heat pump question (newbie, please help)

Hello,
I just bought my first home in Minnesota, I moved from Texas, so winter is new to me here. I have an outdoor heat pump and I noticed it has a TON of ice around it, like a small ice rink, is this normal? On my thermostat I can put it on Heat, Cool, Auto, or Elec Heat. When I put it on auto or heat it runs off my heat pump and the air out of the vents feels cool. When I put it on Elec Heat, my furnace kicks in and I get nice hot air out of the vents. My home inspector told me to run it on auto or heat to save $ on energy and that running it on Elec will kill my furnace I don't know? Anyone know much about this? I think I have been getting bad advice up here. This is my first Minnesota winter and I took my sump pump hose off in the fall and my neighbor came over and told me to leave it on or I would have a ice rink on my side walk in the winter, he is a native to the state and I thought he would know more then myself, so I listened. The past few months my pump was running 24/7 and never dealing with one before I figured it must be normal. A few days ago my electic started shorting/flickering, so I went down and the hole for sump pump was full with bubbling water, I was confused, so I went out a lifted up the hose by the base and it exploded out with boiling hot water. How damaging is that to let your sump pump run 24/7 for a few weeks/months, can it cause electric issues, fire, etc? I am starting to miss Texas like crazy!
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Outside heat pump units can get ice on them at above freezing temperatures when the refrigerant inside is below 32 degrees F because moisture in the air freezes on the coil. The automatic 'defrost' cycle should melt it off. If the ice doesn't go away, then you need to call a service company.
Keeping your thermostat on 'Heat' or 'Auto' is the most economical way, however the air will normally feel cool, because your body temperature is warmer than the air coming out. If the house is maintaining the set temp of the thermostat, then there is probably nothing wrong. Running a heat pump on 'Elect Heat' will not normally kill the furnace. Electric furnaces (not connected to a heat pump) have been know to operate fine for 30+ years. If you have a problem with the outside unit, or it has a lot of snow around it, turn the thermostat to 'Elect Heat'.
P.S. The people in MN are some of the nicest people in the entire country.

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VideoGoat,
I have a heat pump instruction sheet for my customers that I can email to you. It is in MS word format. Send me an email at "sixfoot7 @ sccoast . net"; (remove spaces to email). I will email the sheets back to you. The ice rink around your unit is water that runs off the unit during defrost. In your climate it refreezes quickly and that is normal.
Your electric furnace won't be damaged by running in E Heat (Emergency Heat) but your electric bill may double.
Your sump pump must not have a float switch. What happened was all the energy from your pump motor went into the water, raising the temperature to the boiling point. Rreplace the pump with one that has a float switch to turn it on & off. If your discharge pipe is blocked or frozen shut, the effect will be the same as no float switch.
Your home inspector is full of it.
Stretch
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Your first problem is having a heat pump system in Minnesota. That area is well past the optimum climate and consequently you are going to use electric back up a lot. Unless your electric rates are well below average, this is a losing system.
The sump pump should only run when the sump pump hole is about 3/4 full of water. There should be a check valve in the discharge line so that water cannot flow back in. From the point where the line exists the foundation wall, the line should slope downward so no water will be left in the line to freeze. And the whole thing should be set up so that the water has a place to go, summer or winter. It should not be necessary to remove a hose for winter.
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Thanks to all the postings!! I appreciate.
I will admit Bob, people in MN are nice. The term Minnestoa nice, is true. You run into jerks here and there, but where won't you? Just taking some time to adjust to the changing of seasons here. I've never experinced a more beutiful time in my life, then a MN fall, BEAUTIFUL!!
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My son-in-law is from there. When I tell people how Interstate drivers slow down, so that people entering the Interstate can get on, they think I'm full of it. No one on the East Coast ever heard of such a thing.

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I had a heat pump in East Tennessee for 16 years. One thing that really helped was raising the temperature on the outside thermometer so the electric furnace kicked on at around 38 degrees instead of the 30 that it was set at. I seemed to really notice the change in the amount of heat the heat pump could extract out of the outside air between those temperatures. It helped control the electric bill since I was not running the electric furnace except when the outside heat dropped below 35.
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