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Heat Pump Problems in Winter… That Aren’t Problems

Posted on: January 10, 2017

Are you spending your first winter season with a heat pump providing you with comfort? Maybe you had the heat pump installed in the spring to replace an old AC and furnace, or perhaps you’ve moved into a new home with a heat pump previously installed.

Regardless of the reason, you may find some of the behavior from the heat pump during cold weather a bit odd. In most cases, this isn’t because of malfunctions. It’s due to you being unaccustomed to how a heat pump operates.

The outdoor unit runs when the heat pump is on

This is one bit of heat pump behavior that often confuses people new to them. A heat pump works in much the same fashion as an air conditioner. Since homeowners do not expect to have the outdoor cabinet of their air conditioner running during the winter, it will seem strange to have a heat pump’s cabinet running in the cold weather.

But this is simply the way that the heat pump provides heat in the first place. In the summer, a heat pump removes heat from the indoors and deposits it outdoors. When winter arrives, the heat pump switches the direction it works, drawing heat from the outdoors and releasing indoors. The outside cabinet’s blower fan and compressor must run to do this.

There’s smoke coming from the outdoor unit

This seems more alarming. You don’t want to see smoke coming off of any mechanical device. However, what you’re seeing in this case is almost certainly not smoke, but water vapor. This is part of the defrost cycle that protects the heat pump’s outdoor coil from freezing over. As the heat pump draws warmth from the outdoor air, it also causes water moisture to condense along the refrigerant coil. To prevent this ice from slowing down the absorption of heat, the system will occasionally switch to a defrost mode to heat up the coil and melt the ice. This creates water vapor that you might mistake for smoke.

Of course, your heat pump may run into actual malfunctions during the winter. If you notice a drop in heating in your house, contact our repair specialists right away and they’ll get to the bottom of the problem.

Contact Bud Matthews Services for all your home service needs in Durham, NC and the surrounding areas.

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