Surviving the Cold: Troubleshooting and Preventing Emergency Heat Failure

Why You Need a Functioning Emergency Heat System

When temperatures drop below freezing, it’s important to have a functioning emergency heat system. Without it, you and your family could be left in the cold, potentially leading to health issues or even hypothermia.

Emergency heat acts as backup heat for when your primary heating source fails, so it’s crucial that it is in good working condition. Despite the importance of emergency heat, many homeowners don’t think about it until they need it.

It’s one of those things that you take for granted until it’s too late. That’s why regular maintenance and inspections are vital to ensure that your emergency heat is ready to go when you need it.

Why Your Emergency Heat May Not Work

There are several reasons why emergency heat may not work when you need it most. One common cause of emergency heat setting off is a power outage or electrical issue. If your home has lost power, the emergency heat will not be able to turn on and keep your home warm.

Another issue could be a malfunctioning thermostat or control board. If these components are damaged or have loose wires, they may not properly communicate with the heating system, resulting in no warm air being produced.

Dirty air filters can also cause problems with emergency heat. When oil furnaces and air filters become clogged with dust and debris, airflow becomes restricted which can cause the electric heat strip in your furnace to overheat and shut off.

Faulty heating elements can prevent warm air from being produced by an electric furnace or heat pump compressor – both used for both heating and cooling purposes – causing the system to switch into cooling mode instead of warming up your home. Understanding these common causes of emergency heat pump failure can help you troubleshoot potential issues before they lead to bigger problems.

Common Reasons for Emergency Heat Failure

When the Power Goes Out or Electrical Issues Arise

There are a number of reasons why your emergency heat may fail, and one of the most common is a power outage or electrical issue. When the power goes out, your regular heating and cooling system isn’t going to work as it should. When this happens, your emergency heat system may automatically switch on, but if it’s not working properly, you’re going to be left in the cold.

If you have electric heat strips as your emergency heat source, they may not kick on during a power outage because they need electricity to operate. The same could happen if there are other electrical issues with your unit – it simply won’t operate correctly without electricity.

Malfunctioning Thermostat or Control Board

Another common reason why emergency heat systems fail is due to a malfunctioning thermostat or control board. This can happen for several reasons: maybe it’s an old unit that needs replacing, perhaps it wasn’t installed correctly initially or maybe there’s damage caused by an accident.

If you have a Nest thermostat, for example, make sure that it’s wired correctly and connected to Wi-Fi so that you can monitor it remotely. If there’s any damage to the control board or wiring from insects or rodents – which can happen when units are installed outside – then this could cause serious problems.

Dirty Air Filters

Dirty air filters can also be an issue when it comes to emergency heat failure. If your air filters aren’t changed regularly (at least every three months), then dust and debris will cause a clogged air filter, and build up inside them over time. Once this clogged filter happens, air won’t be able to flow through them as easily and efficiently as before.

This leads to reduced airflow throughout the heating system and ultimately results in its inability to produce warm air at your desired temperature. To prevent this, change your air filters regularly and keep the area around the heating system clean and free from debris.

Faulty Heating Elements

If your emergency heat system has electric heaters or a heat pump compressor, then faulty heating elements can also be a problem. These elements are responsible for generating warm air, so if they’re damaged or broken in any way, then your em heat unit won’t be able to produce warm air at all.

This could happen over time due to wear and tear or could be caused by an accident – like someone bumping into the unit and damaging its parts. In either case, it’s best to have an HVAC professional inspect the heating system for you instead of trying to fix it yourself.


There are many reasons why emergency heat systems may fail; some more common than others. By understanding these reasons – including power outages or electrical issues, malfunctioning thermostats or control boards, dirty air filters, and faulty auxiliary heating elements – you can better prepare yourself when outdoor temperatures drop unexpectedly low. Remember that regular maintenance is key in keeping your emergency heat system functioning as it should.

Troubleshooting Steps for Emergency Heat Failure

Check Circuit Breaker and Electrical Connections

When you discover that your emergency heat is not working, the first thing you should check is the circuit breaker. The circuit breaker is responsible for supplying electricity to your heating system. Ensure that it is not tripped or damaged.

If it’s tripped, reset it and test if the system works. Another likely reason why your emergency heat may not work is a loose electrical connection.

Make sure that all electrical connections are properly secured. Loose connections can cause power loss in the heating system, which will prevent it from functioning correctly.

Inspect the Thermostat and Control Board for Any Damage or Lose Wires

The thermostat plays a crucial role in regulating your home’s temperature by signaling when to turn on or off your heating system. Suppose there’s damage to the thermostat or faulty wiring connections; this can cause communication issues between the thermostat and control board. Inspecting both components for any signs of wear and tear, loose wires, or dirt accumulation can help identify possible problems causing emergency heat failure in your home’s heating system.

Replace Dirty Air Filters

Your HVAC air filter has the essential job of trapping airborne contaminants before they enter your home’s air supply registers. Over time, filters develop a buildup from these contaminants which can reduce airflow throughout your ductwork systems resulting in strain on both heating and cooling systems including emergency heat. If you haven’t replaced your HVAC or air conditioner filter recently, try changing it now as dirty filters reduce airflows through both heat pumps and regular air conditioning units.

Test Heating Elements with a Multimeter

Testing heating elements with multimeters helps identify whether there’s an issue with electric resistance flow within them caused by wear & tear over time along with other common reasons like corrosion of metal coils leading to an open circuit. You can carry out the test by setting your multimeter to the Ohms mode and measuring the resistance of the heating elements. If there’s no reading, or it’s below a specified range, then your heating elements have failed and require replacement.


Emergency heat failure is a frustrating experience during cold weather that can leave you shivering at home with low temperatures. When your emergency heat isn’t working, trying these troubleshooting steps can help you identify common issues that may cause a heating system failure. However, if none of these steps yields any results, please don’t hesitate to call in a professional.

Replacing dirty air filters regularly and maintaining regular inspections of your HVAC system helps prevent emergencies from occurring in future colder months. Taking care of the components involved like thermostat, and control board along with proper electrical wiring management also ensures efficient transfer of heat throughout your home keeping you warm in winter months & ensuring that emergency heat backup will work when needed most!

When to Call a Professional

It’s Time to Get Help: When Troubleshooting Steps Don’t Work

The idea of calling a professional may seem daunting, but it’s important to know that there are times when troubleshooting steps won’t be enough to fix your emergency heat. When you have done everything you can, and still find that the issue persists, it’s necessary to call in an expert. A professional will have the knowledge and expertise needed to properly diagnose and fix the problem.

They can also help with any issues you may have missed or didn’t consider during your troubleshooting attempts. If there is damage or malfunctioning parts they will also be able to replace or repair them.

Signs of Gas Leaks or Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

If there is any indication of gas leaks or carbon monoxide poisoning, immediately call a professional for assistance! These two issues are not something you want to wait around for as they pose serious health risks.

When operating a heating system in cold weather conditions, it’s essential for proper ventilation and air quality control. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide gas is released from faulty heating systems like gas or oil furnaces without proper ventilation in homes.

A gas leak can occur due to the malfunctioning valves in your furnace or water heater resulting in harmful gases being released into the air. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headaches, nausea, dizziness which worsen with time so don’t hesitate if any symptoms occur.

Keep Yourself Safe by Knowing When It’s Time To Call

Calling a professional isn’t something anyone wants but sometimes it’s necessary to ensure the safety of your family and home. When experiencing problems with emergency heat systems like aux heat kicking on constantly even when unnecessary then consult professionals immediately. It’s especially important if these problems persist after checking all the circuit breakers and wires.

Technicians have access to wiring diagrams and other tools that can help them diagnose problems that may be beyond their skill level. They will also be able to correctly repair, replace or install any emergency heat equipment needed.

Remember, a professional can help you avoid costly repairs or replacements down the line by identifying the problem early on. Don’t hesitate to give them a call for your own safety and peace of mind.


Remember, safety comes first when it comes to dealing with emergency heat systems. If basic troubleshooting steps don’t work or there are any signs of gas leaks or carbon monoxide poisoning then it’s essential to call in a professional for assistance immediately. A technician can provide valuable insight into the root of the issue and provide solutions that will make your home warm and safe again.

Don’t try fixing the issues alone as you might damage parts further and end up paying more for repairs! So be wise and seek professional help when required!

Preventative Measures to Avoid Future Emergencies

Regular Maintenance and Inspections of the Heating System: Ensuring Your Comfort in Cold Weather

One of the most important steps in preventing emergency heat failures is regular maintenance and inspection of your heating system. This can help identify issues before they become major problems that require expensive repairs or replacements.

It is recommended to have a professional HVAC technician inspect your heating system once a year, preferably before the winter season begins. During this inspection, the technician will check for loose wires, clogged filters, and any other issues that may affect the efficiency, temperature setting, or functioning of your heating system.

Additionally, regular maintenance such as changing air filters every 1-3 months can improve airflow in indoor units and ensure that your heating system is running at optimal levels. Not only will this keep you warm during cold outdoor temperatures, but it can also save you money on energy bills by reducing strain on the unit.

Keeping the Area Around the Heating System Clean and Free from Debris: Don’t Block Your Warmth

Another preventative measure to avoid future emergencies with your emergency heat system is keeping the surrounding area clean and free from debris. This means ensuring that there are no obstructions around your gas or oil furnace or air handler which could prevent proper airflow. It’s especially important to make sure that flammable materials like clothing, paper products, or cleaning supplies aren’t stored near gas or oil furnaces.

In addition to creating fire hazards, blocked airflow could force your furnace to work harder than necessary to produce enough warmth. If you use electric heaters as backup sources of heat during an emergency power loss situation, make sure they are placed away from any flammable materials as well as out of areas where children or pets may accidentally knock them over.

A Nest thermostat with its outside temperature display feature can project information about outdoor temperatures into indoor space so homeowners can adjust the outdoor temperature in their thermostat setting. In short, keeping the area around your heating system clean and clear of debris can ensure that you are getting enough warmth to keep comfortable during cold outdoor temperatures.

Conclusion: Take Care of Your Heating System and It Will Take Care of You

There are several preventative measures you can take to avoid emergency heat failures. Regular maintenance and inspection of your heating system can help identify issues before they become costly problems. Additionally, keeping the area around your heating system free from debris will ensure proper airflow and reduce fire hazards.

By taking care of your heating system with these simple maintenance tasks, you can rest assured knowing that emergency heat works and will take care of you when outdoor air temperatures drop. Don’t let a preventable issue leave you in the cold – take action now to make sure your emergency heat is working properly when you need it most.

Conclusion: The Importance of Emergency Heat

Having a functioning emergency heat system is crucial during cold weather emergencies. Without it, you and your family could be left in the cold, which can be dangerous and uncomfortable. As we have seen, there are many reasons why emergency heat may not work, including power outages, dirty or cold air filters, malfunctioning thermostats or control boards, and faulty heating elements.

Taking simple preventative measures such as regular maintenance and inspections of your heating system can help avoid future emergencies. Keeping the area around the heating system clean and free from debris can also go a long way in ensuring that your heating system is working properly when you need it most.

If you do experience issues with your emergency heat not working properly, there are troubleshooting steps that you can take on your own before calling in an HVAC professional. By checking circuit breakers and electrical connections or inspecting thermostats and control boards for damaged or lose wires, you may be able to solve the issue on your own.

Replacing dirty air filters or testing heating elements with a multimeter are other steps that may help restore warmth to your home. It’s important to note that emergency heat systems operate differently set temperatures and from regular heat pump systems.

In extreme outdoor temperatures – below 40 degrees Fahrenheit – an indoor coil cannot extract enough warmth from the outside air temperature to warm up a home quickly enough. In these cases, electric heaters kick in as backup to the outdoor coil to provide additional warmth.

Don’t neglect your emergency heat system! It is important to ensure your auxiliary heat it is functioning properly before cold weather hits so that you are prepared for any potential emergencies.

Taking preventative measures such as cleaning around the outdoor unit of your heat pump system or checking thermostat settings can make a big difference in avoiding potential issues down the line. Stay warm this winter!

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Frequently Asked Questions:

What factors could prevent emergency heat from functioning properly?

Emergency heat may not work due to issues such as a malfunctioning thermostat, a tripped circuit breaker, or a faulty heating element.

Why is the emergency heat not producing hot air?

The emergency heat might not blow hot air if there is a problem with the heating system, such as a malfunctioning heating element or insufficient power supply.

What steps can be taken to activate emergency heat?

To activate emergency heat, check the thermostat settings and ensure it is set to the appropriate mode. If the issue persists, consult a professional HVAC technician.

How can I reset the emergency heat functionality?

The process to reset emergency heat varies depending on the specific heating system and thermostat. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or seek assistance from an HVAC professional for guidance on how to reset it.

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