Heat pumps are remarkably efficient home heating systems. As more and more homeowners become aware of this option for heating their homes, heat pumps are rising in popularity. While they are excellent systems in many ways, however, heat pumps do have areas where they struggle. One of those areas is that of extremely cold weather. Here, we’ll cover what to do if your heat pump begins to struggle in the cold weather.
Cause and Effect
The reason that heat pumps tend to struggle in colder weather has to do with their method of heating. A heat pump is not a combustion based system. Instead of burning fuel, a heat pump will move heat from one area to another to heat a space. With most heat pumps, that heat has to come from outside.
There are two parts to every heat pump, an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. When the heat is turned on, the outdoor unit will siphon heat from the surrounding air and send it inside to heat the home. The problem is that the colder the air gets, the less heat is available. This leads to a loss of heating efficiency the lower the temperature drops. Now, you may be wondering what the point of a heating system is if it can’t deal with the cold. It’s important to remember that we’re talking about sub-zero temperatures here, not a snowy day here and there.
Check the Outdoor Unit
If you aren’t getting enough heat from your heat pump, you should check the outdoor unit first and foremost. Is the outside of the unit casing covered in ice? If so, you may have a broken defrost cycle. As the outdoor unit leeches heat from the air, it creates condensation that then freezes on the outside of the unit. Normally, this isn’t a problem since the heat pump has a defrost cycle to melt the ice. However, if the defrost cycle stops working the unit can ice over completely. When that happens, it has no way to get thermal energy from the air and will start to blow cold air into the house. If you notice a lot of ice on the outside of your heat pump, you should call a professional.