How to Maintain your Heat Pump

Heat Pump Audit

  • Clean the air filters once a month, or as needed. The inside air handling unit needs a constant flow of air to work efficiently. When the filter gets dirty, it causes the air handler to work overtime just to get air through the unit. Some air filters can be cleaned with water or by lightly vacuuming them.
  • Keep the outdoor condensing unit free from debris. If leaves, dirt, and other debris clog the intake, this will cause the unit to work less efficiently, and can lead to damage of the components. It is very important to remove snow or ice buildup during the winter.
  • Don’t cover your heat pump to try to protect it from outdoor elements, the units are designed for outdoor use.
  • Make sure vents inside the home are clear. If you have furniture blocking a vent or have curtain/drapes in front of unit the room won’t warm or cool properly. This makes the entire system work harder.
  • Clean the vents. When you’re clean air filters, take time to clean the air intake vents. Like the filters, if the vent gets clogged, it causes the air handler to work harder than it should.
  • Have an annual checkup. An HVAC technician can check the entire system and see if there are any leaks or other problems that need to be addressed. This helps the system to work more efficiently, and also prolongs its life.

Winter Heating Tips

  • Try not to set your thermostat over 70.
  • Make sure your home is properly insulated so heat doesn’t escape.
  • Lock the windows to reduce the warm air escaping your home.
  • Make sure all heating vents are clear from obstruction.
  • Lower thermostat when hosting a large number of guests.

Summer Cooling Tips

  • Try not to set your thermostat below 72 degrees.
  • Make sure your attic is properly ventilated.
  • Draw blinds or drapes to block the sunlight during the hottest part of the day.
  • Set your ceiling fans to rotate counter-clockwise.
  • Use your grill and cook outside as much as possible.

Heat Pump Troubleshooting

Heat pumps do operate somewhat differently than a traditional systems. So how do you begin heat pump troubleshooting? And are there issues you can fix yourself?

In some cases, there are issues you can prevent and problems you can solve on your own when you are aware of the heat pump troubleshooting steps. Here is a list of the most common problems we see with heat pumps, possible causes and what to do next. Of course, if you are uncertain of the issue, we recommend that you contact your HVAC specialist and schedule an appointment.

Heat Pump Troubleshooting Problem #1: ICING UP

During the cold winter months, your heat pump’s outside unit will sometimes be covered with a coating of frost on the sides, or even light ice. This is perfectly normal. Every so often, the unit will go into defrost mode to remove that frost.

However, if the top of the unit has a heavy coat of ice, the coils are encased in ice, or the entire unit is covered with a thick sheet of snow and ice, this indicates a problem. All that ice prevents the transfer of heat between the refrigerant and the outside air, and impedes the operation of the heat pump. If you don’t take care of it soon, you could damage the unit beyond repair. Ice in the coils can damage the sensitive fins, the fan blades, and eventually lead to compressor failure.

Heat pump troubleshooting tips for winter icing

  • The unit is not defrosting. Under normal conditions, your heat pump periodically switches to defrost mode for a few minutes, which heats up the outdoor coils enough to melt any frost and light ice that has accumulated. If the unit is not defrosting, ice can build up in a hurry. Defrost issues can be caused by faulty relays, controls, or sensors. There could also be a problem with the reverse valve that switches the unit from heat to air conditioning mode.
  • Outdoor unit is blocked. If piles of snow have accumulated around the outdoor unit, the impeded air flow can cause more icing.
  • Water is leaking onto the unit. Water constantly dripping on the unit from leaky gutters can gradually form a layer of ice on top.


    • Actually, let’s start with what you should NEVER do: use a hard or pointy object to try to chip away the ice! Those fan coils are very delicate and can easily be damaged. Instead, use water from a hose to melt the ice.
    • Remove and debris or snow that may be blocking the unit.
    • Check for leaking gutters that may be dripping water onto the unit, and repair them.
    • Call your HVAC service tech to troubleshoot defrost issues.