ductless mini split heat pumpsIf you have noticed some strange behavior coming from your heat pump, it may be in need of some attention. There are a few DIY quick fixes that may help your system. Or you may need a technician to take a look at the system and diagnose it.

This article explains how a heat pump works, and what can keep it running in mint condition.

What Is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump transfers heat from a colder area to a hotter area by using mechanical energy. Technically, a heat pump is a mechanical-compression cycle refrigeration system that can be reversed to either heat or cool a controlled space.

Installation consists of two parts—the indoor unit, called an air handler, and an outdoor unit similar to a central air conditioner. A compressor circulates refrigerant that absorbs and releases heat as it travels between the indoor and outdoor units.

How a Heat Pump Works

How a Heat Pump worksA heat pump is constantly moving warm air from one place to another. Even when air seems cold, heat energy is present. When it’s cold outside a heat pump extracts this outside heat and transfers it inside.

When it’s warm outside, it reverses directions and acts like an air conditioner, removing heat energy from your home.

Heat Pump Troubleshooting

Treating any heat pump issues that arise, along with regular maintenance is important before it turns into a bigger problem. Here are a few things to look for when troubleshooting your heat pump.

The first step that is recommended when troubleshooting your heat pump is to make sure to check the thermostat. Begin by setting the thermostat to the correct setting. Try setting the temperature five degrees above room temp, then switch the fan on.

If the fan doesn’t start: check the fuses and breakers. Replace the fuse or flip the circuit breaker to the closed position and determine the cause of the overload. You may have bad connections, a seized blower motor, or a shorted controller board.

If you did not blow a fuse or trip the circuit breaker, old or worn-out wiring on your heat pump may be the cause. Wiring or loose terminals will need to be repaired or tightened. It could also be a defective thermostat or a stuck fan relay.

If the fan is running: but you still feel cold air at the normal setting, check to see if warm air is coming out of the vents when the thermostat is set to emergency heat. Make sure the thermostat is at least five degrees above room temperature. If you feel warm air, then the problem is with the outdoor unit. If you don’t feel warm air, you may have a defective thermostat or air handler to blame.

Examining the Outdoor Unit

heat pumpIf you have determined that the problem is with the outdoor unit, return the thermostat to normal from the emergency heat setting.

Wait a few minutes before investigating the unit outside. When you inspect your unit, do you notice ice or frost building up on the outdoor coil?

This may indicate a defective defrost timer or control module, or the unit could be low on refrigerant.

If there is no frost check to make sure the airflow is not blocked by debris, grass clippings, sticks, leaves, and weeds. If there is a blockage, it will prevent air from going in and out.

Also check to see if the outdoor fan is running. If not, there may be a problem with the wiring, the fan motor, or the compressor run capacitor.

My Heat Pump Is Covered in Frost

If your heat pump is covered in frost you should keep in mind that it can ice-up during colder months. It is normal for the entire coil to be covered in a white frost or light ice in certain weather conditions.

However, it is not normal for the entire unit to be encased in ice, including the top of the unit and the insides of the coil, for an extended period of time. This indicates a problem and should be addressed quickly to save energy and avoid serious damage to the equipment.

If the heat pump’s coils are blocked by ice for a long period of time, then the proper heat transfer between the refrigerant and the outside air cannot occur. There have been cases when the units are so icy that it has damaged the fan blades, crushed the outside coils, created leaks, and destroyed the whole compressor.

Prevent a Disaster

  • If the top of the heat pump is covered in ice, turn it off and remove the ice
  • Make sure nothing is dripping on the heat pump, like a gutter
  • Keep snow and leaves away from the heat pump including underneath it
  • If the heat pump has settled into the ground, it must be elevated—usually on blocks or special feet (Should be done by a technician)
  • With the outdoor unit ice can be removed with a garden house—do NOT use a sharp object because the coils and fins can be damaged easily.

If you think your unit is experiencing an excess of ice or snow it is extremely important to contact a professional. They will be able to address the issue and fix the problem.

Get Free Estimates on Heat Pump Maintenance Today!

Pro HVAC Service can help connect you with HVAC contractors in your area that specialize in heat pump repairs and maintenance.  

A heat pump combines your heating and cooling, reducing the amount of money you spend on your energy bill every month and increasing your energy efficiency, as long as it is running in premium condition.

To get your free estimate on heat pump repairs or maintenance, fill out the form to the right, or give us a call at (844) 769-5995.  Within minutes, we’ll contact you with a list of local HVAC Contractors that can help you to find a solution that matches both your requirements and budget.