Basic Heat Pump Maintenance - A good heat pump maintenance plan will include a thorough check of the refrigeration system, the electrical system, the heat pump controls, and the air filter system of the heat pump. Heat pump maintenance is as important as maintenance on your vehicle. If we fail to take good care of our vehicle then it is more prone to breakdowns whereas if we keep it in good condition with proper maintenance it is more reliable and repairs usually cost less when repairs are needed.
Of course, if you take good care of the heat pump with regular maintenance major repairs will likely never occur and it is possible you will repair free with a good maintenance plan in place for your heat pump. Basic maintenance adds life to the equipment, keeps the equipment running longer adding to the lifespan, and during the overall life will keep the heat pump more efficient.
Basic Heat Pump Maintenance - The Checklist
- Check motors, capacitors, and lubricate motors as necessary.
- Check amp draws (current) for all electrical loads in the system to make sure readings are normal for electrical loads. Any abnormal readings out of range from normal will indicate a possible bad component or a motor that will fail soon.
- Check electrical connections. Loose electrical connections can be big problems in the future including being a fire hazard.
- A check of heat pump components including the reversing valve the defrost cycle.
- Inspects auxiliary heating system to ensure heat pump will continue heat while in defrost mode.
- Refrigerant level check.
- Check ductwork for airtight integrity.
- Inspect crankcase heater on the compressor
- Test all safety controls for the heat pump system
- Make maintenance or repair recommendations to keep the system running reliably and smoothly over the course of the season or the life of the heat pump.
Consequently, gas furnaces and heat pumps will cover a majority of the heating systems out there. There are other systems that require maintenance including boilers – both hot water boilers and steam boilers – and oil systems that include forced air oil furnaces and boilers, geothermal heating systems, and electric heating systems. As always we recommend a professional HVAC technician do the maintenance on your system.
Basic Heat Pump Maintenance - Dirty Heat Pump Coils
Air Source Heat Pump Tips | Dual Fuel Heating
A dual fuel heat pump is a heat pump with a gas furnace for backup heating rather than electric heat strips.
Air source heat pumps have a backup heating source. In most installations, the backup heating source is electric heat strips. Electric heat strips are very cheap to install in most cases. However, while electricity is generally regarded as 100% efficient, producing it is more costly than other heating methods. For a more efficient heat pump, consider a dual fuel heat pump, or a heat pump with a gas furnace for the backup heat source. It will be more costly to install, but your monthly bills will be reduced.
Additionally, if dirty coils are found with the heat pump equipment, then the technician should clean the coils. That is for proper maintenance to restore the coils to their original condition. Dirty condenser coils on a heat pump will cause both heating and cooling problems for the heat pump system. Conditions that result in dirty condenser coils include grass clippings from mowing the lawn, duct, and dirt, and trash.
These things need to be removed from the heat pump coils. It is a part of an essential maintenance service for any heat pump maintenance. Additionally, bushes and shrubs trimmed and kept from impeding any airflow around the heat pump condenser, anything that will affect the efficiency of the heat pump condenser coils and moving air through the coils.
Evaporator coils should also get a spot check for anything that will inhibit airflow across the heat pump evaporator coil. Dirty coils can result from bad ductwork, especially the return duct, or by not properly maintaining and keeping a filter in the system. Dirty heat pump evaporator coils should be cleaned as a part of regular maintenance.
Additionally, the HVAC technician should always advise the homeowner about properly maintaining their heat pump system. That helps to prevent common failures and to keep the coils clean. That goes with good service and lets the consumer know that the HVAC technician has their best interest in my mind.
Basic Heat Pump Maintenance - Additional Checks
Other problems related to regular basic maintenance include checking to see if the system is low on a refrigerant charge. That means the heat pump system has a refrigerant leak, and it needs to be repaired. The refrigerant leak must first be found, and this is not a part of typical maintenance. However, a separate service call can be re-scheduled for a later time. This service can be costly because of the time and materials involved. Furthermore, finding and repairing a refrigerant leak in a heat pump system can be time-consuming.
There are the usual suspects with finding refrigerant leaks in heat pump systems such as the Shrader valves and a check of the accumulator. Sometimes the leak can be found quickly, and other times, it can take hours. The typical split system heat pump will have a line set running from the condenser to the air handler. These line sets usually run through chases and in the void of walls.
There are cases where a nail punctured the line set, and all the refrigerant leaked out. (See our video section for a video of a real-life example of this problem). While these types of refrigerant leaks are unusual, they do occur and can be costly to repair.
Maintenance of Heat Pumps - Regular heat pump maintenance will save you a lot of money in the long run.
Basic Heat Pump Maintenance