The Ultimate Guide to Heat Pump Maintenance

Silence. It’s the last thing you want to hear from your heat pump on a cold day.

If you’ve ever felt the cold sting of a troubled HVAC system on a cool, winter morning or a hot summer afternoon, you know the importance of heat pump maintenance.

It’s no fun for you (or your wallet) when your heat pump is struggling.

For most residential homes the heat pump is likely the most complex component of the home itself. So if something really does go wrong, the repair is probably not going to be simple or affordable.

A neglected heat pump can also cost you on your electricity bill. Your unit could be using 10% – 25% more electricity than a properly maintained heat pump.

Luckily, there are some simple precautions that homeowners can take to ensure that their heat pump stays in great condition. A little attention and proper heat pump maintenance could save you a lot of trouble (and money) in the long run.

Let’s take a closer look at how heat pumps work and the best way to maintain them.

What is a heat pump?

If you’re like most homeowners, your understanding of your HVAC system probably doesn’t extend much beyond the thermostat hanging on your wall.

Afterall, if everything works, why mess with it?

Whether you’re having problems or not, it’s always important to have at least a basic understanding of the way different components of your home work.

If you own a car, you probably have some knowledge of how it works and the basic steps need to maintain it. You need to put gas in it, change the oil after so many miles, rotate the tires, etc.

Just like your car, the heat pump in your home has a number of moving parts.

Your heat pump likely consists of two components:

  1. An outdoor unit that resembles an air conditioner
  2. And an air handler located inside your home

The outdoor unit pumps air into your home. That air is then either heated or cooled along the way.

How heat pumps work

So how does it all work?

In order to bring nice warm air into your home on a cold day, heat pumps pull warm air from outside your home and pumps it through a super cold coil.

Doing this allows the unit to effectively pull the warmth out of the air and pipe it into the ducts in your home.

When it’s hot outside, the heat pump simply runs in reverse, providing you with cool air while pumping hot air back out of your home.

Advantages of a heat pump

The biggest advantage to owning a heat pump is that you have one unit controlling your HVAC system rather than two. If something goes wrong or needs to be replaced, there’s just one system to deal with.

And, since you’re just transferring existing heat from the air, you’ll use less energy than a traditional furnace which needs fuel to burn and create heat.

A heat pump could cut anywhere from 30% to 40% from your utility bill. But, a lack of heat pump maintenance could reduce your savings.

Common heat pump problems

So what could go wrong?

It’s just pumping air around, right?

While the process sounds relatively simple, the mechanics of the system are not.

Here are a few common issues your heat pump could develop:

Not warming the air in your home enough

The good news here: this is probably a simple problem. The air ducts in your home may have become clogged over time with dust, or the air filter may just need to be replaced.

The unit is making strange noises

Here’s one thing you don’t want to experience – strange sounds coming from your heat pump.

As you might have guessed, this one is a little more serious.

Something is probably either loose or worn within the unit itself. Diagnosing a problem like this could save you a lot of money in the long run, though.

The heat or cool air is not coming on at all

This could be a simple issue with the thermostat in your home, or a problem with wiring somewhere else in the system.

Heat pump maintenance you can do yourself

The problems above can usually be prevented with some simple, routine maintenance. You don’t need special training or particularly handy.

The simplest thing you can do to ensure that your heat pump maintenance is up to date to keep the air ducts in your home clean and free of dust and debris.

You’ll also want to make sure you change the air filter regularly–typically once a month. A clogged filter or dirty ductwork can reduce airflow in the system, leading to poor heating and cooling performance and potential damage to the compressor.

Another thing you’ll want to keep your eye on is the heat pump unit outside your home. Be sure to keep the area around it clear of obstructions and debris like weeds or other plant life.

When to call in the experts

While there are a number of things you can check on your own, there are a few components of your heat pump’s maintenance that are probably best left to a qualified technician.

Here are a few things that an HVAC pro can accurately diagnose and assess:

  • Check refrigerant levels
  • Inspect for refrigerant leaks
  • Check all electrical connections
  • Check motor and belts, and lubricate and tighten if necessary
  • Verify thermostat function

Conclusion

What if you already have a problem?

If something is not working quite right, or just not working at all, it’s probably a good time to call in the pros.

While it’s always a good idea to visually inspect everything first, an HVAC pro will really know what to look for. Catching a problem in its early stages and allowing a technician to inspect and fix the problem before it becomes serious could save you big in the long run.

If you’re in need of a qualified, experienced professional, we’re always here to help.