Heat pumps that are well maintained on a regular schedule can be as much as 25 percent more efficient than neglected systems, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers program. And while heat-pump maintenance might not sound like an appealing task, it is one that can save you money, and which can be fairly simple. However, there are some additional, technical facets to your heat-pump maintenance that you’ll want to leave to your HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) contractor.
Heat pumps achieve great efficiency by moving heat, not producing heat. Heat pumps do this by pumping refrigerant through the system in alternating states of vapor and liquid. In cooling mode, the refrigerant boils to a vapor at the indoor evaporator, extracting heat from your home. At the outdoor condenser, the refrigerant, now in liquid form, releases the heat.
Air circulation must be free and unhindered at the evaporator, condenser, air filter and blowers for this process to occur efficiently. That’s where you can take a few simple heat-pump maintenance steps:
- Check and/or clean your air filters regularly. A good rule of thumb is to check them monthly, looking for visible dirt or grime buildup. Pull them out, hold them to a light, and see if you can spot any clogs. If so, it’s time to change them. Your heat pump has to work harder to push air through these clogs. At a minimum, you should change your filters every six to eight weeks.
- Check the outdoor unit to ensure that nothing is obstructing airflow. This includes weeds, shrubbery, fences, debris, and ice and snow during the heating months.
- Spray off the outdoor unit a few times each season. Make sure you turn off the power at the circuit box before you do this, and let the system air dry fully before you turn it back on.
- Vacuum the coils and fins of your indoor evaporator, if it’s accessible. Again, make sure the power is shut off before you perform this heat-pump maintenance step.
Professional heat-pump maintenance
The following maintenance steps should be performed by your HVAC contractor, and involve checking refrigerant components and drainage, and many other steps that require specialized training. Scheduling professional heat-pump maintenance will help your system last longer and often require fewer repairs. Your HVAC professional should:
- Check refrigerant levels.
- Check coils for refrigerant leaks.
- Check the drainage system for clogging.
- Lubricate moving components.
- Fully test all electrical components.
- Deep clean the system.
- Visually inspect your duct system.
- Check your thermostat’s function.