Are Your Heat Pumps Ready For Colder Weather?  

November 16, 2020

Your heat pumps have a lot to do with how all of the residents in a home fare over the winter. Even if you’re not buried under a pile of snow, that doesn’t mean you won’t have some cold nights. If you want to make the most of your HVAC system, it needs to run as efficiently as possible.

If you’re not maintaining your pumps, you’re inviting higher energy bills. It also means that you’re more likely to encounter a malfunction when the heat pump system is kicked into overdrive.  At, we have a few recommendations to get your pumps ready for colder temps.

How Does the Heat Pump Work?

Before we get into maintenance tips, it helps to have a basic idea of what the heat pump does. The device is actually moving heat around rather than creating, helping the home to use less energy than one that relies entirely on the furnace. The pump basically steals heat from outside and then moves it indoors, resulting in as much as 75% savings on your utility bills. Of course, when the temperatures drop, it’s not easy for a heat pump to actually find heat, which is why you need it to be functioning at peak capacity.

Start with the Filter

This is one of the easiest places to begin if you’re concerned about your heat pump. The filter is the first entry point, so the cleaner it is, the more clean air can get through. Not only is it accessible (normally found behind the vent grille), but it’s also easy to see just how much buildup is on the filter since your last replacement.

When it comes to dust and dirt, everyone has a different threshold for what they’re comfortable with. Some homeowners might see a thin layer of dust and decide that it’s time to replace it. Others might wait until the filter is caked over before they take any action.

Filters have everything to do with the ventilation in your home. So if your home is getting a little musty or you’re sneezing more often than normal, it might be because of a dirty filter. An even more serious consequence of a dirty filter is the formation of mold.

A good rule of thumb is to change it at least once every few months if you live in a home that’s regularly cleaned and free of pets. If you have a few dogs though, and you’re not always good about vacuuming, you might want to change out the filter once a month. You should be checking on your filters often if you like the house extra warm during the chilliest parts of the year.

Check the Unit

Your equipment should be kept free of leaves, branches, and grime. The heat pumps depend on all components working together to function. If debris is caught up in your fan, it can quickly break down the order of operations. Summer storms can kick up all kinds of trouble, and all those odds and ends can wind up stuck in the condenser without homeowners even realizing it.

When you inspect the unit, make sure the area is clear. This ensures better circulation, as there’s less to block the air from moving back and forth. You should also be checking the coils to gauge if they need cleaning. Much like the filter, you don’t want to wait until they’re practically unrecognizable before wiping them down.

Test Your Heating Before You Need It

Your heat pumps won’t get much attention during the summer, and they don’t always respond well when they’re first called out of retirement. After a long summer of inactivity, your furnace will burn off any dust that’s accumulated over the months. If you test the system now, you can open your windows to let the smell out.

You also have the opportunity to notice any system issues now, such as odd noises or unexpected changes in airflow. It’s normal to inhale an acrid scent when you first turn on the system, but it’s not normal for the air to smell like an old sock. This could indicate that there’s some degree of bacteria buildup on the coils. You should also be concerned if the air is blowing hot and cold (or just cold), or if there are unexpected surges of air.

Change Your Modes

A heat pump will typically have three settings on its thermostat, and it’s not uncommon for a homeowner to have it turned to emergency heat. Your thermostat should be on the heat setting when autumn rolls around.

If it’s on emergency heat, you’ll end up using the furnace as the primary source of heat (and a lot of extra utility costs to heat the home). You really only need this feature if your heat pump is broken or if you’re cleaning away snow and ice (you can also switch the heat pump to ‘off’ during cleanup).

Know What’s Normal

When there’s moisture in the air, it’s not uncommon for it to condense and freeze on the heat pumps. There are typically sensors on the heat pump that detect the solids, which will then switch on the defrost cycle. So if you see water forming outside the unit on a particularly cold morning, it’s not a cause for concern.

If the unit itself is covered in snow or ice, you can use a cold water hose (from the top) to melt it. Just make sure that you’re not using sharp objects, such as rocks, to break off the ice. The unit is sturdy, but you don’t want to risk damaging it while you’re trying to care for it.

Ask for Professional Help

If your heat pumps are older or you just want to be on the safe side, a professional tune-up from an experienced service technician can do wonders for your system. Not only will you feel confident as you head into a new season, but you also have the chance to discover fixable problems before they turn into costly repairs.

Every home will have its own quirks that can make HVAC care difficult for the average homeowner. Whether it’s the wiring or the belts, it’s not always easy to access the many elements of your system. And even if you can, you might not be able to determine whether the parts are in good shape.

In the event a professional check reveals that your HVAC system is no longer working properly and needs to be replaced, don’t hesitate to contact us at Whether you want a heat pump or a furnace, we can assure you that you will get nothing but the best HVAC system available.

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