Oh no! Your heat pump isn’t working. Now what?
If you’re not an HVAC expert, you might be worried about trying to fix your heat pump yourself. However, you might be surprised to find out how easily you can troubleshoot the problem and what you may be able to do to solve it.
Here are some common heat pump issues you can fix on your own, as well as a few that require help from a professional.
4 Heat Pump Problems You Can Repair Yourself
Your Heat Pump Won’t Turn On
If your heat pump will not turn on, the problem is likely either with the heat pump’s thermostat or the unit receiving power. Here’s what you can do:
- Check the thermostat setting. Make sure it’s set to “heat” (if that’s what you’re trying to do) and your ideal room temperature.
- Make sure the heat pump’s power switch is on. Many heat pumps are connected to a power switch on the wall near the unit or inside the air handler cabinet.
- Check your circuit breakers. A tripped circuit could be preventing the flow of electricity to the heat pump air handler and condenser. Check both the main electrical panel and the subpanels supplying power to your heat pump. If one of these circuit breakers is set to OFF, turn it back to ON.
- If none of the tips above solve the problem, try replacing your thermostat. Keep in mind that heat pump thermostats are different from other thermostats, and using a regular thermostat will not work.
Your Filter is Clogged
Does your air filter look dirty or clogged? It’s time to change it. Hopefully, you have a replacement on hand so you can quickly fix the problem.
To replace a clogged air filter on the return air register, start by unlatching the cover grille. Depending on the grille, you may be able to swing it out of the way or remove it. Next, remove the old filter, which will most likely be resting on a ledge or channel. Clean off the grille with a damp cloth or duster, then place the new filter in the register with the airflow arrows pointed in toward the ductwork. Finally, replace the grille and latch it.
To replace a clogged filter in the air handler cabinet, switch the appropriate circuit breaker to OFF. Remove the door from the blower cabinet (you may need to lift it off of hooks or unscrew a few retaining screws) and check the filter. If it’s the kind of filter that’s intended to be cleaned and replace, this should be marked on the filter’s edge with directions you can follow. If it’s a disposable filter, buy a replacement and slide it back into place with the arrows facing toward the blower. Finally, replace the cabinet door and turn the circuit breaker back to ON.
You’re Getting Colder Air Than Normal
When you’ve had your heat pump for a while, you probably know how the air coming out usually feels — not as toasty as furnace heat, but still on the warmer side. If it seems like your heat pump is producing much cooler air than you’re used to, there’s likely an issue. Here’s what you can do:
- Test the thermostat. Make sure it’s set to the right temperature; if it is, try raising the temperature 5 degrees and wait a few minutes to see if the heat comes on.
- Check the registers that heat the room. Make sure they’re open.
- Check the filter on the heat pump. If your filter looks dirty, try changing it to see if that makes a difference. As a reminder, you should change all filters at least twice a year.
- Clean the coils on the outdoor condensing unit (watch this video to see how).
- If none of these solutions work, call a home heating contractor.
Your Heat Pump is Cycling On and Off Too Often (Or Not Often Enough)
If your heat pump keeps turning on and off at too-frequent intervals, that may be a sign that it’s overheating or that the thermostat is incorrectly set. Try these steps:
- Check the thermostat settings. Sometimes, the thermostat is set to allow for a very narrow temperature range, which can be the source of a cycling problem.
- Check the thermostat itself. Ensure it is properly calibrated (check the instruction manual for the thermostat) and installed a place where it will get a good sample of the air in the room.
- Check the heat anticipator in the thermostat. Many thermostats have a small lever that moves along a calibrated scale called the heat anticipator (this is separate from the heat temperature lever). Try adjusting the heat anticipator lever one or two marks closer to the “longer” setting.
If your problem is that the heat pump isn’t cycling often enough, creating a wide range of temperatures in your home throughout the day, follow the steps above but nudge the thermostat in the opposite direction. See if your thermostat is set for an overly wide temperature range, and if not, try adjusting the heat anticipator level farther away from the “longer “setting.
4 Times to Hire a Home Heating Contractor
You Tried the Solutions Above and They Didn’t Work
If you’ve tried the troubleshooting tips we suggested above and they didn’t fix the problem, your heat pump problem may be too complicated for you to fix yourself. Call in an HVAC contractor to check it out.
Your Heat Pump is Making Squealing and Grinding Noises
Grinding and squealing noises are a bad sign. The noises may come from loose parts in the air handler or shot motor bearing. If you have this problem, turn the unit off and call a contractor to take a look.
Your Blower Isn’t Working
If the heat pump blower isn’t working, the heat pump’s limit switch may need to be adjusted. We generally recommend calling a home heating contractor for this type of issue unless you are unusually handy with these types of repairs.
Your Outdoor Coils Froze Over and Won’t Defrost
Heat pumps sometimes ice up in cold weather, but the defrost cycle should kick on the melt the ice every once in a while. If the condenser unit is frozen up and won’t melt, call a home heating contractor to find the problem’s source.
How to Find the Right Home Heating Contractor
If you don’t already know a good HVAC contractor who can help, ask your friends or neighbors for referrals or search a directory of local contractors such as Angie’s List. Make sure the HVAC contractors you are considering have proof of insurance and any licenses required in your state. You should ideally ask multiple contractors for itemized estimates before deciding who to hire.
For more information, check out our recent blog post on finding a good home heating contractor.