Heat pumps rely on a coil system that's filled with refrigerant to draw heat from outside, condense it and then send it into your home. Although it functions differently than a traditional furnace, troubleshooting its heat production is a very similar process. Here's a look at what you should know about determining whether your heat pump is keeping up or needs a service.
Understanding the Human Element
Many people base their evaluation of the heat pump's output on how the air feels coming out of the vent. The problem with this is that the air from a heat pump never feels as hot to the touch as air from a traditional furnace. Remember that your standard furnace will push the air through a heating chamber with a flame or heating coil in it. This creates an intense heat, which makes the air feel much hotter to your hand.
Heat pumps, on the other hand, produce heat that is gentler, so it often won't feel as warm to your hand. This can make you think your heat pump isn't working when it really is warming the house well, just using a low temperature heat. Base your assessment of the heat pump's function on how your house feels, not on how the air feels exiting the vents.
Considering the Outdoor Temperature
One of the most common reasons for inefficient heating from a heat pump is cold weather outside. Since heat pumps draw heat from the air outside, they're less effective when there's less heat in the air. Most heat pumps work at their best when temperatures outside are 50 degrees or warmer. They can still be effective when the weather is as cold as 37 degrees, but they become nearly ineffective when temperatures are around 30 degrees or colder.
For this reason, most heat pumps are equipped with emergency heat systems that provide an alternative source of heat when temperatures outside are too cold. You can set your heat pump to activate the emergency heat at any temperature, but it is best to have it turn on before it reaches 37, since that's the temperature when heat pumps typically struggle to function.
Checking the Electrical System
If your heat pump's fans aren't functioning right due to electrical issues, you may not be getting enough warm air from the system. Luckily, it's easy to evaluate the fan and electrical system operation. Turn the temperature up on the thermostat for your heat pump to a level warmer than the current indoor temperature. You should hear the fan engage to start pushing warm air into the house in response. If you don't hear the fan engage, check the breaker for the heat pump system. If it isn't tripped, that's a sign that you need a heating technician to evaluate it.
Testing the Thermostat
Place a thermometer near your wall-mounted heat pump thermostat. Give the thermometer time to read the temperature accurately, then compare the two. If the temperature on your thermostat is markedly different from the temperature on the thermometer, you may have a problem with your thermostat. Luckily, you can replace the thermostat easily if it is malfunctioning, or you can have a technician install a new one for you.
Evaluating the Emergency Heat System
If the temperature outside is below your emergency heat temperature and the emergency heat system isn't engaging, you'll need to check the thermostat on your outdoor heat pump case. Try to manually activate your emergency heat by turning the system on at the switch. If it turns on, that means you need your exterior thermostat replaced. If it doesn't turn on, you'll want to call a heating technician to evaluate it and repair the problem.
For more information, contact a local HVAC company like Arendosh Heating & Cooling.