By far the best way to reduce the likelihood of heat pump problems is ongoing maintenance carried out by qualified and experienced technicians. Without regular servicing, heat pump issues will arise, with the following ones being the most common.
Strange noises are some of the most complained about problems; rattles, bangs, ticking and crackles are just a few of the weird sounds often associated with a sick heat pump. The most common causes are loose parts within the indoor unit, the fan isn’t functioning properly, or leaves or grass near the vents of the outdoor unit. It is fine to remove any vegetation from around an outdoor unit, but any other noise-producing issue is best left to the professional to resolve.
A smelly heat pump is another problem, and a particularly unpleasant one. Odours can be caused by a number of things; the heat pump’s insulation might be damaged, or the ductwork has become mouldy. When dirt, mould or mildew builds up, it will circulate contaminated air and can cause health issues for anyone living in the home e.g. it could be the reason behind asthma and other respiratory conditions. So those strange smells are signs of a heat pump that is not just unhealthy in itself – it’s also unhealthy for your family.
Restricted airflow is yet another commonly reported issue, and can be summed up as switching on your heat pump and air comes out – but only in a whisper. This usually occurs when the filters are well overdue for a clean or the air ducts are blocked. A heat pump works by the outside unit drawing in the air around it. It takes the heat energy from this air which, in turn, heats up the refrigerant gas inside. The gas is transferred through the pipework to the heat pump, which draws the air from within the house over its coil then it heats the cold air. When indoor heat pump filters become blocked, this restricts airflow over the coils which limits the amount of airflow from the heat pump. As a first step, check that nothing is blocking or covering the outdoor unit. Then check the filters on the indoor unit and make sure they are free of dirt and other loose material. If they do happen to be dirty then that is a good sign as it means your air filtration system is successful in keeping your air clean. However, it also means you need to clean the filters to allow sufficient airflow through them.
Finally, you might find your heat pump just doesn’t work at all! For example, it might not even turn on. It could be as simple as changing the batteries in your remote – you might think this is an obvious answer, but you’ll be surprised how many heat pump technicians are called out only to find flat batteries are the cause of this issue. Or it could be that your heat pump is not receiving power. Check the mains power in your house is still on and the switch hasn’t flicked off (or tripped). Loose wires or blockages may also be the cause but these more complex issues will require the attention of a heat pump expert.
As we’ve discussed, problems with your heat pump are far less likely to occur when you have the appliance regularly serviced. While you can do simple things, like clean the filters, the rest is best left up to the professionals. They’re the people you should be calling right about now to arrange some long overdue preventative maintenance.