Many homeowners, after their heat pump is installed and providing all-season comfort in the home, forget about it until something goes wrong. And given enough time, something will malfunction in any mechanical system. This sort of benign neglect is a sure way to invite higher energy bills, reduced or uneven comfort, eventual breakdowns, and a short service life for your heat pump.
Fortunately, there’s a simple way to avoid these sorts of problems: Make sure the heat pump gets regular do-it-yourself maintenance as well as annual (or ideally, twice-yearly) professional maintenance.
Here are some simple tasks that you can do to help keep your heap pump in good working order:
- Change the air filter. The air filter plays a key role in the operation of any forced-air HVAC system, whether air conditioner, heat pump or furnace. A filter that’s allowed to get caked with dust and debris will force the blower to work harder and use more energy to push air through your cooling or heating equipment. Along with the dust and dirt that falls into the machinery, causing friction, the added stress cuts down on efficiency and places undue wear and tear on mechanical components. Get into a routine of inspecting the filter monthly and replacing it when it looks dirty or clogged. Regular air filter maintenance is the easiest way you can add life to your heat pump or other HVAC system.
- Remove leaves, sticks, grass cuttings, foliage, and ice or snow from around the heat pump’s outside unit. This allows clear airflow through the outside unit’s coil.
- If you’re mechanically inclined, try cleaning the outside unit of the heat pump, both the fan assembly and the coil. Open up the unit and wipe dirt from the fan blades with a wet rag. Use a shop-vac to clean the fan motor and shaft. Lubricate with a bit of oil as well. Brush dirt away from the coil with a whisk broom or stiff brush, then employ water or a foam cleaner to spray away trapped dirt in the coil. If you feel any hesitation about trying this chore, leave it to a professional. (They may conclude that a full cleaning isn’t necessary.)
Steps in a Professional Heat Pump Tune-Up
When your trusted HVAC professional comes to your home to perform preventative maintenance on your heat pump, following are the tasks you can expect them to do. (The completeness of the work may depend on the type of maintenance visit you’ve scheduled, the particular company’s practices, and the condition of your heat pump.)
- Clean the outside unit (as described earlier in this article).
- Inspect, lubricate and clean the blower motor/air handler and clean the indoor coil if necessary.
- Check refrigerant levels and adjust if necessary. If the level is low, the technician probably will look for leaks in the lines or coils.
- Check and adjust airflow through the system. A more comprehensive maintenance visit may include sealing any duct leaks, effecting any needed repairs and adding insulation if necessary.
- Clean the condensate drain and pan.
- Inspect to make sure the thermostat is working properly, along with other system controls.
- Check that wiring and connections are tight.