Heat pumps are just as prone to developing issues under the strain of winter use as any other heating system. This can manifest in a number of ways, but the most common is simply a loss of heating output. If your heat pump isn’t heating as well as it should be, there are a number of possible reasons why.
Refrigerant is the liquid that makes it possible for the heat pump to actually heat the home. It does this by evaporating refrigerant in the outside coil to absorb heat, then condensing the refrigerant back into liquid to release the collected heat inside. The system recycles the same supply of refrigerant back and forth throughout its lifetime. If a leak develops in the refrigerant line, it will slowly deplete the system’s ability to heat. The lower the refrigerant level, the less capacity the system has to move heat into the home from outside. Eventually, the level may drop so low that the system will simply break down. If you notice fluid dripping from your heat pump, it’s a good idea to make sure that it’s checked out as soon as possible to avoid this kind of issue.
Reversing Valve Problems
Another refrigerant-related problem is issues with the reversing valve. The reversing valve is a four-way valve that sits in the system’s refrigerant line. Inside the valve is a slide that moves between two positions, each of which changes the direction that refrigerant flows through the system. If the slide is in one position, the system is in air conditioning mode. In the opposite position, heating mode. The slide is controlled by an electromagnet called a solenoid.
If the system is apparently stuck in heating or cooling mode, then it’s likely due to a problem with the reversing valve. There are two ways to fix this. If the slide is stuck in the valve, a professional technician will need to open it and reset the slide. If the solenoid has lost its charge, though, then the only thing that can really be done is to replace it entirely. Restoring the reversing valve to its proper operation should resolve the heating issue.
If your heat pump cannot heat properly because it can never seem to complete a full heating cycle, that’s called short cycling. Short cycling can be caused by several factors, though an electrical short in the system is the most common. Regardless, it poses a very serious threat to the heat pump as a whole. Since the system cannot complete a full heating cycle, it will not be able to easily heat the home. If the system is allowed to short cycle for an extended period of time, though, it will cause the various parts of the heat pump to break down and wear out much more often. This will shorten the lifespan of the heat pump by a number of years. Call for repairs as soon as you hear your heat pump doing this.