Heat pumps are outdoor HVAC units that can both heat and cool your home. They are available in both ducted and ductless system configurations. A heat pump installation is an especially great residential heating and cooling option for those who live in moderate climates such as the Pacific Northwest. Plus, local utility companies often offer rebates on a heat pump installation because the units are energy efficient.
Though there are many benefits to heat pumps, there are a few downsides as well. In this article, we will discuss common residential heat pump issues during the winter and what you can do about them.
Heat Isn’t Strong Enough
Did you know heat that comes from a heat pump feels different from heat that comes from a furnace? Furnaces create a stronger and more intense heat. However, heat pumps run more continually instead of shutting off and turning back on. This is more energy efficient and produces a better balance of heat in your home resulting in more comfort for your family and less cold spots.
Residential heat pumps work best in moderate climates and temperatures and may struggle to keep up heating your house during times of extreme low temperatures. We recommend a backup heat source for your heat pump during these times of extreme weather. Often our customer’s have furnaces that they use as backup heat. If you decide to get a furnace as backup heat only run it during very cold wintry weather. The rest of the time you should use your heat pump as it is much more energy efficient.
Ice on Your Outdoor Unit
Have you noticed ice or frost on your heat pump outdoor unit? If so, don’t panic right away. Your heat pump can sense the ice build up and will run in defrost mode, which should thaw out the ice. During the defrost cycle, your heat pump will cool your home while using it’s heating energy to melt the ice on the outdoor unit. The defrost cycle should take ten to fifteen minutes to complete the defrost process.
If there is still ice on your outdoor unit after the defrost process has been completed, we recommend taking these steps yourself before calling an HVAC professional:
- Have you been changing your air filter on a regular basis? Check your air filter and change it if needed. This will ensure better airflow.
- Remove any debris from around your outdoor unit so there is 2 feet of clear space on all sides. This will help with airflow as well.
- Check your registers and/or vents to see if air is blowing out of them. If not, your blower motor may be having issues. You can double check this by turning the fan mode on using your thermostat. If in fan mode there still isn’t air circulating through your duct work and out of the registers and vents, then you know it’s a blower motor issue.
- After confirming that the blower motor issue isn’t the issue, there is one more part of your heat pump system that you can check. Turn on your heat pump and head outside. If the heat pump is running, but the fan isn’t then it’s a condenser fan motor problem.
If you have completed all the above steps and there is still ice on the outdoor unit, you should call an HVAC professional right away to diagnose and fix your residential heat pump. Leaving ice on the unit for an extended period can cause your system to have issues due to lack of air flow. An HVAC professional would also be able to help repair a blower motor and/or condenser fan motor problem as well.
Heat Pump is Always Running
Have you noticed that your residential heat pump never shuts off and is always running? This may indicate that your house isn’t well insulated so the outdoor chilly air is entering your home. Your heat pump will need to run longer and harder to keep your home comfortable warm. Consider taking steps to better insulate and weatherize your home.
Registers and Vents are Blowing Cold Air
Is there cold air blowing through your registers and vents? Your residential heat pump is most likely completing the defrost cycle. The defrost cycle should only last around ten to fifteen minutes; if cold is blowing after the defrost cycle is complete you may have another issue. Contact your local HVAC professional for a diagnostic appointment.
Call an HVAC Professional If:
- Thermostat isn’t working
- Heat pump won’t turn on
- Ice buildup stays on the outdoor unit for half of a day or more
- You think you have a refrigerant, blower motor or outdoor condenser fan issue
- You haven’t had an annual maintenance this year yet
Miller’s Heating & Air is your local Vancouver, WA and North Portland, OR residential heat pump and heat pump installation expert since 1947! Give us a call today or fill out this online form if you need to schedule a service, repair or heat pump installation. Our dispatchers and technicians are ready to help!