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What to Do When It’s Not Heating Enough
We have many different methods of home heating, and one of the common heating devices is a heat pump. You can use the heat pump all year round: in the summer, it pumps cool air into the house and acts as an air conditioner. In the winter, the heat pump absorbs heat from the outside to make your home warm and comfortable.
This versatility comes from the way the heat pump operates. It uses refrigerant to absorb heat from the outside (for heating the house) or release internal heat (thus cooling the house). This method is particularly energy-efficient and can save you a lot of electricity costs every year.
Of course, like any other home heating system, occasional issues may arise. If it’s a cold winter and you seem unable to reach the desired temperature inside your home, it can be particularly frustrating. Is your heat pump not providing enough heating? How do you diagnose and address the problem? Does your heat pump feel like it’s not blowing enough warm air? If so, don’t ignore it – low heat pump output is a sign of one or more issues that could lead to high energy consumption and a shorter lifespan. Of course, the answer depends on what the problem actually is. Here are some common issues with heat pumps and the measures you can take to resolve them.
Potential Issue #1: Thermostat
The first potential issue might be that the heat pump itself is actually fine. All equipment may be in perfect working condition, but you still can’t reach the desired temperature in your home. This could mean there’s a problem with the thermostat, which is responsible for programming the heat pump to your preferred temperature.
The thermostat software may have a problem. If that’s the case, you’ll need to have an HVAC specialist come and check it out. If you feel the temperature doesn’t quite match what the thermostat displays, you can try a temporary fix by adjusting the thermostat a few degrees higher.
Potential Issue #2: Frozen Pump
The working principle of an air-to-air heat pump is to absorb heat from the outside to the inside. Then the warm air is distributed throughout your home. If your home is still cold – no matter how high you set the thermostat – then the heat pump might be struggling to draw heat from the outside. In that case, go outside and check your outdoor unit. The pump itself might be frozen.
In reality, there can be various reasons for a heat pump to freeze, and they usually don’t do it on their own. Some of these issues are easy to fix, while others might require immediate assistance from professionals.
The easiest problem to fix is if there’s a heap of snow around the heat pump. Well, we say “easy,” but we mean relatively easy; shoveling all that snow might not be a walk in the park for anyone!
You might also notice your heat pump leaking refrigerant. Since it’s the refrigerant that absorbs heat, low refrigerant levels can make the pump struggle to do its job. Dealing with refrigerant is best left to professionals for safety purposes, so this requires a technician to fix.
Potential Issue #3: Faulty Reversing Valve
One of the reasons many homeowners opt for an air-to-air heat pump is its versatility. That is, they can function both as a heating system and as an air conditioning device. However, to be able to switch seamlessly between heating and cooling, they need to be able to do it effectively. They achieve this by using a mechanism called a reversing valve. It’s a device that allows the pump to switch from absorbing heat from the inside to cooling the house, to absorbing heat from the outside for heating the house. But if this valve isn’t working properly, your home may never get heated.
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Unless you are a professional HVAC technician, you’ll need to have someone come and repair the reversing valve in your heat pump. Contact a professional to start the repair process.
Potential Issue #4: Blocked Air Ducts
Insufficient heating from the heat pump isn’t always due to equipment failure. Sometimes, every part of the heat pump may be working fine, but your home still doesn’t reach the desired warmth. In this case, the problem could be as simple as a blocked air duct. If there’s any blockage anywhere in the ducts, the warm air won’t circulate properly, and your home will remain cold.
Sometimes, a simple problem has a straightforward solution. Trained HVAC technicians can perform cleaning work that complies with EPA standards. This means not only will your air become warmer, but it will also become healthier. Regularly replacing the filters in your heat pump is also essential. Even after professional duct cleaning, you’ll still need periodic comprehensive duct inspections and adjustments. And consider sealing the ducts to prevent air leaks.
Potential Issue #5: Weather Too Cold
While air-to-air heat pumps have many advantages over other heating methods, their performance isn’t as robust as other methods. If you live in a very cold area, your heat pump may struggle to keep up. After all, air-to-air heat pumps work by absorbing heat from the outside. If there’s not enough heat available, your pump won’t be able to do its job.
You can’t control the weather, so in this case, your only real option is to have a backup heating system installed. This doesn’t mean people living in cold climates can’t use air-to-air heat pumps, but it does mean that if the outdoor temperature drops well below freezing, you’ll need another heat source. Propane is a good option: it burns clean and gets very, very hot.
Troubleshooting a Heat Pump That Doesn’t Heat Properly
Heat Pump Troubleshooting
Knowing some basic HVAC troubleshooting steps can help you resolve many common HVAC issues and save you from scheduling an HVAC service call. Since the heat pump is essentially a reverse air conditioner, the following applies to air conditioners with the same problems.
Reset the thermostat. Thermostat malfunctions can lead to communication errors with the heat pump. Resetting the thermostat to factory settings and replacing the batteries usually resolves the issue. You should also try setting the temperature a few degrees higher and see if the heat pump responds, then return it to its usual setting. Reprogramming the thermostat schedule might be a bit inconvenient, but it’s nothing compared to increased wear or higher energy costs.
Replace the air filter. The air filter in your furnace or heat pump captures impurities like dust and mold and typically needs replacement every three months. A clogged air filter can impede airflow in the heat pump, resulting in reduced heat output. Luckily, air filters are easy to replace – meaning no need to schedule an appointment with an HVAC service technician.
Check the outdoor unit. You don’t need to make repairs to the heat pump, but it does help to inspect the outdoor unit for any signs that might indicate a problem. Look for refrigerant line leaks or any noises coming from the equipment. If you notice any of these issues, schedule an appointment with your HVAC service technician.
Keep Up with HVAC Maintenance
Just meeting the system’s maintenance requirements can prevent various HVAC problems, including low output. You should schedule two appointments each year: one to check the heating system before winter and one to check the air conditioning before summer. While these appointments come with costs, they can help prolong the lifespan of your HVAC system, prevent potentially expensive repairs, and reduce the chances of unexpected breakdowns. Regular maintenance also helps to keep your heat pump under an effective warranty.
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