If you’re heating your home with a heat pump this winter, you’re probably expecting it to do what it’s supposed to. If your heat pump is spewing chilly air instead of warm air, it’s possible that it’s become stuck in air cooling mode. This kind of issue can have just one possible explanation, although the details may differ significantly. Find out why your heat pump is stuck in air conditioning mode by reading below.
How a Heat Pump Works
In a typical residential setting, an air-source heat pump system is used to both heat and cool the building. An outdoor unit, an inside unit and a thermostat are all included in the package. It works as follows when the thermostat is on auto or is set to heating mode:
- The outdoor unit harnesses the therapeutic properties of the surrounding air.
- The indoor unit’s coil receives heating energy via copper refrigerant tubing.
- Indoor air is warmed by a blower fan in the indoor unit.
- The fan distributes warm air throughout the building.
As soon as the thermostat is set to cooling mode or auto, an automatic reversing valve in the outdoor unit is engaged, and the process is reversed, allowing the heat pump to function as a typical central air conditioning system.
Understanding Refrigerant Flow
When your heat pump is cooling, the refrigerant travels through the system’s external and internal components. It collects heat from inside your house and expels it outdoors, all while circulating cooled air throughout your house. When the unit is in heating mode, this process is ideally reversed by a component called a reversing valve, which allows the refrigerant to flow in the opposite direction.
Having said this, if your heat pump is unable to switch to heating mode, heating and air conditioning repair professionals will tell you to consider the following likely causes:
Broken reversing valve. The most prevalent source of this problem is a faulty reversing valve. This critical component of the heat pump, located on the refrigerant line, reverses the refrigerant flow, enabling the system to function in reverse and transition between heating and cooling modes. Essentially, this is what distinguishes the equipment from a standard central air conditioning system.
Although the reversing valve is typically self-contained, it can become jammed, preventing the heat pump from switching modes. Tap either side of the valve body with a soft stiff object, such as the plastic handle of a screwdriver. If this method doesn’t work, it would be prudent to contact your residential and commercial HVAC contractor, who’s skilled at conducting comprehensive examinations of cooling and heating systems. If the technician discovers that the valve is already damaged or is showing signs of wear, they can quickly replace it. You can anticipate them having one on hand when they come to your home for a service call.
Thermostat issues. Another possible reason for the heat pump to become stuck in cooling mode is a faulty thermostat that hasn’t been properly calibrated. It’s possible that there’s bad wiring in it that’s preventing the heat pump from functioning properly when it’s needed. If one or more of the thermostat’s wires are severed, it will be unable to transmit a signal to the heating system instructing it to begin heating your home.
If you’re not familiar with repairing electricity-related problems in your home, it’s recommended that you have your HVAC contractor take care of the problem for you. Despite the fact that thermostats are simple components, the electrical connections that connect them to the heating and cooling equipment can be hazardous if handled by someone who isn’t familiar with the equipment.
Refrigerant leak. When your cooling and heating systems are installed, they’re equipped with enough refrigerant to last the life of the unit—it doesn’t diminish over time, as fuel does in a vehicle. Instead, it’s continuously recycled throughout your system. If your unit is leaking refrigerant, this indicates that there’s a leak, and your heat pump will be unable to function properly, regardless of the mode in which it’s operating.
When there’s a leak, the air coming through your vents won’t be cold, but it won’t be hot either, and you may hear a hissing or bubbling noise coming from the system. You should contact our expert technicians as soon as possible if you suspect you have a refrigerant leak, because the longer you wait, the greater the damage to the system will be. A refrigerant leak can cause a myriad of additional problems in the system, and may even result in the complete failure of the entire system in some cases.
Other Heat Pump Concerns to Keep an Eye Out For
In addition to failing to transition to cooling mode, your cooling and heating systems may face a number of other problems, such as:
- While in heating mode, the fan blows cold air
- The outdoor unit becomes obstructed
- The interior air handler’s blower fan doesn’t operate correctly
- The outdoor unit freezes
- The heat pump operates continuously, even when weather conditions are moderate
Simple troubleshooting can often resolve these difficulties, and may range from monitoring the thermostat to cleaning or replacing the air filter, among other things. If troubleshooting doesn’t work, these issues are best assessed and resolved by a reputable HVAC contractor.
Have This Problem Addressed
One of the main benefits of owning a heat pump is its dual function of cooling and heating your home. Heat pumps require a precise balance of components to work properly. Don’t trust repairs to amateurs, and don’t try to make any repairs on your own. The best thing you can do is contact a professional technician ASAP to fix it, as heat pump issues can lead to a domino effect of other problems with the system, and even a potential full-system shutdown.
If you’re experiencing discomfort at home or work, let Acker Heating & Cooling’s expert team of certified residential and commercial HVAC specialists assist you in resolving the situation. We’re licensed and insured to ensure your safety and security. To get a free estimate or to request an appointment, please call (706) 715-2607 or fill out our online contact form.