Here’s the thing about Sacramento weather—and you know it if you’ve lived here for even just a year—it is extremely variable. Sure, we get cold in the winter and hot in the summer, but we also have unexpected heat waves and surprise cold snaps.
As such, we often find ourselves switching modes on our heat pumps. These systems are designed for such a task, and work best in climates like ours. In warmer weather, they remove heat from the home via a refrigerant process and expel the heat outdoors, where the process is revered in cooler weather.
But what happens when the heat pump won’t switch modes? Simply put, it indicates a problem with the reversing valve, which we’ll describe more below.
Understanding How a Heat Pump Operates
In order to understand why your heat pump is stuck in one mode or the other, you first need to know how a heat pump operates. It cools a home the same way an air conditioner does—by evaporating refrigerant to siphon heat from inside the home and condensing it back into liquid to vent the collected thermal energy outside.
The difference between a heat pump system and a standard central air conditioner is that the heat pump, as we stated above, reverses the direction that refrigerant flows through the system. It does this due to that component called a reversing valve.
This component is a four-way valve that sits in the refrigerant line. Inside this valve is a slider that moves between two positions. In one position, the refrigerant flows one direction and the system cools the home. In the other position, the flow is reversed. This slider is controlled by an electromagnet called a solenoid, which pushes and pulls it between the two positions.
When there is a reversing valve problem, the heat pump can get stuck in one mode or the other.
Reversing Valve Troubles
If your heat pump is stuck in heating mode, it typically means there is a problem with the reversing valve. There are two potential issues that may be affecting the valve. First, it’s possible that the slide in the valve is stuck. If this is the case, the valve needs to be opened by a professional, and the slide needs to be reset.
The other possible problem is that the solenoid lost its charge and is no longer able to affect the slide. If this is the problem, the only option would be to have the solenoid replaced.
Regardless of what is causing your reversing valve to have an issue, you’ll need to have a professional take care of it for you. It might seem like a simple fix to get your heat pump heating, or cooling, your home again, but attempting it without professional training or equipment can make the problem worse.
If your heat pump is stuck, be sure to call our pros right away!