Think You Need Your Heat Pump Repaired? Consider These 3 Signs

Posted on: 14 September 2015

A heat pump is one of the most efficient ways of heating and cooling your home, since it uses up to 40 percent less electricity than a typical HVAC furnace and air conditioner combo. To ensure that you get the biggest bang out of your energy buck, it's crucial to know when your heat pump needs service. Ignoring the following signs could lead to reduced energy efficiency and performance, so it pays to watch out for the following signs.

Stuck in Heating or Cooling Mode

An ordinary heat pump works by using its refrigerant to move latent heat in and out of your home. During summertime duty, the heat pump uses its refrigerant to collect heat from the indoor air and expel it outdoors. During the winter, it's the opposite—the heat pump gathers heat from outdoor air and transfers it indoors.

To facilitate this process, the heat pump has to reverse the flow of its refrigerant cycle as needed. A small component known as the reversing valve makes this happen. In the event that the reversing valve fails, your heat pump may become stuck on its cooling or heating cycle.

If you tried to switch heat pump modes without any response from your unit, then you may need to have an experienced technician take a look at the reversing valve for signs of damage or excessive wear.

Experience Constant Ice Buildup

Ice buildup is another problem that sometimes requires the intervention of an experienced technician. As your heat pump runs, the refrigerant within is usually 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the ambient temperature of the outdoor air. If outdoor temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, then it's not unusual to see some frost develop on the outdoor cabinet.

What is unusual is seeing the entire outdoor cabinet encased in ice. This usually happens when there's not enough refrigerant circulating throughout the system. Low refrigerant levels can cause low pressures that, in turn, lead to lowered refrigerant temperatures that encourage ice buildup.

If you see extreme ice buildup on your heat pump, then you'll want to have your technician take a look at the unit's refrigerant levels. Your technician may also check for refrigerant leaks throughout the system, just to make sure that there aren't any cracks or pinholes in the refrigerant lines.

You should also have your technician take a look at the defrost cycle. Most heat pumps rely on this cycle to help melt away frost and light ice buildup. If the defrost stops working, it could lead up to severe ice buildup.

Notice Higher Utility Bills with No Recognizable Cause

If you find the bottom line on your utility bill climbing skyward without any noticeable cause, then you may want to take a very close look at your current heat pump. There are a few explanations of why you might see higher-than-usual energy consumption from your heat pump:

  • Deferred maintenance can cause individual components to wear faster as they're used longer. This could also result in higher energy consumption and, as a consequence, a higher utility bill.
  • If you installed your heat pump 10 years ago or even longer, it may be feeling its age. Besides, older heat pumps are usually not as energy-efficient as their newer and more eco-friendly counterparts. There's a good reason why it's often best to replace your current heat pump with a newer Energy Star-qualified unit after 16 years of service.
  • Unexpected defects can easily cause unforeseen problems for your heat pump. You should have your technician check for component defects, many of which are likely to be covered under the unit's manufacturer warranty.

Keeping an eye out for these problems can help keep your heat pump in great shape for many seasons to come.