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Using a heat pump could cost you during recent cold snaps

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Thursday night temperatures are going to take another dip which means if you have a heat pump the 'emergency' or 'auxiliary heat' mode might kick on. This uses far more energy than the heat pump's normal setting and can create much higher electricity bills.

"You're using more electricity anytime the weather is extreme," Huntsville Utilities communications director, Joe Gerhdes said.

This is especially true for people with a heat pump in their yard.

"When it gets particularly cold out, if they're using a heat pump as their primary heat source, they are very inefficient when it gets really cold out, especially for long periods like we've had for the past couple of days," Gerhdes said.

He says anytime we get below freezing for an extended period of time the heat pump's 'emergency' or 'auxiliary heat' feature kicks on.

"And that is raw electric heat that's used to supplement what the heat pump is unable to provide because it's so cold outside," he explained.

He likens it to using a space heater to heat an entire house.

"That electric heat uses about 10 times what the heat pump would use if it were operating efficiently," he said.

So what does this mean for your bill? There are many factors that could affect it.

"How old is your house? How old is your heating equipment," he stated.

Gerhdes says most people can't turn this feature off. If you can, he doesn't recommend it.

"It's providing you with the heat you need to stay warm and comfortable in your home," he said.

He suggests setting the thermostat at a comfortable temperature and leaving it there.

Gehrdes says people using gas heat are in luck because it can be much more efficient in cold temperatures.

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