One Hour Heating & AC Kentucky: Why Is My Heat Pump Not HEATING?!
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Here in Kentucky, we get all four seasons. In the summer, it is hot, hot, hot. But with summer winding down and fall looming, it’s time to start thinking about staying warm.
Because Kentucky winters are cold, cold, COLD.
Any good heating technician knows that the time to call for furnace or heat pump repair isn’t the winter. It’s the fall. We’ve got a couple of good reasons for saying that. First, most heating repair companies are busier in the winter and summer, and a little slower in the mild seasons. Second, you don’t want to have your equipment down for repair right at the time you need it most.
For that reason, we recommend keeping a scheduled biannual maintenance appointment with One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning. As part of our standard service contract, we’ll make sure you never forget to tune up your system.
However, in the event that you don’t have a standing appointment, or something has just gone wrong anyway, we’d like to prepare you.
What do you do if your heat pump isn’t blowing hot air? After all, that’s the only job that particular device has got, right? Heating and cooling?
Here’s the scenario: you’ve just noticed the air coming out of your heat pump is lukewarm, and you’re worried, because it’s going to get cold soon.
Heat Pump Repair: When You Need It
If your heat pump isn’t doing the thing it’s named after – pumping heat into or out of your home as needed – you’re right to be concerned. But before you panic and start booking hotel rooms or something, take a deep breath and read on.
The two likeliest issues are:
Your heat pump is malfunctioning in some way.
Your body is being fooled, and everything is fine.
We’ve mentioned this second thing in this article primarily because we mention it on the phone or in person. It surprises most people. It especially surprises people who’ve recently switched from a gas or propane furnace or some other heat source to a heat pump.
So here’s the deal there. Your body, as you may know, runs (when healthy) at about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When the winters get chilly, a heat pump is likely to blow air out somewhere in the neighborhood of 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
That minor discrepancy will make the air coming out of your vents feel a bit mediocre relative to your body temperature. If you’re used to furnaces, you’ll probably notice this, since most furnaces are churning out air that’s over 100 degrees.
You shouldn’t be worried if this turns out to be the case. 95 degree air is plenty warm enough to keep your home comfortable.
Here’s what you do: run over to your thermostat and check it out. If your home is the temperature you set, or on the way to it, you’re probably okay. Make sure that the heat pump shuts off when it reaches the desired temperature, too.
If it behaves normally, you’re fine – and you are just getting used to heat pumps.
If the thermostat registers a different temperature than it should, or the heat pump is misbehaving in other ways, read on and let’s troubleshoot.
Heating Repair Troubleshooting: Heat Pumps
For the troubleshooting portion of this article to make sense, you’ll need a basic understanding of how your heat pump works. But you’re here, reading this, so let’s assume you’re an enterprising DIY-er. Here are the basics.
A heat pump replaces an air conditioner and a furnace. In most cases, it is the one-stop shop for all of your climate control needs. In especially cold areas, a supplemental heat system may sometimes be installed as a sort of assistant to a heat pump.
Heat pumps consume less energy than conventional gas furnaces, and are significantly greener than almost all traditional furnaces. They use renewable energy. They also utilize what we explained to you earlier: low temperature heat.
Heat pumps pump heat. That’s right, it’s that simple. They use small amounts of energy to move heat around. In the winter, they pull heat out of the air or ground to heat your home. In the summer, they reverse, and pull heat out of your home in order to cool it.
Got all that? Good. The mechanics of your heat pump are actually similar to a traditional central air unit, and they look just about the same. Usually, a heat pump consists of an indoor blower unit, and an outdoor condenser unit, just like your AC. They use refrigerant, too – they just know how to do it in reverse, which is a pretty neat trick.
The Issues That Plague Your Heat Pump (and How To Fix Them)
Here are a few of the things that could cause your heat pump to perform inadequately.
The condenser unit has dirt or debris build up.
A dirty outside unit is a big problem, but an easy fix. When your heat pump is in heating mode, the refrigerant is being used to absorb ambient heat from the air. It then transfers that heat indoors to keep you toasty.
If the coils in the outdoor unit are covered in dirt, grass clippings, dust, pollen, and other assorted debris, however, it can’t do it’s job. This is also the case if there are obstructions like fencing or bushes too close to the outdoor unit.
The Fix: Good news, guys. If you clean the outside unit, these problems will resolve themselves very quickly. You can do this quite easily. Simply turn off the breaker (for safety’s sake) and go at it with a broom, and then, if necessary, a cloth. Be sure not to bend the fins on the unit while you’re cleaning it. If you’re not sure how, this is a standard part of our Tune Up service. Call us anytime with questions!
Snow and ice are over-insulating the outside unit.
When we said you’ve got to keep the outside unit unobstructed, we meant it. That includes snow and ice.
Snow and ice act as natural insulation – that’s why the inside of igloos can be quite cozy, and why animals can hibernate in the snow. When your outdoor unit is all snowed in, it can’t absorb any ambient heat. Left to struggle against the snow and ice, it will blow a compressor before too long, so this can NOT be left long.
The Fix: Just like number one, all you’ve got to do is remove the obstruction and let the machine work as intended.
The outside unit has lost power.
Condenser and blower – the two parts of a heat pump. If the outdoor unit has lost power, the indoor unit will just blow cold air. You’ll notice that fast, because the air it blows won’t remain lukewarm for very long.
The outdoor unit allows the indoor unit to heat a coil over which air is blown in order to heat your home. If it can’t do it’s job, you’re essentially running a fan.
The Fix: Check your breaker box and look for a tripped one. If it’s tripped, reset it and keep an eye on things. If it doesn’t trip again after awhile, you’re probably okay. If it does trip again, turn the whole system off and call your Kentucky One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning team, because that could be symptomatic of a larger issue.
Refrigerant is the magic ingredient that makes everything work. The outdoor unit uses refrigerant to leech heat from the air and carry it inside. If you have a refrigerant leak, there is less of it to do that important work, and your system’s performance will suffer.
It’s analogous to bailing out a sinking ship with a coffee mug – you need more than that to make a real impact.
The Fix: Get a technician out to your house as soon as possible. Refrigerant is a hazardous chemical, and it requires a certified AC/ heating repair technician to handle it. One of our techs will find and repair the leak, then charge your system back up to full refrigerant capacity.
If the heat pump is the heart, the ductwork is the circulatory system. After all, the heat being produced needs those ducts in order to pump the heat somewhere. Your return ducts carry cold air from your home back through to be reheated by the heat pump.
If those ducts are leaking, or traveling through poorly insulated attics or crawl spaces, they’ll pull cold, unfiltered air along and make your heat pump work harder.
The Fix: This is another area where you’ll need the specialists on hand. Duct sealing can be complex work sometimes.
Other things can affect your heat pump as well – a bad reversing valve, for instance, or a failure in your auxiliary/supplementary heat during a particularly bad cold snap. Heat pumps are getting better and better at handling temperatures below freezing, but there are still times when they need a hand.
If you need a hand keeping your home at just the right temperature, give the expert technicians at One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning Kentucky a call. Our highly trained teams will meet your needs, and your budget, every time.