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What Are Heat Strips and How Do They Work?

Atlanta Heating & Air Solutions Mabelton
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A heat pump is an energy-efficient heating solution. It can cool your home during the summer, and it can warm your home during the winter. When in heating mode, a heat pump will absorb heat from the outdoor ground or air, after which it will transfer this heat into your home.

Heat pumps, however, typically feature heat strips as well. They won’t always use the heat strips. Rather, heat pumps only use heat strips when it’s excessively cold outside. What are heat strips, and how do they work exactly?

The Basics of Heat Strips

Auxiliary heat strips, or what’s more commonly known simply as heat strips, are supplementary heating components that are powered by electricity. They consist of coiled pieces of thin metal. Most heat pumps feature a heat strip assembly. The assembly has several rows of heat strips, each of which are connected to a wire.

How Heat Strips Work

Heat strips work in a similar way as the heating element of an electric furnace. They are connected to your home’s power supply. As electricity travels through the heat strips’ metal coils, they’ll generate heat.

It’s important to note that heat pumps don’t always use heat strips to generate heat. In most cases, heat pumps generate heat exclusively by pumping it from the home’s exterior to the home’s interior. If the air outside of your home is too cold, though, the heat pump may use the heat strips.

Most heat pumps use heat strips for defrosting purposes as well. Your heat pump will automatically enter defrost mode to prevent the outdoor unit from freezing up. During the defrost mode, it will use the heat strips to generate heat.

When to Replace Heat Strips

Heat strips don’t last forever. Over time, they can burn out to the point where they generate little or no heat.

If your heat pump’s heat strips burned out, you may notice a burning smell originating from the air handling unit (AHU). Heat strips are found inside of the AHU. When heat strips burn out, you can often smell them around the AHU.

A frozen outdoor unit is a telltale sign of bad heat strips. As previously mentioned, heat pumps use heat strips for defrosting purposes. If the heat strips have burned out or otherwise failed, your heat pump may not be able to defrost itself, resulting on ice forming over the outdoor unit.

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