Top Heat Pump Issues Homeowners Experience In Winter

image of a homeowner feeling chilly due to poor heating pump performance in winter

While the current trend is for many homeowners to switch to using a heat pump due to reliability and efficiency, there is more to it than just that. A heat pump can have some problems, just like any other home heating system. It will require a professional HVAC service from time to time. The basic idea of how a heat pump works is that it moves heat it can find outside to inside, using a refrigerant. It is basically an air conditioning unit working backward. This article discusses some of the most common problems that homeowners experience with their heat pump in winter.

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Most Common Homeowner Winter Heat Pump Problems

Keep reading to explore some common issues with heat pump operation in the winter season.

1. Drip

Just as happens with an air conditioning unit, if the drainage system is not functioning properly, a heat pump can get a backup of condensation within the unit that will cause standing water and lead to a dripping issue. There are a number of reasons this could happen. Snowmelt and rainwater are two of them. Care should be taken that the unit is not sitting at a low spot to prevent this. Another common reason for drip is that the unit is not level, which allows it to rock. Ensure that the surface for the unit is level prior to installation.

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2. Malfunctioning Heat Pump Unit

Heat pump units run all the time using a sensor that controls when heat is brought in. Should the unit stop, all of a sudden, there could be a problem. First, ensure that it was not switched off and that the breaker is still in the on position. Also, make sure the unit is plugged in. If all of this is correct, then reset the unit to try and get it running again. Older units may have components that have broken or become faulty in some way. If everything is plugged in and turned on, and the unit still will not run after a reset, then it is time to get a technician out to see what the problem is.

3. Heat Pump Is Blowing Cold Air

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There are a couple of reasons your unit may start to blow cold that you are able to fix yourself. First, check the unit to ensure that it was not turned to defrost. If the unit was turned to defrost mode, then wait for the cycle to complete and turn it back to the run mode. However, if the unit is not in defrost, check to ensure that all airflow for the unit is open. If not, then open it. If neither of these options works, then it is time to call in a professional for help. Your reversing valve may need attention.

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4. Frozen Heat Pump Unit

frozen heat pump

Units that are placed outside are going to get cold in winter weather. They are designed to withstand this. However, the unit shouldn’t be freezing over. Make a schedule to visually inspect the outdoor unit, the compressor, to ensure that it isn’t freezing. Should you notice ice, then you need to take action ASAP. The unit has to be able to move air to do its job, and ice can stop air flow and damage the unit. Ice that is thin may melt away without intervention. However, ice that is thicker will need to be removed to prevent damage. The longer it is left, the more the risk of damaging the unit, and the more damage that could be done.

If ice is present on the unit, they come with a built-in defrost cycle that can be run in order to remove it. This is the best first step. If your unit does not run the defrost cycle like it is supposed to, it can be ran manually. It should only take 15 minutes at most to clear up the problem this way. In order to speed up the process, another source of heat can be used to help warm the unit faster. If your unit is freezing over often, then it is time to call in a technician to assess the situation.

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5. Continuous Heating Cycle

Like an air conditioning unit, the heat pump will operate the heating cycle until the it reaches the temperature set on the thermostat. Then, it will shut down and wait till the sensors indicate it needs to begin another heat cycle. If the unit stays in the heat cycle and never rests, one possibility is that the thermostat is set to a temperature that the unit is incapable of reaching. Another possibility is air drafts within the home that is cooling the sensors and keep the unit running. Make sure all windows and doors are shut, seal any known holes and look for unknown ones, and double-check all insulation in areas that might be losing heat. Again, if you are still experiencing problems with the unit not shutting off, contact a professional.


6. Inadequate Heat

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Furnaces and heat pumps work in different ways. If you live in an area with extreme winter weather, then you most likely already understand how a furnace works to generate heat. A heat pump doesn’t work the same way a furnace does. The heat that it will generate is more subtle.

Some people who don’t have previous experience with the type of heat that is provided by a heat pump might be confused by this and think their unit is not working properly. While they may not provide intense heat all at once, they are designed to run for a longer period of time with more efficiency to achieve the same amount of overall heat over a longer build-up time. This will keep the air at a uniform temperature and create optimal heat delivery with better efficiency over time. Another heat source may be required on the worst days that winter has to offer when the winter weather gets overly harsh.

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The more you know about how a heat pump works and the potential problems it presents, the better prepared you can be to own a heat pump unit. This includes being able to take steps to prevent certain problems from arising, rectifying problems with easy solutions, and understanding when a professional eye is needed in order to find a solution. You will also know how to provide the technician with valuable information about the symptoms of the problem when they arrive to help. This will help them determine any potential problems based on the information you have provided and will get you back to having a warm home quickly. No matter what happens, keep in mind that an HVAC professional will be able to help you with any problems your system has.

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