As the weather in Raleigh starts dipping down, the heat not working in your home is sure to get your attention. As with furnaces, a heat pump not working can often turn out to be an easy fix if you know what to check for. Here are 3 simple heat pump fixes you can do yourself before you call your heating and cooling company to come and take a look.

Heat pump check #1: Is your heat pump providing any heat at all?

Before you start, make sure that you have not lost power to your home all together and that all vents are open in every room. Set the thermostat at least 5 degrees higher than the current temperature and go check the registers/vents to see if you can feel warm air coming out. Note: if you have a digital thermostat, you only want to set it 2 to 4 degrees above room temperature with a heat pump. If you set it any higher, you risk triggering he back up electric elements to come on which will not help you troubleshoot your heat pump.

If the problem is that your heat pump turns on and off too often, your unit may be overheating. That could be caused by a blower malfunctioning, a thermostat malfunctioning, which in both cases will require you to call in the HVAC cavalry, or it could simply be caused by a clogged filter. To be sure, try replacing your filter.

If some rooms seem to be getting warm air while others do not, some of your air duct may be obstructed by debris. If you have access to the duct work, try to locate the source of the blockage. Check every intake and exhaust to see if anything is in the way.

If you suspect heat pump troubles because your unit makes noises, listen to the type of sounds you hear. If you hear squealing sounds and grinding noises, that’s a bad sign. Shut off your system and call a heat pump repair technician as it’s likely that the motor’s bearings are failing. If your heat pump is making rattling noises, make sure that the cover panels are screwed on tight and that there aren’t loose parts in the air handler.

If your system is not putting out any heat at all, go back to your thermostat and make sure it’s on “heat” and that it’s set to a higher temperature. Check that your thermostat has fresh batteries if it takes batteries, make sure it displays the correct day and time, and the correct program (ie. “home” vs. “away”) which can sometimes tell the system to keep the home cooler. Finally, turn the fan “on” as opposed to “auto” before going back to the registers and checking if you feel any warm air.

If the heat pump happens to be connected to a power switch (many aren’t) make sure it’s “ON”. If your heat pump is connected to a power switch, you will find it either on the wall near the unit or inside the air handler cabinet. NOTE that working inside the air handler cabinet of a heat pump and working with electrical parts can be dangerous, so if you feel out of your element, it’s always after to call a heating repair technician.

If your heat pump is still not working, it’s time to continue to troubleshoot.

Heat Pump check #2: Is the fan or blower running at all?

If you cannot hear the fan turn on when you raise the temperature, check that your heat pump is getting power. First, make sure the wiring to the thermostat looks fine. Are there some loose wires? Is the thermostat firmly attached to the wall? Are the batteries dead?

Next, go to your fuse box and make sure the breaker wasn’t tripped and you haven’t blown a fuse. either of the two circuit breakers that handle the power sent to the air handler and heat pump condenser may have tripped. Check both. If you notice one (or both) of the breakers was tripped, turn it all the way off and back on again to reset. If you see that the circuit breaker trips again, there might be a short int he electrical system and you will need to call a technician to fix the electrical system that provides power to the area.

If on the fan is running, try turning on the emergency heat. Again, make sure that you set the temperature 5 degrees above the current temperature and see if warm air is now coming out of the vents. If you can feel warm air, that means the problem is with your outside unit.

Heat pump check #3: Is your outdoor unit working properly?

Before checking your outdoor compressor unit, turn off your Emergency Heat and return your thermostat back down to the normal “heat” function and proceed with your heat pump troubleshooting outside.

First, clean away leaves and debris from your heat pump or intake and exhaust vents. Pay particular attention to the grass and leaves that could be caught in the fins of the outdoor compressor unit. Incidentally, it’s a good idea at the start of the heating season to gently hose your unit down from the top to rinse the dirt and debris out of the housing, or better yet, make sure that you have your whole HVAC units serviced twice a year as regular maintenance. Heat pump maintenance is especially important. Small issues that are not taken care of right away can lead to expensive compressor problems later. And since heat pumps are more technical that the average heating system, it’s crucial to enlist the help of an HVAC professional to maintain your heat pump in top shape.

If you have screen mesh covering one of the pipes it could be blocking the air flow in which case you might want to replace that mesh with 1/2 inch mesh hardware cloth. If one of the pipes is covered with ice, the problem is more serious and it’s time to call your Heating and Cooling professional.

If after taking these simple steps, you are still experiencing problems with your heat pump not working, or if the heat is working somewhat, but not well, have a heating repair technician check out your HVAC system. You might have a blower not working properly, there may be an electrical problem inside the air handler cabinet or you may have a valve problem. Regardless, you need a professional HVAC person to take over. If you live in the Raleigh or Wake Forest area, call Cool Change Heating and Air, we’ll get your heat pump up and running in no time.