Common Problems and What to Do About Them

Heat pump problems can be a huge hassle. When it’s cold out and your heating system is acting up, you need a solution as fast as possible. If you rely on a heat pump for heating and cooling your home, you might encounter one of these issues at some point. Here’s our guide to heat pump troubleshooting.

How Does a Heat Pump Work?

First, let’s briefly cover how a heat pump works. Heat pumps operate on the same basic principle as air conditioning. They move heat from one area to another, absorbing heat from the air outside even in severely cold temperatures.

In heating mode, the outdoor unit blows air over an evaporator coil inside of it. This extracts heat energy. That heat is absorbed into a refrigerant line, which is pressurized by a compressor inside the unit.

The pressurized refrigerant travels into the home to the indoor unit. There, a condenser coil transfers the absorbed heat from the refrigerant line as a fan blows air over the coil. The indoor unit “pumps” the heat into your home, circulating the refrigerant back out to continue the cycle. Check out this article from Carrier for an in-depth explanation of how heat pumps work.

Now let’s take a look at some of the common problems of heat pump troubleshooting.

Guide to Heat Pump Troubleshooting

Heat Pump Won’t Run

There are a few possible reasons why a heat pump won’t run. First, make sure the thermostat is set correctly. This is a surprisingly common source of furnace and heat pump problems. Make sure the thermostat is compatible with the heat pump. If it’s the same one you’ve used during previous winters, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Once you’ve confirmed that the thermostat is compatible, wired correctly, and accurately set, check whether the heat pump will start. If not, you probably are looking at a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse. Check the electrical panel (and relevant subpanels) and reset circuit breakers if needed.

If the problem persists, you should contact an HVAC technician.

Outdoor Unit Blocked

If your system is running poorly, ineffectively, or unnecessarily, check the outdoor unit. Something may be obstructing the airflow and blocking it from reaching the evaporator coil.

Leaves, debris, or accumulated snow can be a problem. Clear out anything that’s blocking the outdoor unit.

Outdoor Unit Frozen

Another common problem is ice developing on the coil within the outdoor unit. This causes similar blockage issues to other kinds of debris but also indicates a deeper problem.

Outdoor coils will ice up due to water leaking from melting ice or snow. The system’s defrost mode can help, but if there’s a substantial amount of water, the source of the leak must be dealt with. If the defrost timer isn’t functioning properly, you should have an HVAC tech take a look.

The coil can also ice up as a result of low refrigerant. If you suspect that the refrigerant line is leaking, this is another situation where a service call is warranted.

Another possibility is that the fan motor isn’t pulling enough air over the coil. If the fan motor or defrost timer isn’t working, the ice buildup will only keep getting worse. Contact a professional to inspect the unit.

Blowing Cold Air on Heat Mode

Check the thermostat setting and the outdoor unit. More often than not, one of these is the cause of this issue.

Heat Pump Is Not Cycling Properly

Check all vents and registers to make sure the airflow isn’t obstructed. Check and replace air filters if they’re clogged. If vents, registers, filters, and the thermostat all appear to be in working order, there’s probably an issue that needs professional attention. This could include dirty coils or a problem with the reversing valve or the blower.

Heat Pump Making Strange Noises

If this happens, shut the heat pump off and contact an HVAC tech for heat pump repair. Strange noises could indicate loose or broken parts, a problem which will rapidly get worse if it isn’t attended to.

Know When to Call in the Pros

If you’ve run through these heat pump troubleshooting basics and are still experiencing problems, it’s time to make a service call. Reach out to a reputable local HVAC technician. In South Jersey, you won’t find more cost-effective, reliable expertise than Laury Heating Cooling & Plumbing!

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