In the world of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning), a variety of technologies and components contribute to the comfort and climate control of our indoor spaces. One such component that plays a crucial role, especially in colder climates, is the heat strip. Heat strips, also known as electric heat strips, electric heating elements, or auxiliary heat strips, are devices used to provide additional heating in heat pump systems or electric furnaces. Let’s dive into what heat strips are, how they work, and their applications in modern HVAC systems.

What Are Heat Strips?

Heat strips are essentially electric heating elements that generate heat when an electric current passes through them. They are commonly used in heat pump systems and electric furnaces to provide supplemental or emergency heating when the primary heating source isn’t sufficient to maintain the desired indoor temperature. Heat pumps, while efficient for cooling during the summer and heating during mild winters, can struggle to produce enough heat when outdoor temperatures drop significantly. This is where heat strips come into play.

How Do Heat Strips Work?

Heat strips are composed of a resistive heating element, often made from materials like nichrome or other alloys with high resistance to electricity. When an electrical current flows through these materials, they resist the flow of electricity and generate heat as a byproduct. This heat is then transferred to the surrounding air, which is then circulated throughout the indoor space by the HVAC system’s blower fan.

Heat strips are controlled by the thermostat in the HVAC system. When the thermostat detects that the indoor temperature is dropping below the desired setpoint, it activates the heat strips to supplement the heat being produced by the heat pump. Once the indoor temperature reaches the setpoint, the thermostat will modulate the heat strips or turn them off completely to prevent overheating and energy wastage.

Applications of Heat Strips

Supplemental Heating: As mentioned earlier, the primary application of heat strips is to provide supplemental heating in heat pump systems. Heat pumps are efficient for moderate temperature changes, but when the outside air becomes extremely cold, their heating capacity can diminish. Heat strips step in to provide an extra boost of warmth during these colder periods.

Emergency Heating

Heat strips also serve as emergency heating elements. If the heat pump malfunctions or fails during frigid weather, the heat strips can take over to prevent the indoor temperature from plummeting to uncomfortable levels. This emergency functionality ensures that occupants remain warm and safe even when the primary heating source is compromised.

Cold Start Heating

In some cases, heat strips are used for “cold start” heating. When a heat pump is turned on after being off for an extended period, it may take a while to reach the desired indoor temperature. Heat strips can provide rapid heating during this warm-up period, bringing the space to a comfortable temperature more quickly.

Zoning Systems

Heat strips can also be incorporated into zoning systems, where different areas of a building are heated or cooled independently. This allows for precise temperature control in each zone, ensuring optimal comfort and energy efficiency.

Commercial and Industrial Applications

Heat strips are not limited to residential use. They are also employed in commercial and industrial settings where reliable and precise heating is essential. From warehouses to offices, heat strips contribute to maintaining comfortable working conditions.

Energy Efficiency and Considerations

While heat strips provide valuable heating support, they tend to be less energy-efficient compared to other heating methods, such as heat pumps or natural gas furnaces. Therefore, it’s recommended to use heat strips only when necessary, such as during extreme cold weather or as emergency backup.

Installation of Heat Strips

Proper installation and regular maintenance are essential for ensuring the efficiency and longevity of heat strips within HVAC systems. In this section, we’ll explore the key considerations when installing and maintaining heat strips to maximize their performance and minimize energy consumption.

Proper Sizing

Heat strips should be sized appropriately for the space they are intended to heat. Oversized heat strips can lead to overheating and energy wastefulness while undersized ones may not provide sufficient heating during colder periods.


Heat strips are installed in the air handler. They should be strategically positioned to ensure even heat distribution throughout the indoor space.


Proper airflow is crucial for efficient heat strip operation. Ensure that the heat strips are not obstructed by other components and that there’s adequate airflow through the air handler.

Wiring and Electrical Connections

Correct wiring and secure electrical connections are essential to prevent overheating, electrical malfunctions, and potential hazards. It’s recommended to have a professional HVAC technician handle the installation to ensure safety and compliance with electrical codes.

Maintenance Guidelines

Maintenance is critical for optimizing performance and preventing downtime on the cold days when you need them the most. Here are some tips on how to care for the strips.

Regular Inspections

Schedule regular inspections of the heat strips as part of routine HVAC maintenance. Check for any signs of damage, corrosion, or overheating.

Air Filter Maintenance

A clean air filter is crucial for proper airflow and heat strip efficiency. Clogged filters can restrict airflow, causing the heat strips to work harder and consume more energy.


Dust and debris can accumulate on heat strips over time, reducing their heating efficiency. Gently clean the heat strips during maintenance sessions to ensure optimal heat transfer.

Thermostat Calibration

Ensure that the thermostat is calibrated correctly to control the operation of the heat strips accurately. A poorly calibrated thermostat can lead to temperature fluctuations and energy wastage.

Professional Servicing

While homeowners can complete some maintenance tasks, we recommend that a qualified HVAC technician perform thorough servicing at least once a year. They can identify and address any issues that might affect the efficiency and performance of the heat strips.

Tips for Energy Efficiency

Everyone wants to stay comfortable during frigid weather. Here are some tips to help make that happen.

Smart Thermostats

Consider using a smart thermostat that can intelligently control the operation of the heat strips based on indoor and outdoor temperatures. This can help optimize energy usage and reduce unnecessary heating.

Programmable Settings

If your HVAC system allows it, program the thermostat to use heat strips only when necessary, such as during the coldest parts of the day or in emergency situations.

Sealing and Insulation

Ensure that your home is properly sealed and insulated to minimize heat loss. A well-insulated space requires less heating, reducing the need for extensive use of heat strips.

Make Sure Your Home Is Warm and Cozy All Year Round

Heat strips are an integral part of modern HVAC systems, particularly in areas where cold weather poses a challenge to maintaining indoor comfort. By understanding how heat strips work and their various applications, homeowners and building managers can make informed decisions about when and how to use them effectively. While they may not be the most energy-efficient option, their ability to provide reliable heating in critical situations makes them a valuable component in the world of indoor climate control.

We provide cooling and heating installation, repair and maintenance services. Contact Precision Heating & Air in Dallas today for more information about heat strips and HVAC systems in general!

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