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When to do maintenance on your heat pump

Whatever topic we cover on our blog, we often come back to this truth: regular maintenance is the best way to prevent emergencies and spending a lot of money to repair or replace your HVAC system. Selecting a quality heating and cooling system is not only about having a great HVAC guy for annual checkups and emergencies, but also diligent home maintenance. 

If you are the proud owner of a heat pump system, you understand your cost savings especially as inflation has recently increased heating and cooling costs. During the inflation of the 1970s, heat pumps increased in popularity as the HVAC system of choice. It may be possible that 2021 and the coming years will also see a rise in popularity of these energy efficient systems. Let’s talk about how to best take care of these cost efficient, hardworking HVAC units. 

When should you do maintenance on your heat pump? 

The short answer to how often you should have your heat pump checked is yearly or bi-yearly, which is similar to the maintenance schedule for any other kind of HVAC system. If your heat pump is the only method of heating and cooling your home, having it serviced twice a year is a good idea. If you only use it for heating or only use it for cooling, having your heat pump serviced every other year would be fine. 

When it comes to heat pumps and heat pump maintenance, there are ways you can take care of it on your own and maintenance an HVAC technician should do during periodic checkups or tune ups. Taking the time to maintain your system will only benefit you. In fact, the Department of Energy reports that when homeowners are diligent about their heat pumps’ care, the costs of running them can improve by between 10% and 25%. 

What will an HVAC technician do during maintenance checkups?

Inspect, tighten, rewire, seal, clean, lubricate:

The HVAC technician will check on the major components of the heat pump to make sure they are working properly. This includes tightening and sealing belts and ducts, cleaning the various parts so they run more efficiently, and greasing the motor so all internal parts work together smoothly. 

The major areas that can get dirty or experience blockages are the ducts, filters, coils, drain line and pan, blower, and outdoor condensing unit. The technician will inspect and clean each of these areas and components. The technician will also check the electrical wiring and belts to ensure that they are working properly, rewiring and tightening as needed. A routine maintenance checkup should include a cleaning and tune up of all the internal parts that work together to make the heat pump work efficiently.

Check on the refrigerant

Refrigerant is an especially important component to the heat pump’s operation, as it is the substance that absorbs and gives off heat. When servicing the heat pump, a technician will check that refrigerant is not leaking, and ensure that it is charged correctly. 

Test the various operations of the heat pump 

An HVAC technician will also run a variety of tests to make sure the heat pump is working as it should. Some of these tests include checking the airflow to ensure that air is flowing properly, starting a “defrost cycle” to see that the heat pump follows through the cycle correctly, confirming that heat is stopped/blocked when the thermostat is set to cool and, conversely, that cooling is stopped/blocked when the thermostat is set to heat, and testing the thermostat for proper functioning. 

What can you do to maintain your heat pump?

While HVAC technicians have their own checklist of highly technical tasks for inspecting and cleaning during their heat pump maintenance visit (not recommended for a non-expert to attempt), there are plenty of ways you can care for your heat pump in between your yearly or bi-yearly visit from a HVAC professional. 

Best practices for the thermostat

One best practice the Department of Energy suggests is paying attention to your thermostat. The most efficient and cost-effective thermostat temperatures are: 68 degrees for cold months and between 75 and 78 for warm months. If you do not have a variable-speed fan motor, be wary of having the indoor fan on constantly. Instead, opt for the “auto” setting on the thermostat. Lastly, one of the best ways to efficiently run your heat pump is by having a programmable thermostat that will work with the system to be as efficient as possible. 

Clean and replace: filters, coils, and fan

The Department of Energy (and every HVAC company!) recommends cleaning or changing your filters once a month. A maximum of three months is the recommended longest you should go without replacing filters if your goal is optimum efficiency and air quality from your heat pump system. Filter replacement is one of the easiest ways to keep your system working well, but you can also clean the coils if they look dirty. Additionally, if you turn off your system, you can clean the fan. Dirty filters, coils, and fans can force the compressor in the system to work harder and lead to potential problems.

Maintain your outdoor unit 

Ensuring your outdoor unit is kept clean is vital to the care of your heat pump. Keep the area around your unit clean, making sure no other structures, debris, or bushes obstruct airflow. This will also make it easier for your HVAC technician to work inside the unit for tune ups. During the fall months, clear any leaves or dirt from around or on the unit; and in the winter, make sure there is no ice buildup on the unit. Check on the unit periodically to make sure that it is draining properly. When it’s used to cool your house, you should see water draining from the condenser inside the unit.

Call us!

Maintenance of your system is important! Exxel Mechanical Services, based in Mount Airy, MD, serves a wide area that includes Westminster, Owings Mills, Ellicott City, Frederick, and everywhere in between. Our reputation in this area precedes us, as we pride ourselves on placing our customers as our highest priority. Call us today at (443) 821-1040, and it would be our pleasure to see how we can help you.