Your Maintenance Visit: Checking the Heat Pump

This is the first in a series of four posts where we will talk about what our good natured technicians look for when testing your home systems. First up is the heat pump.

A heat pump is similar to an air conditioner in the way the refrigerant absorbs heat and releases it into a specific area of your home. Because they are similar in nature, most of the same tests apply for heat pumps and air conditioners. The difference lies when the heat pump goes into its heat cycle.

In addition to drains, pressures and electrical components, heat pumps use less refrigerant in the winter so the area where the refrigerant is stored must be tested.  The reversing valve also should be inspected as it aids in the changeover from cooling to heating.

When the heat pump is in heating mode, ice can accumulate on the coils because the heat being absorbed from outside of your home makes the fan blow very cold air past them. However, the defrost cycle normally prevents ice build up by thawing out the system, so ice accumulating on your heat coils is minimal. This defrost cycle needs to be tested as the sensors and valves used for this process are essential to the life of the system.

It’s also important to note that heat pumps only work well down to certain temperatures, and most people have some form of backup heat. Regardless of whether the backup heat is oil, gas, and even electric, these systems should be tested too. Additionally, the switchover from the heat pump to the backup heat is controlled by the thermostat when the heat pump is working too hard, so the thermostat needs to be tested as well.

If all of these tests are successful, your heat pump system is working well!