Charleston, W.Va., February 18, 2009 – For many of Appalachian Power’s customers, high-efficiency electric heat pumps are a good heating and cooling choice. They save energy and help keep heating and cooling costs low. However, while working with customers whose electric consumption and bills have increased significantly, Appalachian Power customer services representatives are increasingly reporting heat pumps working improperly as a contributing factor in the higher usage and bills. 
In the winter, electric heat pumps collect heat from air outside and release it inside. They are very efficient when the temperatures are between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. They become less efficient and require a backup heat source, in most cases electric resistance heating, when temperatures drop below 34 degrees.      
The top five costly heat problems Appalachian Power representatives have seen this season are:
1. Low refrigerant – The most common heat pump problem is low refrigerant. Refrigerant is the medium that helps move heat from outdoors into the home. If the unit is low on refrigerant, the benefits of the heat pump are lost. It operates strictly on emergency heating to heat the home.
2. Stuck in defrost mode – In the winter, most heat pumps defrost every 60-90 minutes. Occasionally they can get stuck in defrost mode. If this happens, the heat pump acts as an air conditioner while the resistance heating in the electric furnace is trying to heat the house.
3. Plugged filter – A plugged filter or a dirty coil cause a heat pump to work extra hard and can cause costly damage to the unit. House filters should be checked every month and changed every one to three months. Heat pump coils should be cleaned at least once a year.
4. Digital thermostat – Many thermostats have a light on them that lets homeowners know when they are operating in resistance or emergency heating mode. Some newer digital thermostats do not have an emergency heat indicator light. Excessively operating in emergency heating mode can be an indication of a problem. Without the light some customers miss a warning sign that there is a problem. A common mistake is to set the thermostat on emergency heat rather than just heat.
5. Faulty duct work – Occasionally duct connections fail. If this happens homeowners sometimes heat the non-living areas of their homes. Customers should inspect duct work periodically to ensure that it is intact.
If homeowners feel comfortable troubleshooting a heat pump problem, a safeguard to ensure the heat pump is working is to feel the ¾ inch copper tubing that extends from the outdoor unit to the air handler inside. The tube should have black foam insulation on it. In the winter, after the outdoor unit has been operating for several minutes, this tube should be very warm. If it is cold consider calling a heating and air conditioning professional to service the unit.
Appalachian Power recommends that customers have their heat pump serviced regularly. It is an important step in saving energy. For more energy-saving tips, visit www.wattwhyandhow.com or the company’s web site, www.appalachianpower.com.           
Appalachian Power provides electricity to 1 million customers in Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee (as AEP Appalachian Power). It is a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, with more than 5 million customers in 11 states. AEP ranks among the nation’s largest generators of electricity, owning nearly 38,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the U.S. AEP also owns the nation’s largest electricity transmission system, a nearly 39,000-mile network that includes more 765 kilovolt extra-high voltage transmission lines than all other U.S. transmission systems combined.
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Phil Moye
Corporate Communications Manager – W. Va.

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