Of the many different methods for heating your living space, a heat pump is perhaps the most versatile and efficient system. You can use a heat pump all-year-round. In the summer, it pulls heat out of the air in your living space, keeping it cool and cozy. Meanwhile, it absorbs heat from the outside air and uses it to warm your home during the winter months. Heat pumps generally use a small amount of electricity to operate, making them less expensive to run than a gas-fired furnace.
As with other heating systems, heat pumps may experience problems along the way. This can be particularly frustrating if you’re braving a cold winter and can’t seem to get your home to reach the desired temperature. Air Products & Services, a heating and AC troubleshooting system expert, shares below some of the most common issues found with heat pumps and what you can do about them.
The refrigerant needs to be recharged. Heat pumps rely on refrigerant to transfer heat from one set of coils to another–a process known as heat exchange–throughout the seasons. When a leak develops and the heat pump loses refrigerant, it’s unable to sufficiently move heat, so it feels like the equipment isn’t heating. While the system can continue to run on low refrigerant, this simply isn’t ideal, and can lead to damaged components. For one, it may force the indoor coil to freeze during the evaporation process. Even more importantly, it may speed up the deterioration of the compressor.
A low level of refrigerant isn’t an issue you can tackle yourself. It’s important to hire a licensed, certified HVAC technician to safely recharge your refrigerant and restore the performance of your heat pump.
The thermostat needs to be recalibrated. There’s a possibility that the root cause of the problem isn’t the heat pump itself. If the unit is in good working order but it feels like the temperature doesn’t match what’s set on the thermostat, the thermostat may need to be recalibrated. A quick fix would be to turn the thermostat up a few degrees.
Things can also get out of sync if the thermostat is no longer level, causing the mercury vial it utilizes to be off. However, this is a rare occurrence, says an AC repair expert, since programmable thermostats and many manual thermostats sold today are mercury-free. Another common cause of thermostat issues is dirt and dust buildup inside the unit. To address this problem, remove the faceplate and carefully blow off any dust you see on contact points.
The reversing valve has failed. For many homeowners, one of the main reasons they choose to install an air-to-air heat pump is because they’re able to function as both a heater and an air conditioner. However, in order to perform their job effectively, they need to be able to switch between heating and cooling modes without a hitch. A mechanism called a reversing valve allows this change to occur. To change modes, all you have to do is press a button on your dual-mode thermostat. As the valve changes direction, so will the flow of refrigerant.
Like other components, the reversing valve isn’t immune to occasional hiccups. The most common one is when the mechanism becomes stuck in a specific mode or in between modes. Another dilemma that can occur with reversing valves is a refrigerant leak. Unfortunately, leaks can’t be repaired since they’re inside the valve, so the valve will need to be replaced by a heating and air conditioning replacement technician.
The air ducts are blocked. When a heat pump doesn’t blow out enough warm air, this isn’t always due to equipment failure. There are instances when every component of the heat pump is in good condition and the thermostat setting is correct, but the home still isn’t getting as warm as the residents would like. In this case, the problem may be as simple as a clogged air duct. If there’s any form of blockage in the duct system, the warm air won’t be able to spread around the house evenly, leaving some areas cold.
To prevent your air ducts from becoming blocked, let a trained technician perform a thorough cleaning session that meets EPA standards every three to five years. In this way, your indoor air will not only be warmer, it will also be a lot cleaner and healthier. Even after professional duct cleaning, a full duct inspection and tune-up should be performed periodically by a heater and AC repair contractor. Also, consider having your ducts sealed to prevent air leakage.
The air filter is clogged. Air filters are responsible for removing pollutants, allergens and other contaminants from the indoor air before it moves through the heat pump. When they become clogged with debris buildup, they restrict the flow of air and prevent it from reaching the evaporator coil, where the heat is exchanged. When a heat pump isn’t heating sufficiently due to a clogged filter, all you need to do is to replace the filter. Don’t wait until you’re shivering to do so, however. Change your air filter according to the recommendations made by the manufacturer. For standard-sized filters, it’s recommended to change them once a month when you’re using the heat pump on a day-to-day basis. When conditions are milder, you can replace your filter every two to three months. It’s also helpful to check it monthly to determine if an early replacement is needed to improve performance.
The outdoor unit is blocked. When the heat pump is extracting heat from the outdoor air, the air must flow through the unit to the condenser coils held within. When the outdoor unit is blocked off, usually due to organic debris, there’s not enough air movement, so the heat extracted isn’t enough to keep the entire house comfortably warm. Like a clogged air filter, this heating problem has a pretty easy solution: clear the area surrounding the outdoor unit. Move away anything that can block airflow. Brush away leaves and grass clippings, shovel away snow and remove fencing or items near the unit. Don’t box in the unit with a solid structure: instead, use screens or lattices to allow for ventilation, advises an air conditioning replacement specialist. Keeping at least two feet of clearance around the outside unit promotes optimal airflow.
There’s no power. Check the thermostat and make sure it’s set to “heat.” In order to kickstart a heating cycle, the thermostat setting must be higher than the indoor temperature. Most heat pumps have corresponding circuit breakers to power the air handler and condenser. If they’re tripped, simply switch them back to “on.” If the problem is a blown fuse, replace it as soon as possible. You may also have a circuit dedicated to the backup heating of your heat pump. Check its condition as well. If this doesn’t resolve the lack of power, proceed to check the external power switch to the outdoor unit. It’s commonly located on the unit or the exterior wall where the refrigerant lines run.
If Your Heat Pump Isn’t Reaching the Set Temperature…
If your heat pump isn’t heating and can’t be remedied by the simple troubleshooting tips we’ve mentioned above, don’t hesitate to contact us at (818) 875-7231 or fill out our convenient online form to schedule a heat pump repair or replacement. Air Products & Services has been delivering top-rated heating and AC troubleshooting system solutions since 1979 to clients in Tarzana and nearby areas in CA. You can count on us to provide fast, reliable service that meets the comfort needs of your home.