You’ll know fall has arrived when you start feeling cool breezes outside. Temperatures slowly dip at this time of the year, which may lead you to turn up the heat in your home for much-needed warmth. If you have a heat pump, you of course expect it to work as intended. With a bit of tinkering with the thermostat, you can easily switch from cooling to heating mode.
But what if the unit is stuck on its previous setting that helped you stay cool all summer long? Such an experience can be truly frustrating; after all, having a reliable heating system is a necessity, especially as the season changes. In this blog post, Acker Heating & Cooling, your trusted contractor for your heating and air conditioning needs, explains everything you need to know about dealing with a heat pump that’s stuck in cooling mode.
How Heat Pumps Work
Before we dive right into the causes of this particular issue and ways to troubleshoot it, it’s worth discussing how this HVAC system works. A heat pump is a device that utilizes a small amount of energy to move heat from one location to another. Unlike a furnace that burns fuel, it uses electricity to pull heat from the air or the ground to keep your living spaces warm.
To better understand this, let’s take a look at how heat flows. Naturally, it tends to move from an area with a higher temperature to an area with a lower temperature. The heat pump has the same compression-evaporation cycle that AC systems and refrigerators have, but the process works in reverse. Here, the unit pulls heat out of a relatively low-temperature location and pumps it into an area with a higher temperature.
The heat pump’s best attribute is that it serves a dual purpose—it can both heat and cool your home effectively. This eliminates the need for a forced-air system consisting of a furnace and an outdoor air conditioning unit. When it’s in cooling mode, the refrigerant inside the unit absorbs indoor heat and expels it outside. As this happens, cool outdoor air is drawn back into your living space. When it’s in heating mode, the process is reversed, with the refrigerant flowing in the opposite direction. The source of the heat becomes the air outside, even when there’s a significant dip in outdoor temperatures. The resulting heat energy is then released inside the house, creating warmth.
Possible Causes & Troubleshooting Tips
Why does a heat pump get stuck in cooling mode? Below are the potential reasons why it tends to happen and things that can be done to fix the issue.
Broken reversing valve. The most common reason why this problem occurs is because of a broken reversing valve. This important component of the heat pump, which sits on the refrigerant line, reverses the flow of refrigerant, allowing the system to operate in reverse and switch between heating and cooling modes. Essentially, it’s what makes the equipment different from your typical central AC system.
The reversing valve is usually self-automated, but it can get stuck, preventing the heat pump from switching between modes. With a soft rigid object like the plastic handle of the screwdriver, try tapping either side of the valve body to free it. If this trick doesn’t work, it would be wise to contact ypur HVAC contractor, who is experienced at performing thorough inspections of cooling and heating systems. If the technician finds that the valve is already damaged or worse for wear, they can easily swap it with a new one. You can expect them to have one in their truck when they visit your home for a service call.
Thermostat issues. A malfunctioning thermostat is another potential reason as to why the heat pump can get stuck in cooling mode. There could be faulty wiring in it that prevents the heat pump from functioning properly when needed. If one or more wires have been disconnected, the thermostat can’t send a signal to the system telling it to start heating your home.
Unless you’re experienced with fixing electricity-related troubles in your home, having your HVAC contractor work on this issue is your best bet. Even though thermostats are small components, the electrical connections between them and the heating and cooling equipment can be dangerous when handled by someone inexperienced.
Refrigerant loss. A heat pump is expected to have enough refrigerant to last its entire lifespan. This important component is cycled constantly throughout the system; it’s not like your car’s gas, which has to be replenished every time you use it. Your heat pump, however, can lose a good amount of refrigerant if there’s a leak.
To find out if this is indeed the case, turn on your heat pump and set it to heating mode. If the air coming through your vents is somewhat lukewarm, your heat pump might not be stuck in cooling mode at all. A hissing or bubbling sound coming from the unit is another way to tell if there’s a refrigerant leak. Be sure to call your local HVAC contractor to address this issue. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that your heat pump will lose efficiency, resulting in costly repairs.
Other Heat Pump Issues to Watch out For
In addition to its failure to switch to cooling mode, your heat pump can also experience other issues. These include the following:
- Blowing cold air while in heating mode
- Blocked outdoor unit
- Blower fan in the indoor air handler not working properly
- Frozen outdoor unit
- Heat pump running continuously in moderate weather conditions
These issues can be remedied with simple troubleshooting, from checking the thermostat to cleaning or replacing the air filters. However, these problems are best diagnosed and addressed by a reliable HVAC contractor like Acker Heating & Cooling. As the leading residential and commercial HVAC company in the area, we offer a wide range of heating and air conditioning services, including repairs, maintenance, new system installations, indoor air quality checks and air duct repair and sealing.
If you have comfort-related issues at home or work, our team of certified HVAC technicians can help solve them. We’re licensed and insured for your protection. Call (706) 715-2607 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free estimate or request an appointment.