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  1. #1
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    Tennessee
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    Default Air Handler Heat Strips

    My home is 2 years old. It is all electric. We have an outdoor heat pump and inside Air Handler with heat strips. We are having solar installed and we were told we could put the heat pump/air handler in the emergency panel (essential circuits go in the emergency panel should the electricity go down) but the air strips would remain separate. So basically the entire system will work when the electric works but in an emergency just the pump and air handler will work to keep us from freezing to death. Now we are finding out that the air handler and heat strips are all on the same 60A circuit breaker. Is it possible to separate the heat strips and put them on a separate breaker at this point??

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  2. #2
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    Mar 2007
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    Default Re: Air Handler Heat Strips

    There are some former electricians on here that may be able to sort this out for you, but to be honest you're going to have to walk through that one with an electrician and the contractor that did your solar PV system. If it's grid tied you may not have power even if it is a sunny day and the power is out. If your emergency panel is powered by a separate generator, then maybe. I'm not clear on what the emergency panel is in this case. There are too many variables for people to answer your question without more information.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Air Handler Heat Strips

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Robinson View Post
    There are too many variables for people to answer your question without more information.
    That's for sure.

    It's unlikely to be simple, as the electrical connections in the AHU are all interconnected. Plus you'll need a new circuit, disconnect, etc. etc.

    If that's the option you want, you'll need an onsite visit by a HVAC tech and electrician.


  4. #4
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    Jun 2021
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    Tennessee
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    Default Re: Air Handler Heat Strips

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Robinson View Post
    There are some former electricians on here that may be able to sort this out for you, but to be honest you're going to have to walk through that one with an electrician and the contractor that did your solar PV system. If it's grid tied you may not have power even if it is a sunny day and the power is out. If your emergency panel is powered by a separate generator, then maybe. I'm not clear on what the emergency panel is in this case. There are too many variables for people to answer your question without more information.
    Jim....I have a very expensive battery so when the electricity goes down everything in the emergency panel will work using solar only. The emergency panel can handle the heat pump and air handler but the heat strips are too much for the emergency box. My salesman thought the air handler and heat strips were on 2 breakers only to find out he was wrong. Putting the heat in the emergency box is the reason we signed the contract. Now unless we can separate the heat strip onto its own circuit breaker and leave it out of the emergency box I just spent a ton of money for the ability to run my refrigerators and some lights when the electricity goes out. Heck I could have bought several solar generators for a lot less money to do the same thing. It was the heat that was important to me. I feel like we were deceived.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dom D'Agostino View Post
    That's for sure.

    It's unlikely to be simple, as the electrical connections in the AHU are all interconnected. Plus you'll need a new circuit, disconnect, etc. etc.

    If that's the option you want, you'll need an onsite visit by a HVAC tech and electrician.
    Thanks. We were not going to tackle this job ourselves. My solar company will get an HVAC guy to work with our electrician to separate the heat strip onto its own circuit. My question was just to get some feedback on if it could be done.


  5. #5
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    Mar 2007
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    Default Re: Air Handler Heat Strips

    One possible solution may be to remove the heat strips from the air handler.

    That solves the problem (while creating another problem - heat ... but if you were willing to do without the heat strips anyway, then 'no harm, no foul').

    'No foul' .. other then your heating system no longer complies with the code requirements it was installed under - being capable of providing the minimum required heat in the rooms, which is 'a foul' in and of itself.

    The solution would then be to install a duct heater above, and not part of, the air handler, with its own new circuit.

    That would allow for a separate circuit to power the duct heater heat strips, and your HVAC contractor would need to control the duct heater operation with the thermostat. However ... if the duct heater is not provided with power all the time that the air handler is provided with power ... the heating system may not be capable of providing the required heat to each room, making the system 'not code compliant'.

    Check with your local building department for their opinion on making that type of change to the system and whether the heating system would still be code compliant with no heat strips during a power outage.

    I worded it that way "whether the heating system would still be code compliant with no heat strips during a power outage" intentionally because, with no solar/battery backup, "during a power outage" ... the heat strips would not work, and neither would the heat pump ... meaning that "during a power outage", the heating system would not be code compliant anyway.

    Guide them in that direction, then go by what they tell you as they are the "Authority Having Jurisdiction" and they may acknowledge that having a "heat pump with no heat strips" during a power outage is better than having "no heat pump and no heat strips" during that power outage.

    Jerry Peck
    Construction Litigation Consultant - Retired
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Air Handler Heat Strips

    Do you know how a heat pump works and what the purpose of the heating coils? Not knowing where in Tennessee you are I hope it doesn?t get much below 35F in the winter.

    The above statements are expressed solely as my opinion and in all probability will conflict with someone else's.
    Stu, Fredericksburg VA

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Air Handler Heat Strips

    Quote Originally Posted by Stuart Brooks View Post
    Not knowing where in Tennessee you are I hope it doesn?t get much below 35F in the winter.
    We have a second home in Asheville, NC, and we were there in January ... there were days that it never even got UP to freezing 32F.

    Maybe Tennessee isn't as cold?

    Jerry Peck
    Construction Litigation Consultant - Retired
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  8. #8
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    Fredericksburg, VA
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    Default Re: Air Handler Heat Strips

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    We have a second home in Asheville, NC, and we were there in January ... there were days that it never even got UP to freezing 32F.

    Maybe Tennessee isn't as cold?
    the auxiliary heat source provides the heat needed in low temperatures. I don?t know the efficiency of the system in question but the further the temp falls under 35 the less efficient the heat extraction process becomes. Back in my inspecting days I saw gas, oil, and electric auxiliary heat sources. I could see where even an auto feed pellet or wood furnace could serve. Geothermal heat pumps are very efficient at heating and cooling because of the constant ground temp of about 55F.

    The above statements are expressed solely as my opinion and in all probability will conflict with someone else's.
    Stu, Fredericksburg VA

  9. #9
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    Mar 2007
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    Fletcher, NC
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    Default Re: Air Handler Heat Strips

    The ac/heat guy we use in Asheville said our heat pump probably works down to about 35-40?F.

    I suspect that's likely "typical" for air to air heat pumps.

    Jerry Peck
    Construction Litigation Consultant - Retired
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  10. #10
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    Mar 2007
    Location
    Knoxville, TN
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    Default Re: Air Handler Heat Strips

    Depends on if its a newer higher efficiency unit or and older model. I have a fairly new (few years old) heat pump. My thermostat can give me a lot of information. During a recent year we had a cold winter where the temps got down below zero for long periods, and well below freezing for a few weeks, my unit only used the heat strips 4 times the entire year. They are not your Grandfathers heat pumps any longer.


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Air Handler Heat Strips

    Jack,

    Thanks - I wondered about that as our heat pump in Asheville is a 2017 one, and I noticed that (when it was 16? outside) the system 'felt like' it was blowing "cool air' (heat strips not on), but the system was still keeping the interior at 71? as set on the thermostat and still cycling off (not running continuously).

    There were a few times when the heat strips kicked on and the air was warm, but most of the time it ran without the heat strips on.

    Does that sound about right for 'cold outdoor temperature' (below 20-30?) operation for the newer heat pumps?

    Jerry Peck
    Construction Litigation Consultant - Retired
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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