Heat PumpsManaging Seattle Air To Heat Pumps In Winter

Preventing ice buildup will keep your system running more efficiently.

Your first winter with a heat pump may surprise you. You’ll find that the outside coils tend to frost over in cold, damp weather. While it’s entirely normal for some frost to be there, ice shouldn’t take over the unit. Learn how to manage your heat pump during the winter so you know what to expect and when to call for service.

Ice Buildup on Air to Heat Pumps

Unlike ground-sourced heat pumps, air to heat pumps are necessarily exposed to the elements. They must be in order to gather the air’s ambient heat and bring it indoors. Because frost is a normal occurrence, heat pumps are designed to go into defrost mode every 30 to 90 minutes. The defrosting period will last from 2 to 10 minutes depending on conditions.

When defrost mode can’t keep up with ice buildup, it’s time to call for service. If you notice ice building up, don’t wait until it becomes extreme. If the unit’s defrost mode does not clear up the ice, it will not run efficiently when it returns to heat mode.

Natural Causes of Ice Buildup

Some ice buildup problems come from natural conditions such as ice dripping off eaves or debris sticking to the coils. You can avoid these problems with simple home maintenance. Install gutters to keep water from dripping onto the unit, or at the very least create a small shelf or awning over the unit to divert water to either side. Do not enclose the unit to keep it from the elements, though. This will impede airflow and stop the unit from working efficiently.

You should also check the coils periodically to be sure they are clean and free of debris, especially after storms. In fall, leaves can stick to the coils. In winter, snow can pile up around the unit. Shovel snow out of the way to be sure the coils have full access to the surrounding air.

Never use sharp objects to clear ice or debris from the unit because coils are easily punctured. The refrigerant is under great pressure, so puncturing the coils could cause serious injury, not to mention the need to repair the unit.

Mechanical Causes of Ice Buildup

If Mother Nature isn’t causing the icing problem, you probably need service on the air to heat pump. Many different parts are involved in the defrost process and any one or several of them may need servicing. You could have problems with the defrost control, timer, thermostat, sensor or relay. You may have a sticking reversing valve, stopping the unit from going into defrost mode. It’s also possible you need a refrigerant recharge. The list of potential problems goes on.

Call MM Comfort Systems to take care of the icing problem on your Seattle air to heat pump.

As heating and cooling experts in the Seattle area, we’ve helped many customers maintain and repair their heat pumps. Call us at 425.533.9058 to get a free estimate or fill out our online contact form. We’ll have your heat pump operating properly again in no time.


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