Is your heat pump in tiptop shape? No? If there’s a gradual change in how it’s running, it can be difficult to put your finger on the problem. What changed and when did it change?
You may notice a change in airflow from some of your registers. Maybe your heat pump is running longer - or shorter - than it normally does. You may even notice new sounds or smells.
These signs can indicate that your heat pump needs service.
At Fire & Ice, we’ve worked on hundreds of HVAC systems in Hilliard, OH, and seen every problem imaginable. But, unless we’re performing routine maintenance and discover a problem, we rely on you to alert us when you feel something’s amiss.
And if you alert us to a small problem that can be fixed easily, you may have saved yourself a later repair bill that’s in the thousands of dollars. You may even keep your system from breaking down completely.
In this article, we discuss the most common changes in your heat pump’s performance that you may notice.
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8 Signs Your Heat Pump Might Need Repairs
1. It takes a lot longer to heat and cool
This might not be obvious until there’s a hot spell when the outside temperature lingers above 90 degrees for days at a time. When the heat pump runs continuously, it’s giving you a signal that something is wrong.
Over time, the heat exchanger can accumulate dirt, soot, and other debris. In Central Ohio, we see this a lot with cottonwood seeds. This means that your heat pump has to work harder and run longer to cool your home. Your HVAC technician can address this by cleaning your heat exchanger.
If it needs more than cleaning…
You might have a cracked heat exchanger. When your system has to work harder (whether because of dirt buildup or dirty filters), parts begin to break down. For heat exchangers, this can mean cracks, corrosion, or other issues. Cracked heat exchangers can lead to complete system breakdowns.
Heat exchangers can cost thousands of dollars to replace once they sustain damage. If it’s no longer under warranty, heat exchangers can cost as much as $3,500 to replace. For context, a low-end heat pump runs around $5,000.
2. Your electricity bills are higher than normal
If your heat pump is losing efficiency, it could be due to many factors. Dirty filter, failing parts, parts that need lubrication, etc. Sometimes the only clue you have that your heat pump needs attention is an electric bill. A sudden spike could be a sign of trouble.
3. Your heat pump is making strange noises
A host of things can be responsible for strange noises: the compressor, the contactor, the blower motor, etc. If it’s not a hole in the ductwork or your filter rattling, a call to an HVAC technician is in order.
4. It feels muggy in the house in the summer
Your heat pump doesn’t just cool the house in the summer by removing hot air. It also removes humidity. And if there’s a problem, the indoor humidity might creep up past comfortable levels. If you have a thermostat that can track the indoor relative humidity, keep an eye on it.
5. There’s an ice buildup on the heat pump
Ice can form on your heat pump if the refrigerant falls below freezing, which could be caused by faulty wiring or a dirty coil. This will cause poor performance and even a complete failure. Scraping or chiseling ice from your unit could exacerbate the problem. It needs to defrost, and then the problem causing the ice needs to be addressed by a professional.
6. Water is pooling near the furnace or air handler
If you notice water near your furnace or air handler during the summer, the seal on your evaporator coil could be compromised. Your evaporator coil is the indoor component of your air conditioner or heat pump. Your evaporator coil produces moisture – that’s why your air conditioner/heat pump has a drain. But if it isn’t properly sealed, this moisture could leak onto and around your furnace.
You might even notice condensation collecting on the outside of the ducts.
The most common reason for water under your furnace is a clogged condensation drain. Your HVAC partner should be able to do an evaluation and ensure that your furnace isn’t damaged.
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7. Unusual smells are coming from the vents
Dirty Sock Syndrome is caused by the buildup of mold and bacteria on your heat pump. Specifically, this buildup occurs in the system’s evaporator coil, which is housed indoors.
Basements are typically cool, damp, and dark. These are the perfect conditions for mold and bacteria growth. While a heat pump is designed to handle moisture, the internal components, like anything else in the home, can become dirty and accrue dirt and other particles.
For mold and bacteria to accumulate, they need two things: organic material and moisture. The dust and dirt that exist throughout any home, and the particulates collected by air filters, provide plenty of organic materials (most house dust is made of dead skin cells). The other part of the equation, moisture, can be found in most homes, particularly during the most humid times of the year. The result is buildup and a powerful odor.
Dirty Sock Syndrome can be handled by the homeowner or an HVAC technician. The drain pan can become plugged up or sometimes starts collecting dirt that can lead to bacteria or mold. Ensuring that it’s clean is a good precautionary measure.
8. There are blocked vents
This could be due to a major collection of dust/mold. Or you might have a nest of some sort. It is not uncommon for ducts to become disconnected or damaged. Pieces of an air filter or insulation may have gotten dislodged and wound up in the ducts. An inspection of the ducts can sort that out, and a duct cleaning may be in order.
Besides a loss of comfort, a blocked vent leads to increased static pressure, which strains the entire unit.
Can Your Heat Pump Still Run Without Repairs?
If your system is currently running but you’ve noticed a drop in heating or cooling quality, or it’s begun to make new noises, it may run fine for a day, or maybe it can run for five years. It might not be as efficient as it can be, but it can run. A repair can be put off, but you might be facing a larger repair bill later.
The best-case scenario is that you have a system that’s a little noisier than it once was. While it may not last another five years, it could continue to run adequately for several years with proper maintenance. A simple repair could have your system running smoothly again.
The worst-case scenario, however, is that the noise is coming from something that’s affecting the integrity of the entire system. A simple repair may not be enough; if a major component needs to be replaced, you might be facing a bill that’s well over $1000.
Then there are cases where the unit system can run, and if it’s monitored, it won’t pose an immediate risk to the entire system’s operation, but you’ll lose efficiency and comfort in the process,
It’s important to remember the lifespan of a heat pump is about half that of an air conditioner or furnace. Your heat pump does double duty - heating and cooling. Furnaces can last 25 years or more. A heat pump is doing great if it gets to 15 years.
An average heat pump is engineered with a life cycle that ranges from 10 to 12 years depending on the total amount and quality of maintenance it receives. You probably shouldn’t repair a heat pump that is more than 12 years old.
Assessing Your Heat Pump Repair Options in Hilliard, Ohio
While items such as regularly changing your filter and scheduling routine maintenance are good advice for any system, if you’re dealing with unwanted odors or you’re being drowned out by a new noise, it’s time to schedule a visit from a repair specialist.
Skipping this could mean a loss of comfort, a higher electric bill, or even the failure of your system.
Having a conversation with a licensed HVAC partner is a good first step.
At Fire & Ice, we take pride in doing the work thoroughly the first time, every time. Whether it’s a repair or replacement, we have the expertise and knowledge to get your system working quietly and efficiently to provide maximum comfort to your home.
And if you want to learn more about heat pumps, we recommend reading the following:
Explore our learning center. It's a comprehensive section focused on answering your questions, providing detailed information, and tips that will improve buyer education when it comes to your home's HVAC system.
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