Heat pumps are extremely energy efficient and are a great option for cooling and heating your home. The only problem is that they can sometimes be more prone to issues since they run for most of the year instead of only a few months like traditional heating and air conditioning units. If you ever find that your heat pump won’t turn on or isn’t working as it should, here are some steps that may help you troubleshoot the cause of the problem.

Make Sure the Heat Pump Has Power

If you ever find that your heat pump won’t turn on when the thermostat calls for heating or cooling, make sure that the unit has power. Heat pumps can occasionally experience issues that cause them to draw too much power, leading to the electrical circuit overloading and the breaker tripping. If you open your main electrical panel and see that the circuit breaker is tripped, you should always shut the unit off by switching the thermostat from “Heat” or “Cool” to “Off” before you reset the breaker.

Whenever there is a power outage or the breaker trips, a heat pump will often need to reset itself before it will run again. Shutting off the thermostat will allow the unit to reset, and you can then reset the breaker. It can take up to 30 minutes for the unit’s internal circuitry to reset, so you’ll want to wait before you switch the thermostat back on to see if the heat pump now runs.

If the heat pump still won’t turn on or the breaker trips again when it tries to run, you should shut the thermostat back off and call to have your heat pump inspected. A heat pump that keeps tripping the breaker is usually a sign that the unit has an electrical issue. This is why you don’t ever want to keep trying to reset the breaker as this could lead to the unit suffering serious damage. Electrical issues can also potentially lead to an electrical fire, so it’s important that you leave the breaker off until your unit has been inspected.

Check the Thermostat

If the breaker isn’t tripped and you know the heat pump has power, check to see if your thermostat is set correctly and reading the right temperature. A blank screen is usually a sign that the thermostat has failed and needs to be replaced.

If the screen is working, try to turn the thermostat up or down by around 5 degrees depending on if you’re trying to heat or cool. If your heat pump kicks on after you’ve changed the temperature, it typically indicates that the thermostat isn’t registering the temperature accurately and needs to be recalibrated. In this situation, you may want to tape a kitchen thermometer to the wall next to the thermostat just to check if the thermostat is reading the right temperature.

If the heat pump still won’t kick on after changing the temperature, the next step is to switch the thermostat to the opposite mode of what you’re trying to use, from heating to cooling or vice versa. If the heat pump comes on when you switch to the other mode, this indicates that the thermostat is working correctly and the problem lies with the heat pump itself. A heat pump that will only run in one mode and not the other is usually a sign that the unit’s reversing valve is stuck or broken. The reversing valve is what allows a heat pump to switch between modes as it works to switch the direction the refrigerant moves through the system.

If the reversing valve fails or malfunctions when cooling your home in the summer, you won’t notice any issues until you switch the system to heating in the fall or winter. If the valve fails in the winter, you may suddenly notice that your heat pump will no longer run. This is because the reversing valve activates multiple times a day in the winter whenever the unit needs to run its defrost cycle. If the valve gets stuck or fails after switching to the defrost cycle, the heat pump won’t turn back on once the cycle finishes and it tries to switch back to heating mode.

Check the Temperature of the Air Coming Out of Your Vents

If your heat pump runs but isn’t keeping your home warm or cool, check to see how warm or cold the air coming out of the vents is. If you have warm air coming out of the vents when the heat pump is running in cooling mode, it’s a sign that the evaporator coil is frozen. In this case, shut the system down and wait at least a few hours so that the coil can thaw. If you keep the system running, ice will continually build on the coil, and the unit won’t ever cool. Continuing to leave the unit running when the coil is frozen can ruin the compressor motor, so it’s important to shut it down whenever the coil freezes.

While waiting for the coil to thaw, make sure that the air filter isn’t clogged since a clogged filter is the most common issue that will lead to the coil freezing up. If the filter isn’t dirty or the system freezes up again, you should leave it off until you can have a technician inspect everything. If the coil continually freezes up, it usually indicates that the system isn’t receiving sufficient airflow or that it is low on refrigerant.

Replace the Air Filter

A dirty air filter can also cause a heat pump to overheat when running in cooling mode. If your heat pump runs and then shuts off before it has fully cooled down your home, it could indicate that the unit overheated due to a dirty air filter, a dirty condenser coil, or a malfunctioning compressor fan. In this situation, replace the air filter, and wait a few hours to see if the unit turns back on and runs as it should. If it does work properly, you can be fairly certain that the issue was caused by the filter being too dirty. If it won’t turn back on or shuts down too soon, you’ll want to switch it off and schedule an inspection.

See if the Heat Pump Is Frozen

When heating, a heat pump’s defrost cycle will normally run anywhere from every 30 minutes to every two hours depending on how cold it is outside. It normally only takes 10 to 15 minutes for a heat pump to fully defrost. If you notice that your unit is frozen and it doesn’t defrost within a few hours, it means that there is some issue preventing it from defrosting. Again, if the issue is related to the reversing valve, the heat pump either won’t run its defrost cycle or will shut off after the cycle finishes since it can’t switch back to heating mode.

Call for a Professional Heat Pump Inspection

If you can’t determine why your heat pump isn’t working or the same issues keep occurring, the technicians at Atticman Heating and Air Conditioning, Insulation can inspect your entire HVAC system to pinpoint the problem. We repair and service all heat pump makes and models, and our team has experience overcoming almost all heat pump issues. If the issue can’t be repaired or the cost of the repairs is too high, we also offer professional heat pump replacement services. We can also help if you have any issues with a furnace or air conditioner or if you need any other HVAC services in the Sacramento area.

Give us a call today for all of your heating and cooling needs.

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