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Why Heat Pump Maintenance is So Important

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Like almost anything, your heat pump needs maintenance to stay in tip-top shape. Regular maintenance is essential for keeping your home comfortable and having a long-lasting heat pump. Neglecting routine maintenance and not following the manufacturer’s instructions can lead to costly repairs, inefficient operation, and even shortened system life. Let’s dig into what you need to know about heat pump maintenance and how to get the best out of your system.

What You Need to Know About Heat Pumps

First, let’s review how a heat pump works. Heat pumps are a highly energy-efficient home heating and cooling system, as they collect heat from one place and move it to another. It can be confusing, but contrary to the name, heat pumps can also cool your home, absorbing warmth from inside your house and sending it outdoors in a way that is similar to air conditioners.

The real hero of the heat pump is refrigerant, a fluid that absorbs heat and releases it as it moves through the system via lineset. It may seem counterintuitive to take heat from a cold space, but let’s consider your refrigerator – the warm air you feel blowing from underneath is the heat the refrigerant has absorbed inside the refrigerator and pushed outside. Your heat pump works on a similar principle based on the idea it is easier and more efficient to move heat than create it.

Why is Heat Pump Maintenance Important?

Because heat pumps run year-round, heating and cooling your home, regular heat pump maintenance will keep you comfortable while saving you money in the long run. Newer heat pump models are more efficient but also have technology that can be more costly to repair if an undiagnosed problem arises. Here are some of the benefits of heat pump maintenance:

Improved efficiency – Regularly cleaning and replacing worn components can keep your system running smoothly, boosting energy efficiency and reducing monthly utility bills.

Longer system life – With regular maintenance, you can avoid serious damage to your heat pump, extending its lifespan and avoiding costly repairs and replacement.

Improved air quality – Heat pumps kept in good condition will keep your home free of allergens, dust mites, and other harmful particles that can cause breathing difficulties.

How Long Will a Heat Pump Last?

Heat pumps typically last 10-15 years with proper maintenance, but a few things out of your control can affect a heat pump’s life span. If you live in an area that experiences longer, harsher winters, your heat pump will work harder for longer periods which may reduce its lifespan. Coastal regions with salty air that causes corrosion can also take a toll on a heat pump’s life expectancy.

When to Schedule Heat Pump Maintenance in Portland?

It’s a good idea to call a professional HVAC technician to inspect your heat pump at least once a year, but twice a year is optimal. This will ensure that all components, such as coils, filters, and fan motors, are working properly and that the system runs efficiently. During this time, the technician can identify any potential problems and take action to prevent them from becoming more serious. A good time to have your heat pump inspected is during the shoulder months in the spring or fall to make sure your HVAC system is ready for the coming hot or cold weather.

Tips for Running Your Heat Pump

Every homeowner should know how to maximize their energy savings by correctly maintaining and operating their heat pump.

  • Avoid setting the thermostat to temperatures too high or too low. The Department of Energy recommends keeping your heat pump set at 68 degrees in the winter and lowering the temperature by 7 to 8 degrees when you aren’t at home.
  • During the summer, keep your home set at 78 degrees when home and at warmer temperatures when you are away.
  • For optimal results, install a smart programmable thermostat suited for use with a heat pump system.
  • During the summer months, keep shades and curtains drawn when possible to keep direct sunlight from entering your home.
  • Utilize ceiling fans or portable fans to push cool air around the room.
  • Let your heat pump run. Heat pumps are designed to settle into maintenance mode once the desired comfort level is reached. Setting your heat pump to the desired indoor temperature and allowing it to run as needed will ensure you’re getting maximum efficiency out of your system.

Heat Pump Troubleshooting Tips

Is your heat pump having issues? To help you decide if you need to call a professional, try these solutions to some routine issues.

Problem: Your heat pump won’t turn on.

Solution: Check your thermostat. When the temperature changes, we often forget to change the settings (especially if it’s the first time using it). You can also check the fuse box to make sure it is getting power.

Problem: Low airflow.

Solution: The easiest fix is to check your filters.

Problem: Your heat pump cycles on and off frequently.

Solution: Your heat pump isn’t sized properly for your home. This will shorten your heat pump’s lifespan. Call a professional for options.

Problem: Your heat pump is making strange noises

Solution: Turn your heat pump off and call an HVAC professional to come and check it out.

How to Maintain Your Heat Pump

It is recommended that you consult a professional for maintenance and repairs as heat pump systems have things that should be left to an expert. However, there are some preventative maintenance steps you can take to keep your heat pump running properly between services:

Once a month

Once a month, you should check the air filter on your heat pump and replace it if necessary. A dirty air filter can make your heat pump work harder and reduce efficiency.

Once a season

Every season, you should inspect the outdoor unit of your heat pump for debris and dirt buildup. If you notice any blockages, be sure to clear them away. You should also check the condenser and evaporator coils to make sure they’re clean and free of obstructions.

Twice a year

On a bi-annual basis, you should have your heat pump serviced by a professional HVAC technician. This will ensure that all components are in good working condition and any problems can be addressed before they turn into bigger issues.

What’s Included in Professional Heat Pump Maintenance Services?

Performing your own basic heat pump maintenance is a great way to keep your equipment running, but it’s important to remember that professional services are still highly recommended. A professional HVAC technician will be able to do a much more thorough job of checking the system for any wear and tear and providing additional services such as cleaning and lubricating moving parts. Here’s a list of some of the tasks they may do during a tune-up:

  • Inspect and clean the evaporator coils
  • Check for refrigerant leaks and, if necessary, add more to bring it up to the manufacturer’s recommended level
  • Test electrical connections and check for shorts or frayed wires
  • Check the ductwork near the indoor unit, filters, blower, and indoor coil for dirt and other obstructions
  • Check for and repair duct leakage
  • Check that the heat pump is receiving adequate airflow
  • Verify the thermostat is working properly

Why is it important to clean evaporator coils?

Evaporator coils are the components of a heat pump that absorb heat and move it through the system. Keeping your evaporator coils clean is pretty important to a heat pump’s effectiveness.

When dirt and dust settle on the evaporator coils, it blocks airflow, which can cause your heat pump to work harder than necessary resulting in higher energy bills and eventually reducing its lifespan.

Additionally, blocked airflow can cause lasting damage to the compressor – a component essential in allowing refrigerant to condense and move between coils. Cleaning the evaporator coils as part of your professional heat pump maintenance will help keep your system running smoothly and efficiently.

When to replace your heat pump

If you’re dealing with higher-than-usual electric bills, more and more repairs, or decreasing air quality in your home, it may be time to consider replacing your heat pump system. Talk with your HVAC professional about your aging heat pump and options for a new heat pump installation.

Best Time to Schedule your Annual Heat Pump Tune-Up

The best time for heat pump maintenance in Portland is during the spring or fall. This ensures your heat pump is ready to keep you comfortable throughout the following season. However, if your heat pump has not had a tune-up recently, it’s always best to get one as soon as possible before a problem arises.

Heat Pump Maintenance in Portland

It is never a good day when your heat pump conks out on a cold night or hot day. You want to make sure your HVAC system keeps your home comfortable throughout the year with no emergencies. Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning heat pump maintenance plans help your system last longer, run more efficiently and save you money by avoiding costly emergency repairs. No matter what you need, we’re always just a phone call away.

About the Author

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Amanda Jacobs, Internal Project Manager

Amanda Jacobs is an Internal Projects Manager and 3rd generation member of Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning. She received her MBA from Seattle University and has worked for a leading HVAC training and consulting firm. When not talking HVAC on the Jacobs Blog, you can find her on the golf course or whipping up her famous vegan chili.