure how often electrical heat strips should run, if at all.

I have never selected the "emergency heating" setting for my unit, its always in standard heating when in operation. I am in a CA climate which rarely ever drops below freezing so I was expecting the heat strips to never come on. Was hoping to find a way to permanently turn off the heat strips but don't want to risk damaging the unit.

I heard from a source that "it is best to increase your heat setting by only two degrees at a time to prevent your auxiliary heat from operating." But unless your coil is in danger of freezing, why would your heat strips ever need to come on? Basically, even during ideal conditions where outside temperature is above freezing, "emergency heat" is NOT used, and your only heating by two degrees F, should the heat strips still run for X hours a day during the heating season to maintain proper HP operation?

  • How did your heating bill compare to your cooling bill before you put in the heat pump? If you replaced a really old AC unit with a heat pump, it could be that your cooling is much more efficient now and you got a more modest heating efficiency gain.
    – Comintern
    Mar 18, 2014 at 4:24
  • 1
    This really depends on your thermostat -- what model heat pump and thermostat do you have? You can just unhook the aux heat wire to disable the strips if you feel that you don't need them.
    – Ethereal
    Mar 19, 2014 at 14:03
  • @Ethereal Thank you for the info! I would definitely like to disable the strips permanently. I have a RUUD RQPL-B036JK 13 SEER SERIES (2-4 TONS) roof mounted heat pump. So what you are saying is that the heat strips are not need for proper internal operation of the unit? Essentially they are only added comfort devices. So if I am comfortable without them then there is no need to have them (coils won't freeze and crack, etc.).
    – Aaron Klap
    Mar 20, 2014 at 19:45
  • @AaronKlap that is correct, the only downside is that if the temperature drops enough the heat pump will not be able to maintain your interior temperature setpoint. Every system has a point at which the outside temperature exceeds what the unit can keep up with -- good thermostats will enable the aux heat when and only when that temperature is exceeded. Now, your heat strips will come on when the outside unit is in defrost mode and that is normal, and controlled by the outside unit itself.
    – Ethereal
    Mar 21, 2014 at 14:38

4 Answers 4


I've been told that a properly sized heat pump should run almost non-stop during the days that the temperatures are the normal low for the season and area. Any lower than the normal seasonal lows would kick the strips on.


This might need to be confirmed by others, but the emergency/auxiliary heat is a subsystem of the heat pump that does not need to be turned on at all.

I own a heat pump too with electric heat backup. It kicks on when the temps are below 30 degrees or the temp is raised to much manually, more than 2 degrees higher. Otherwise it does not come on. My bill for the winter is higher than the summer. This may only account for the lights since the lights are on longer in the winter than summer, maybe. I am located in Maryland where the temps swing way up, and way down.


Heat pumps do not need a heat strip unless the outdoor temperatures dip well below 40F. Utility financed heat pumps are required to have an outdoor thermostat installed to prohibit the heat strips from energizing unless the ambient temperature is 40F or below. This is the point at which heat pumps performance begins to degrade. Defrost modes require the strips since defrost is the AC mode which melts the outdoor coils ice but also cools down the home we are trying to heat, defrosts may last as long as 15 minutes. Some units in areas as California have no strips installed.


I have two year old Goodman 3 ton. Haven't seen heat strips come on in 10 deg weather and will put out 95 deg temps. Set with 6 deg droop temp and set point always read the same. Only once in -9° temperature. In morning was strips on and 6 deg droop showing on thermostat pushing out close to 100°. Lots of post I read have to be talkimg about older heat pumps. Newer ones need no help in 32 deg temps

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  • The original question was asked 10 years ago so yes, other posts are talking about older heat pumps.
    – JACK
    20 hours ago

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