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Heat Pump Troubleshooting Guide


Heat pump troubleshooting is important to help you better understand your system and determine whether the problem is something you can fix yourself — or whether you should reach out to a professional for help.

Troubleshooting your heat pump

Heat pumps are a great home temperature control option, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Just like any HVAC system, your heat pump might face issues throughout its life and it’s important to be prepared so you don’t compromise your comfortable home environment. We’re here to outline the most common heat pump problems you might experience, from your heat pump not heating, to not blowing cold air, to not turning on, and more. Plus, we’ll explore potential solutions for each to help alleviate the troubleshooting stress if something does go wrong with your system.

Heat pump is not heating

One of the main functions of heat pumps is to heat your home. During the cold weather months, heat pumps extract heat from the air outside — no matter how cold it is — and use refrigerant within the system to transport that heat into your home, ultimately raising the temperature. If you don’t feel like your home is getting warm when your heat pump is turned on, it might not be heating properly.

What can I do?

If your heat pump is not heating, there are a few common causes and possible solutions. First, it could be an issue with your thermostat. Try resetting your thermostat and setting the temperature up or down a few degrees different from where you originally had it to see if you notice any temperature change. Alternatively, the problem might be with your home’s control system or fuse box. If you know how to safely reset the fuse box, try that. Otherwise call in a professional for help. 

If neither of these things work, it’s probably time to speak to a local HVAC professional, who can further troubleshoot inside the system. 

Heat pump not blowing cold air

In addition to heating, the other main function of a heat pump is cooling. Within the heat pump, the cooling process works the same way as the heating process, but in reverse. Essentially, a reversing valve switches the flow of refrigerant inside the heat pump, so it’s able to pump heat from your home outside, instead of the other way around. Your heat pump not blowing cold air means there might be an issue with the cooling functionality.  

What can I do?

If your heat pump isn’t cooling, you can take similar troubleshooting steps that you would with heating issues. Try rebooting both your thermostat and, if you can safely reach it, your fuse box as well and allow the system to run long enough for you to notice if a change occurs. If neither of those things work, call an HVAC professional for further assistance. 

Heat pump is not turning on or off

If your heat pump is not turning on or off, the problem is likely the result of an electrical system malfunction. With any HVAC system, the thermostat is the head of control, telling the rest of the system when it’s time to heat, cool, turn on, turn off, and more. If your system won’t perform one of these basic functions, it might be an electrical issue with the thermostat. Alternatively, the electrical issue could stem from a power loss, or be caused by a source within the heat pump itself. 

What can I do?

Electrical issues are better left to professionals in all cases. If your heat pump is continuously running or not turning on at all, call in an HVAC professional to check your power source. They will likely reboot your home’s entire electrical system, which should be done by an expert to prevent blowing a fuse. If that doesn’t fix the problem, they’ll begin looking for electrical malfunction within your system. 

Heat pump is frozen

Surprisingly, in some cases, it actually might not be an issue if your heat pump is frozen. Your heat pump’s outdoor coil is 10 to 20 degrees colder than the air outside, so when the outdoor temperature drops significantly during the winter, it isn’t uncommon for your heat pump to freeze over. That’s why it has a built-in defrost cycle to get rid of ice and frost. But, if you find the ice on your heat pump isn’t going away or worse — is growing — there’s likely a bigger issue at hand. You could be dealing with faulty defrost controls, low refrigerant, a faulty sensor, or a variety of other problems.

What can I do?

When cold weather comes, check your heat pump to see how the weather impacts the unit. Do you frequently see ice build-up that’s removed by the defrost cycle, or is it rare to see frost? Once you know what’s normal for your heat pump, you can better identify a potential problem. If you notice unusual ice-build up or ice that isn’t melting after a few hours, call an HVAC professional for help. 

Heat pump producing strange noises or smells

Unfortunately, if there’s a strange noise or smell coming from your heat pump, it’s never a good sign, and the severity of the problem is best assessed by an HVAC professional. If you hear any variety of noises — from screeching, to banging, to gurgling, and more — coming from your heat pump, or smell anything suspicious at all, it could be a sign of an issue. This includes electrical issues, system failure, part failure or something else entirely. 

What can I do?

Unusual noises and smells are not to be taken lightly, as they could be potentially dangerous. As soon as you notice either of these things coming from your system, turn off your heat pump completely and contact an HVAC professional immediately. Your technician will be able to troubleshoot by examining parts of the system and the electrical work as a whole, to find the problem while keeping you safe. 

Heat pump troubleshooting: When it’s time to call in the professionals

Like we mentioned above, sometimes it’s necessary to call an HVAC professional as soon as you notice a problem, like if unusual noises and smells arise. In other cases, there are a few heat pump troubleshooting tips and tricks you can try yourself, but if the basics don’t work, call the professionals for help. Plus, if you ever don’t feel comfortable performing a troubleshooting step yourself, an HVAC technician can always come help find and fix the problem. 

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