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Sierra Pacific Home & Comfort, Inc. Blog

When Good Heat Pumps Go Bad

scared-womanHeat pumps are reliable systems with tons of benefits. They can operate as either an air conditioner or a heater, making them a growing favorite of homeowners across the nation. They’re also one of the most efficient HVAC systems on the market, saving hundreds of dollars in operational costs.

It’s almost enough to make you think they can do no wrong … But sometimes, those innocent heat pumps can get into serious trouble.

Now, don’t get us wrong—we love heat pumps as much as any other HVAC contractor in Rocklin, CA. And while we don’t actually believe your heat pump will rebel against you, we also won’t pretend they don’t have some common problems (no heating system is 100% perfect!). A few of these problems, and what you should do about them, are listed below.

Defrost Cycle Preventing Hot Airflow

Weather in Northern California doesn’t often fall below 30°F. Even so, the refrigerant that cycles through heat pumps can sometimes run 10 to 20 degrees colder than the outdoor air. That can be enough for frost to develop on the outdoor heat pump.

When this happens, the heat pump will enter its defrost cycle. Warm air will be diverted to the outdoor unit to help melt the frost away. During this time, you can expect to lose warm air for about 15 minutes.

If time passes and there’s still no hot air, the outdoor air could be too cold for even the defrost cycle. And if that’s not the case, you might have a more serious problem. Time to call for a repair.

Refrigerant Leaks

Refrigerant is the lifeblood of your heat pump. It runs through the coils in your heat pump, undergoing phase changes and facilitating the transfer of heat. This is how a heat pump brings warm air into your home (or, in the summer, removes warm air from your home).

For that to happen properly, the level of refrigerant must stay constant to keep the system balanced. The biggest threat to this balance is a refrigerant leak.

After several years of use, the refrigerant lines or coils can develop corrosion. First, it will start off as a pinhole leak—barely visible—and get bigger from there. It takes the careful eye of a professional to spot these leaks early on.

An unchecked leak can bring a heap of problems to the system:

  • Lack of airflow
  • Frozen evaporator coil
  • Compressor damage or failure

It Doesn’t Stop Running

A running heat pump couldn’t possibly be a problem, right? Well, only if it seems to keep running unnecessarily.

This commonly only happens in temperatures below 35°F. If that’s the case, then it’s nothing out of the ordinary for your heat pump to operate a little longer.

But, assuming you’re experiencing this problem during average NorCal lows, then it could be due to a problem with the heat pump. Some of those problems could be due to:

  • Undersized equipment
  • Low refrigerant, as explained above
  • A poorly insulated home that’s allowing too much warm air to escape

Is your heat pump giving you trouble? We’ll talk some sense into it! Contact Sierra Pacific Home & Comfort, Inc. today.

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