The Big Freeze and Your Heat Pump

Published On: January 12, 2021Categories: Heating & CoolingTags: , , ,

February is just about the coldest, bleakest, most uninviting month in central Ohio. It tends to be the time when cabin fever sets in and everyone’s thoughts turn to spring. But until then, it’s also when our furnaces are working at optimum levels when the temps dip.

If you currently own an air handler system that includes a heat pump or if you have ever thought about installing one, you may note that a heat pump is a low-maintenance, energy-efficient way to heat and cool your central Ohio home, but heat pump issues may occur if your unit is aging or has been poorly maintained. Annual preventive maintenance is essential for preventing these common – but sometimes expensive – problems:

Common Problems:

Ice Build-Up on the Outdoor Coil:  In heating mode, the outdoor coil maintains below-freezing temperatures. Any moisture in the air will result in frost or ice buildup, which is melted during the defrost cycle. If the buildup doesn’t melt, gets thicker, or turns to solid ice, the defrost cycle may be malfunctioning.

Steam is Pouring from Outdoor Coil: It might look like heavy smoke, depending on the humidity level outside, but it’s just steam from the defrost cycle and nothing to worry about.

Heat Pump Doesn’t Turn On:  If the heat pump doesn’t turn on, you probably have an electrical problem. Check the power switches and the main circuit breaker. If that’s not the problem, check the breakers in the unit. It may be hard to determine whether they’ve tripped or not, so with the system in “off” mode, flip all the breakers off and then on again. If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to call for service.

Heat Pump is Banging, Clanging, Scraping, or Vibrating Loudly: Turn the heat pump off immediately, and call for service. If the noise is coming from the indoor unit, the blower fan is likely malfunctioning. If it’s coming from the outdoor unit, the fan blades may have iced over, causing the fan to spin off balance. Humming, hissing, and buzzing sounds are perfectly normal, especially during the defrost cycle.

The Auxiliary Light on the Thermostat Doesn’t Turn Off: The auxiliary light should come on during the defrost cycle, when the temperature in the home falls more than two degrees below the thermostat setting, or when the heat pump can’t produce enough heat on its own due to very cold outdoor temperatures. Otherwise, the outdoor unit may be malfunctioning.

For more expert advice about troubleshooting common heat pump issues or when your heating and cooling won’t, please feel free to contact The Comfortworks at or 614-232-2222.



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