Heat Pumps

Maximize the Return on Your Investment

Even at zero degrees F, air, ground and water contain useful heat continuously replenished by the sun. Heat pumps capture and transfer this heat to your home.

By Donna Mills

If you are looking for a more sustainable way to heat and cool your home, consider a heat pump.

Unlike traditional furnaces, heat pumps do not create heat through combustion or electric resistance. Heat pumps use a refrigerant to carry low-temperature heat absorbed from outside air, ground or water into your home during the heating season. The same system works in reverse during the cooling season— removing heat and humidity from the home, providing you with year-round comfort.

In this way, heat pumps consume less primary energy than conventional heating systems, and reduce harmful gas emissions by using renewable heat sources.

Heat pumps last 10 to 30 years, depending on maintenance. One advantage to owning a heat pump compared to other systems is relative ease of maintenance.

If you currently own a heat pump, or anticipate investing in one, follow these routine maintenance tips to ensure you get the most from your heat pump, extend its life and help keep your system running at maximum efficiency:

  1. Clean or change air filters monthly if you use your heat pump on a regular basis, or every three months if you only run the unit periodically. Many ductless systems available today include a handy indicator light that alerts the owner it is time for a cleaning.
    Air filters remove dust and allergens before returning the air to rooms. As filters become clogged with dust and debris, they block the free flow of air, drastically reducing the system’s efficiency.
    Properly maintaining filters can extend the life of your heat pump and keep your heating and cooling costs as affordable as possible.
    Filters may be located at the return-air registers in the home or in the heat pump’s air-handler cabinet. In many cases, they are in both places. Be sure to correctly install or re-install the air filters.
  2. Clean supply and return registers in your home and straighten their fins, if bent. Obstructed or damaged registers restrict air flow.
  3. Have an HVAC professional inspect your heat pump once every year or two and perform the following tasks:
    • Check the system for adequate airflow.
    • Clean or change air filters, as necessary.
    • Clean indoor and outdoor coils. In heating mode, a heat exchanger moves latent heat from ground loops or outside air through condenser coils, extracting heat. In a clean, well-maintained system, this heated air flows through tiny passages in the indoor evaporator coil and conveys it to supply ducts, which disburse the warm air throughout the house. In cooling mode, refrigerant in the coil extracts warm air and humidity from the home and rejects it outside. Dust, dirt, foliage, clutter, snow, ice and debris collect on coils and plug the small passages. Any restriction in these passages reduces airflow and diminishes the effectiveness and efficiency of heating and cooling.
    • Clean the blower fan. The blades on blower fans are specifically designed to push a certain amount of air. Any dirt on the blades will cause the blower motor to work harder and push less air, which causes the heat exchanger to run hotter, shortening the lifespan of your heat pump and reducing your furnace’s efficiency as much as 20 percent. The heat exchanger relies on cooler air moving across it to keep it from overheating in heating mode and warmer air extracted from the house to keep it from freezing in cooling mode.
    • Check the refrigerant levels.
    • Lubricate motors, and inspect belts for tightness and wear.
    • Flush the indoor condensate pan and drain in spring before air conditioning season.
    • Check electric terminals. If necessary, clean and tighten connections and apply nonconductive coating.
    • Correct electric controls, making sure heating is locked out when the thermostat calls for cooling and vice versa.
    • Correct thermostat operation.