Common Troubles With Your Heat Pump And How to Fix Them

Uncover common issues with your heat pump system, including electric heat pumps for homes. Learn effective solutions to fix heat pump issues with guidance from Sandium.

Updated on Oct 23, 2023
5 min read
Common Troubles With Your Heat Pump And How to Fix Them

Heat pump systems provide both heating and cooling in Bay Area homes. But they function a little differently than air conditioning systems. Just like air conditioners, heat pumps can have small issues or minor malfunctions from time to time.

These can be easily fixed at home if you know what problem to look for and how to solve it. Knowing the common problems that heat pumps face, potential causes and possible solutions, can help home owners get their heat pump working again quickly and also avoid temperature related inconveniences.

Here are some common troubleshooting problems that heat pumps face.

1. Icing up

In winters, the outdoor unit of the heat pump may be covered in frost or ice (it does not get too cold in the Bay Area but this is possible). The unit is designed to go into defrost mode to remove this ice. But, if the top of the unit, the coils or the entire unit is covered with a thick layer of ice, it indicates a malfunction in the heat pump. The transfer of heat between refrigerant and outdoor air is hampered due to this layer of ice. Ice on the coils can also damage the fins and fan blades, resulting in compressor failure.


Sometimes, faulty relays, controls or sensors can cause failure of the heat pump to defrost the layer of accumulated ice; or there could be a problem with the reverse valve that helps the unit switch from heating to air conditioning mode. A damaged fan motor or low refrigerant levels too can hamper the system’s ability to melt the ice.


Remove any snow or debris that may have accumulated on the outdoor unit. Check for leaking gutters that may be causing ice buildup. Never use sharp or pointed objects to chip the ice away. Fan coils are very delicate, and this can damage them easily. Call an HVAC technician to deal with defrost issues if they persist.

2. Running constantly

When the temperature on the thermostat is set too low in summers, the unit has to run constantly to provide the required amount of cooling. With use and lack of maintenance, the unit runs less efficiently, and cannot cool as well as it should. Running constantly to make up for the lack of cleaning and servicing will result in high energy bills and an uncomfortable indoor temperature.


Without regular maintenance, the dirt and grime on coils prevents the unit from releasing heat. It can also erode the metal, resulting in refrigerant leaks.

Heat pumps may run constantly in winters as well. Leaking refrigerant, frozen outdoor unit, or a compressor issue can cause the unit to keep running and still not provide enough warmth in the house. An undersized unit, or poor insulation can also result in poor heating.


The first thing to check is the settings. Make sure the unit is not running on AC mode. Next, you must verify that the outdoor unit is not covered in ice. Refrigerant leaks, valve or compressor problems are best handled by HVAC technicians. Regular cleaning and maintenance can help avoid many issues.

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