A versatile heating and cooling system in one, the heat pump is what we recommend to so many of our customers looking for heating and air conditioning. It’s highly efficient and can keep you warm throughout the winter, but that doesn’t make it immune to problems.
Heat pumps can suffer from a number of problems in the summer, when it works as an air conditioner, or in the winter, when it works as a heater. Today, we want to focus on problems that tend to occur in the winter—some of which may surprise you!
It may be shocking to hear that a refrigerant leak can affect your heating, not just your cooling. This is only true for homes with heat pumps, in which refrigerant is used for both process. It may seem, due to the terminology, that refrigerant is only used for “refrigeration”—for keeping things cool. But refrigerant is actually a heat exchanger. It transfers heat out of the air in summer and into the home in the winter, so leaky refrigerant will keep your home from heating up or cooling down.
Iced Over Coil Outdoors
One of the effects of leaky refrigerant is an iced-over coil. It is not normal for ice to collect on the coil outside of the home (at least not more than a thin layer), as a heat pump has a defrost mode that should prevent this. Low refrigerant, broken motors, and other issues could cause this to happen. Frozen coils prevent the system from absorbing heat, which means it cannot transfer properly into your home, affecting efficiency and performance.
Broken Reversing Valve
The reversing valve is the component of your heat pump that allows it to switch from cooling to heating mode. Refrigerant redirects in order to go through the proper valves and absorb heat from the air outdoors, rather than deposit heat. If you only get cool air through the vents, you may need a new reversing valve, especially if you’ve recently switched the thermostat from cooling mode to heating mode.
Blocked Outdoor Unit
The outdoor unit of your heat pump may become blocked by dirt or debris—an important reason to keep the area around the unit clear and schedule coil cleaning and system maintenance each year. In some parts of the country, this blockage is caused by snow and ice building up around the unit, something you should clear away as often as possible.
Faulty Backup Heat
For the most part, the modern boiler is an effective and efficient heating system throughout the year. However, when temperatures approach freezing, the heat pump may need a little help from a backup heater, which comes standard in most installations. The electric heating strip is used sparingly in most heat pumps, but it could suffer from electrical trouble in time given the high amount of electricity it needs to operate. In this case, the heating strips may need replacement.