HVAC technician charging a heat pump with refrigerant

Common Heat Pump Problems

Geothermal heating has two main selling points:

  1. It has a much lighter strain on the environment than fossil fuel burning systems 
  2. It’s relatively maintenance free

It’s hard to argue against the first point as a series of loops underground that harness the constant temperature of the Earth and turn it into a sustainable way to heat your home is much better than most alternatives. The second fact, though, is debatable because although the tubes deep underground will likely never need servicing, there are some common heat pump problems that will be encountered over the years, particularly dealing with the above-ground portion.

Here are five common heat pump problems and how to fix them:

Pump Doesn’t Heat the House Thoroughly

Heat pumps are efficient, but even they have their struggles in extremely cold temperatures. When wind chills reach the negatives, you may find that your house is colder than the thermostat settings and the only real fix is to wait out the deep freeze. In normal temperatures, though, the heat pump should perform as expected. One important measure to take is to make sure your home is sealed up properly and that hot air is not escaping through gaps near doors and windows. Beyond that, it’s best to call a professional technician because the fix and problem could be any of these methods or more:

  • Faulty thermostat
  • Poor refrigerant flow / low levels
  • Faulty valves (reversing, compressor, etc.)
  • Leaky ducts
  • Dirty unit

Heat Pump Is Frozen Over

The outdoor unit of the heat pump must withstand extremely cold conditions and often times it becomes iced up when there is excessive moisture and bitter cold temperatures. The unit has a default mechanism built into it called a defrost cycle that will melt the snow and ice off the heat pump. If you notice that ice has formed, it’s likely due to a faulty defrost cycle that will need to be serviced by a technician. You can help ease the stress on the defrost cycle by creating a barrier around the unit to protect it from wind, snow, and ice and to regularly clear off any snow and ice during winter storms.

Geothermal heat pump owners do not need to worry about this as their unit is underground and is never exposed to the extreme weather conditions as the surface units.

Pump Doesn’t Turn on At All

The heat pump not turning at all is generally due to some sort of electrical problem. The first thing to do is make sure the furnace hasn’t been turned off accidentally via a light switch on the side of the unit or a toggle on the inside of the control panel. The next step is to reset all the circuit breakers associated with the heat pump, even if they don’t look tripped. The final method a homeowner can take is to check for any frayed wires in and around the heat pump, air handler, etc. If no obvious signs of wear or corrosion are detected, it’s best to call in a skilled service technician.

Heat Pump Is Cycling Frequently

A heat pump which cycles more frequently than it should can be annoying and will also put excess wear and tear on the system. There are a few different possible causes:

  1. The first is to make sure there aren’t any leaks near doors, open windows, or anything else that will aid in the premature escape of the warmed air.
  2. Frequent cycling is also a sign of overheating, mainly when a clogged air filter is blocking the flow. Change the filter and if the problem persists it may be evidence of a thermostat problem such as poor calibration or placement in a location that is especially drafty or cool.
  3. In some cases, the thermostat will have to be replaced due to a bad circuit or a malfunctioning heat anticipator.

Pump is Rattling as it Runs

The pump will have some slight noise associated with it as it runs, but awkward squealing, grinding, or rattling points to something out of array. Remember, all systems have at least some noise, but if it is noticeably loud, there’s likely something wrong.

The easiest fix is to make sure the control panel is tightly screwed into place. Next, try and find the source of the rattle as it might be something as easy to repair as a loose ductwork or register out of place. If the noise is more of a squealing and grinding, then the bearings in the motor have probably gone bad.

In the end, there are many different factors that could contribute to these and other common heat pump problems. As always, the best route to take is to get a set of professional eyes on the situation to make sure your home resembles a Glenn Frey song and the “heat is on”.

If you are in the Reading, PA area and are in need of Heat Pump servicing, then contact us today for a free estimate.

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