Raleigh Winter Blues: My heat pump always breaks on the coldest day of the year!
Raleigh Winter Blues: My heat pump always breaks on the coldest day of the year!
Recently in Raleigh, NC we had sleet and snow followed by 4 days of frigid temperatures that hovered in the teens and even dropping into the single digits. Many Raleigh residents decided it was best to stay in their home rather than attempt to drive on the icy roads. Being trapped at home for several days in below freezing temperatures, homeowners really got a feel of how well their heat pumps were working.
Let’s face it, Murphy’s Law dictates that your heating system will break on the coldest day of the year!
Our job is to go out into the worst winter weather conditions to repair heat pumps all over Raleigh and the surrounding areas. Bringing warmth our Raleigh neighbors on a cold winter’s day is something that is taken very seriously at 919 Fix My AC, so we perform this task proudly and with purpose.
As you can imagine, in the 919 Fix My AC office, the phone lines were ringing off the hook! We repeatedly heard, “I’m in Raleigh and my heating system needs repair”, or “My heat pump is blowing cold air” and “When the heat comes on I smell something burning.”
919 Fix My AC was prepared for this type of Raleigh weather! Our trucks were stocked with all the parts and supplies we could hold. Our tires had snow chains on them to make it as safe as possible for our 919 Fix My AC technicians as well as Raleigh residents. And of course our technicians were layered up with foot and hand warmers. Off we went to bring warmth to all!
There are a lot of heat pumps in Raleigh and one of the classic issues causing heating systems to not work properly is snow or ice covering your unit. This an easy fix that can be done by the homeowner as long as you are careful! If you find your outdoor unit is not coming on and you can safely go out to inspect, take notice of the top of the unit.
Has it somehow been covered with snow? Is there snow piled around your heat pump? If so, first turn off the thermostat. Next, take a broom and try to get all the snow off the heat pump by carefully moving the snow until the coil has plenty of room to breathe. If using a snow shovel extreme caution is required! There are copper pipes and a somewhat fragile coil will require a large non-DIY repair if punctured. There are also electrical wires and connections that must be avoided. Do not blindly thrust any bladed object into the snow around your heat pump. Let safety and common sense be your guide.
Is there ice on the top or surrounding the fan blades? First, turn the thermostat off. If possible, take a pot of hot water and pour it slowly over the heat pump fan blades to defrost the ice. Please be careful during this process. If iced fan blades are the issue it could mean the conditions outside are dangerous because everything in Raleigh is icy. After the hot water melts the ice from the fan blades, try to turn the thermostat on and wait ten minutes. If the unit comes on then you’re all set. If it doesn’t come on, then you may need to schedule a repair for your heat pump. Call 919 Fix My AC and one of our HVAC technicians will come promptly to your Raleigh home and repair your unit. Your home will be warm again in no time!
One very common call for repair we hear is “My heat pump blows warm air, and then blows cool air, and then warm air again, but the temperature never gets as high as I set it.” This is usually caused by malfunctioning heat strips. This is definitely not a DIY job and you should call 919 Fix My AC for this type of heat pump repair. A heat pump operates exactly like an air conditioner. The difference is, the refrigerant/freon is flowing in reverse using a mechanism appropriately called a reversing valve. The unit outside, the condenser, gets frozen after about 20 minutes of use and the heat pump condenser goes into defrost mode. When that happens, your heat strips take over in a properly functioning heat pump system and provides warm air until the condenser has defrosted. If the heat strips need repair, the air will be cool or even cold while the condenser defrosts. When the temperatures are below 35 degrees as it often happens in Raleigh in the winter, it’s very hard for heat pumps to keep up. Add to that heat strips that won’t come on, and you have a perfect recipe for wearing jackets inside your home. One call to 919 Fix My AC gets your Raleigh heat pump running at its best and keeping you warm.
We also frequently receive calls from Raleigh homeowners who mention a burning smell when trying to use their heat pump. Many times the cause is a bad blower motor in the air handler part of your heat pump. When the heat strips heat up, they get very hot. The blower motor in the air handler portion of the heat pump blows air across those heat strips. As the air passes across those hot heat strips, the air gains heat. That warm air passes through your ducts to bring the warm air into your home. If the blower motor is not functioning correctly, the heat strips will get too hot and cause that plastic type burning smell. It is in your best interest to turn the unit off and not attempt to run your heat pump until it has been properly repaired. This is not a recommended DIY project, but is very often something that can be immediately repaired on site by one of our 919 Fix My AC technicians. Our trucks are stocked with many types of motors so we can get our Raleigh homeowner’s heat pumps repaired and providing warmth quickly.
There is another Issue with heat pumps that is a little harder for a homeowner to detect. Sometimes we get calls from Raleigh homeowners who tell us their heat pump seems to work but it can’t keep up or, it’s always running. In cases like this, we have found that the heat pump is low on freon, or refrigerant. Yep, a heat pump needs refrigerant to work properly. Remember, a heat pump is an air conditioner that has reversed the flow of the freon. Therefore, the freon captures the latent heat outside and transfers it inside your home. You may wonder how freon can capture heat from outside if it’s only 42 degrees outside? This is done by the refrigerant being a certain pressure at certain parts as it travels through the heat pump system.
Low freon/refrigerant will cause the heat pump to be extremely inefficient. This translates to a BIG electric bill because now your heat strips will come on more often to compensate the heat pump. Heat strips are like burning twenty dollar bills for warmth, the very least efficient way of producing warmth in your Raleigh home. A quick call to 919 Fix My AC and you will be warm and save those twenty dollar bills in no time flat. Our HVAC technician will perform a full diagnostics on your heating system, and will tell you exactly what is required to get your Raleigh heat pump running as efficiently as possible. You will also be offered solutions for the leaking refrigerant. And most importantly, those solutions will NOT be “replacing your heat pump.” A properly functioning heat pump can provide you with very efficient warmth. In fact, a heat pump is the most efficient type of heat one could use in their Raleigh home. That’s right, a heat pump can actually transfer 100% of its energy consumption into heat. The most efficient furnace can only transfer 97% of the heat.
This brings me to a final point.
Do you have a BIG electric bill in the winter? Change the filters on your heat pump system every thirty days and get your heat pump serviced every fall. Changing your filters every 30 days is something that must be done for your Heat pump to operate efficiently. The longer the filter is in the system, the more and more it gets clogged, and the harder it is for your heat pump to breathe. The harder it is for your heat pump to breathe, the less efficient the HVAC system becomes. Changing filters is the part of the maintenance that is the responsibility the Raleigh homeowner. The other part of the heat pump maintenance is the responsibility of 919 Fix My AC. We clean, check, tighten, and adjust the entire heat pump system to make sure it is running at peak performance levels. Performing these tasks will save you money on your electric bills, lessen the likelihood of your heat pump breaking down, and the whole system will last longer.