Heat Pumps and Maintenance

Most people in the Pacific Northwest need heat in the winter to stay comfortable in their homes.

Some have air conditioning systems to stay comfortable in the summer. And some people have heat pumps that extracts heat from one place and transfers it to another, meaning it can act as both a heating and a cooling unit.

Heat pumps transfer heat by circulating a substance called a refrigerant through a cycle of evaporation and condensation. A compressor pumps the refrigerant between two heat exchanger coils. In one coil, the refrigerant is evaporated at low pressure and absorbs heat from its surroundings. The refrigerant is then compressed on route to the other coil, where it condenses at high pressure. At this point, it releases the heat it absorbed earlier in the cycle.

Refrigerators, like the one in your kitchen, use a heat pump, but they operate only in the cooling mode. Picture your refrigerator, the evaporator coil is located inside the freezer compartment. Heat is absorbed from this location and transferred outside, usually behind or underneath the unit where the condenser coil is located. But, unlike your refrigerator, your home heat pump system is fully reversible, which means it can not only cool your home, but warm it up as well. 

Heat Pumps are convenient, efficient pieces of your home’s HVAC system when they are working properly. Keeping your system well maintained is key to its safe operation and energy efficiency.  There are some things you can do to maintain a safe heat pump system. 

  • Don’t set back the heat pump’s thermostat if it causes the backup heating to come on. Backup heating systems are more expensive to operate.
  • Properly set your thermostat. 
  • Continuous operation of the blower fan can degrade heat pump performance unless your system uses a high-efficiency, variable-speed fan motor. 
  • Operate the system on the “auto” fan setting on the thermostat or install a programmable thermostat with multistage functions suitable for a heat pump.

As part of your regular maintenance, you should change filters once a month or as needed. Dirty filters, coils, and fans reduce airflow through the system. Reduced airflow decreases system performance and can damage your system’s compressor. Clean the outdoor coils whenever they appear dirty and remove vegetation and clutter from around the outdoor unit. Clean the supply and return registers in your home and straighten their fins if bent.

Annual Heat Pump Inspection 

Like all HVAC systems, proper maintenance is key to safe, efficient operation. The difference between the energy consumption of a well-maintained heat pump and a severely neglected one ranges from 10% to 25%.  You should also have a professional HVAC technician service your heat pump at least every year. During your heat pump inspection, your Wolfer’s technician will:

  • Inspect ducts, filters, blower, and indoor coil for dirt and other obstructions
  • Diagnose and seal duct leakage
  • Verify adequate airflow by measurement
  • Verify correct refrigerant charge by measurement
  • Check for refrigerant leaks
  • Inspect electric terminals, and, if necessary, clean and tighten connections, and apply non-conductive coating
  • Lubricate motors, and inspect belts for tightness and wear
  • Verify correct electric control, making sure that heating is locked out when the thermostat calls for cooling and vice versa
  • Verify correct thermostat operation

An important part of owning a home is having a complete home service contractor with the right skills and experience for the job you need completed. For over a century, Wolfer’s Home Services has been the contractor of choice for quality-minded customers. We offer complete HVAC and indoor air quality services as well as complete plumbing services, and water treatment designed specifically for your home or business. Besides the fact that we have earned a reputation for being the best in the business, there are many more reasons to choose Wolfer’s for all your home service needs. Call Wolfer’s Home Services at 503-220-1901 or request your appointment online »