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Why Does My Heat Pump Run Constantly?

A heat pump that runs constantly can cause your system to overwork, causing it to have a shorter lifespan. In this article, we look at common heat pump problems, why they are happening, and how to fix them.

Why Does My Heat Pump Run Constantly?

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Bryan Carnahan


January 27th, 2023

Many homeowners have a heat pump as their primary HVAC system. However, they don’t know exactly what it is, what it does, the types of heat pump systems there are, its average lifespan, where to find a reputable heat pump installer, and common heat pump misconceptions. Purchasing a heat pump is a considerable investment in the future of your home, and we want you to have all the facts first.

If you suspect that your heat pump is running 24/7 and think you have a broken heat pump or that you see a fan going and question whether or not it’s wasting valuable energy and electricity, you've come to the right place!

Let’s dive in!

What Is a Heat Pump and How Does it Work?

First things first, you should know what a heat pump is and how it works. Contrary to their name, heating isn’t the only thing they do; they can also cool! In short, a heat pump is an air conditioner with a reversing valve.

At this point, you may ask yourself, “What is a reversing valve?” Well, a reversing valve has the ability to switch the direction of the refrigerant allowing cool or warm air into your home depending on the season and your comfort level. Nevertheless, a heat pump is constructed of traditional parts that are found in a typical HVAC system, like a compressor and a fan.

Heat Pump Systems

Before we jump into the types of Heat Pump systems,  there are a few key terms that you should learn:

  • Air Handlers 
  • Dual-Fuel System
  • Single Stage
  • Two-Stage
  • Variable Speed 

Air Handlers

Are traditionally paired with a heat pump and are responsible for “handling” the air within your home using ductwork as a vessel. It has three main components; the evaporator (the cooling kit), the electric heater package (which houses the heat strips), and a blower motor.

An air handler can be used on its own to heat your home because of its “emergency” heat strips. However, these “emergency” heat strips are called “emergency” for a reason. For your home to be energy efficient when using an air handler, this piece of HVAC equipment should be used in tandem with your heat pump/ air conditioner/ furnace.

Dual-Fuel System

In short, a dual-fuel system is a residential home comfort system that combines a gas furnace with an electric heat pump to alternate between two systems, concerning your home's energy efficiency and overall maximum comfort.

Related Content: What Is a Dual Fuel HVAC System?

Single-Stage Compressor

Simply put, a single-stage compressor can only operate at one distinct speed, “on” or “off” at any given time. They are typically referred to as the “all or nothing” setting. Once your home meets your preferred temperature, the unit will shut off.

Two-Stage Compressor

This HVAC equipment is similar to a single-stage compressor but can operate at two different speeds. It includes the “all or nothing” setting; however, it can also function properly at full speed (100%) and one lower speed, usually around 70%.

A two-stage compressor can work at this lower speed when the desired temperature is close to being met. Thus, using less energy and electricity in the process.

Variable-Speed Compressor

A variable-speed compressor does just what its name implies; it works at various speeds. In fact, it has up to 700 distinct settings to correspond with your desired comfort level. Not to mention, it's more energy efficient.

The SEER Rating is an aspect of your HVAC system homeowners should pay extra attention to, especially with variable-speed compressors. If you have a variable speed system, reaching a SEER Rating of 20 or higher, your home is using the best of the best HVAC equipment.

Below are the types of heat pump systems we service and recommend for the typical homeowner, which we’ll cover in this section. Including, but not limited to

  • Ducted Air Source
  • Mini Split System (also known as “Ductless Air Source Heat Pumps”)

Ducted Air Source

This type of heat pump is 99% of what we see in Ohio and is the type of heat pump system we recommend to all homeowners. This traditional system uses your existing ductwork and an air handler to heat and cool your home. Ducted air sources can be single-stage, two-stage, or variable-speed.

Ductless Air Source Heat Pump

More commonly known as a Mini-Split System. A mini-split system is still a traditional heat pump with an air source; however, it has no ductwork. When purchasing a mini-split system, it’s important to note that they are all inverters.

In a perfect world where money didn’t matter, all homeowners with an electric HVAC system should also have a variable-speed system.

Also Read: What Are the Benefits of a Variable-Speed HVAC Motor?

What is the Average Lifespan of a Heat Pump?

Several factors go into determining how long your heat pump will last, such as proper maintenance and installation. However, as long as you take proper care of your heat pump, it can last up to 10 to 15 years.

Another thing to bear in mind when determining the lifespan of your heat pump is that it is constantly running and works 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For example, a gas furnace generates heat only in the winter months, and an air conditioner generates cool air only in the summer months.

Whereas a heat pump heats and cools your home 12 months out of the year, thus working twice as hard as a traditional system.

However, contrary to popular belief, a heat pump that consistently runs isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Why Does My Heat Pump Run All the Time?

Now let's dive into the real reason you're here. You're worried about your heat pump and feel like it never shuts off. One thing to keep in mind regarding your residential heat pump is that the colder it gets outside, the more your heat pump will run.

Let’s unpack that.

As stated previously, a heat pump typically has a shorter lifespan and gets more use than a traditional residential system. In the summer, a heat pump is a significant investment and usually has little to no issues or concerns other than proper and preventative maintenance.

On the other hand, winter is when these systems get the most use. Because of the cold temperatures, a heat pump struggles to keep up with the cold weather. On top of that, regardless of its efficiency, a heat pump has to work twice as hard to heat your home in the winter than cool your home in the summer.

If you're a homeowner who’s concerned about their heat pump running all the time, you’re not alone. Remember, just because the fan is running doesn't mean that refrigerant is being pushed through it, especially in the winter.

Your heat pump could be “running” all of the time because of two reasons:

  1. Converting cold air into warm air (“Normal mode”)
  2. Defrosting (“Defrost mode”)

Converting Cold Air Into Warm Air

This may seem like an easy task; however, taking cold air and turning it into warm air is a mechanical process. Picture this: you fill up a pot with ice and put it on your stove until it melts and begins to boil. How long would that take?

The answer? Several hours. Well, the same goes for your heat pump. Not to mention, the cold air your heat pump converts into warm air to heat your home is constantly cold until the temperature outside increases.


This secondary feature of your heat pump comes into play when the weather outside goes below 40 degrees; your heat pump begins to freeze. With that in mind, the defrosting of your heat pump is more likely to cause your heat pump to run all the time, other than converting cold air into warm air.

Once your heat pump is frozen, it cannot heat your home without going through its defrost cycle. So what happens in the meantime? Well, your air handler is equipped with heat strips that can serve as a “backup”; however, that's a temporary and expensive fix.

This is where the problem of your heat pump constantly running lies. Once your heat pump is in “defrost mode,” the unit's fan continues to run. Therefore, making it seem like your heat pump is constantly “running.” In hindsight, it technically is, but it’s “running” through the defrost cycle, which allows it to get back to its intended job - to heat your home.

Another crucial thing to note is that your heat pump may not defrost on its first cycle. Once it runs through its first defrost cycle and determines that the unit is still frozen, it cannot heat your home. Thus, it will go through the defrost process again.

The heat pump will continue this process until your heat pump defrosts and can heat your home. Which relates to the common misconception of “Why is My Heat Pump Always Running?”

Other Heat Pump Issues

If you have read the reasons above and still can’t pinpoint why your heat pump is constantly running, it’s time for a service call. Be mindful that other smaller issues could be causing the problem, such as limited airflow or an overdue tune-up.  

Nevertheless, our service techs are N.A.T.E certified and are happy to complete a thorough inspection.

Related Content:Certification Programs: What are they, and why are they essential for your HVAC contractor

Finding the Right Heat Pump Contractor

Are you a homeowner in the market for a heat pump contractor? If so, you’re in the right place! Fire & Ice has installed, replaced, serviced, and maintained thousands of heat pumps within the Columbus metropolitan area.

Choosing the Right Heat Pump for Your Home

At Fire & Ice, we believe that your home is your oasis. Because of this, we want to ensure your system is fitted correctly for your needs, budget, and, most importantly, your comfort. There are a few things to consider when choosing the right heat pump for your home, such as:

  • Size-  is the easiest thing to calculate, regardless of what type of system you have.  At Fire & Ice, we do a Manual J load calculation. The size has nothing to do with what you want it to do, but rather the capacity of heat gain and heat loss in your home.
  • Energy Efficiency- by definition heat pumps are 100% energy efficient since they don’t have a carbon footprint. Remember, even though your heat pump is 100% energy efficient, it still uses electricity as its primary heating method. Thus, causing your electric bill to increase.
  • Reliability- overall has to do with the manufacturer and product installation.
  • Choosing the Right Contractor-  the contractor you choose should be one that you fully trust and isn't going to cut corners just to offer a lower price. Anything they do in your home should be the same as what they would do themselves.

Why Choose Fire & Ice as Your Trusted Heat Pump Installer?

As stated above, choosing the right installer is just as important, if not more important, than choosing the type of heat pump you purchase. There are several reasons to choose us as your trusted heat pump installer, but I’ll name a few below:

  1. Proper Installation- we ensure that every system is installed to do exactly what the manufacturer intended it to do without cutting corners.
  2. Working Professionals- all our professionals are W-2 hourly employees that have completed over 200 hours of training and are N.A.T.E Certified.
  3. Equipment Commissioning- when we're finished with our installation, we will show you that the system you purchased and the manual align with one another to guarantee the proper installation of your HVAC equipment.
  4. Follow Up- our HVAC journey with you doesn't end at the end of your installation. We follow up several times throughout the first year to ensure your system provides the right comfort level for you, your home, and your family.

The Bottom Line:

At Fire & Ice, we stand behind all our work, regardless of size or scope. We believe that the success of your HVAC system depends on the quality of your installation. You know the old saying, “You get what you pay for.” Well, within our line of work, this is especially true. We understand that investing in a heat pump can seem like a daunting task; however, we want to make this process as seamless as possible and give you all of the facts first.

Use the zip code map below to start your HVAC journey with Fire & Ice. Remember, “Your trust is our business!”

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