As with any utility system and appliance in your home, it's important to keep your heat pump running properly with good maintenance. Not only can maintenance prevent your heat pump from breaking down, it can improve the air quality in your home and make the heat pump run more efficiently. In fact, a severely neglected heat pump can use 10-25% more energy than one that is properly maintained, which is important considering that nearly half of the energy your home uses is attributed to heating and cooling.
It's important to understand that there's a bit more to maintaining a heat pump than changing or cleaning the filters regularly. Here are three problems that can be prevented with maintenance.
The vents located on the casing of your outdoor unit need to be kept clear of debris, snow, and ice. In the winter, heat pumps work by pulling air in through the vents and sending that air over a compressor coils to heat it and then into your home through the ducts. It reverses in the summer by pulling air from your home, cooling it over the condenser coils, and returning the cooled air to your home while dispelling the hot air outdoors. In either case, the vents need to be clear in order for the unit to work properly.
Regularly check the unit for debris, such as leaves in the fall from nearby trees. Snow and ice should be promptly removed during the winter months. The reason for this is because if air cannot move from the coil, it causes the heat pump to recycle the same air, which in turn causes the defrost cycle frequency to increase. This, in turn, causes your heat pump to use more energy.
Stink Bug Infestation
Pests can get inside the outdoor unit, especially stink bugs that are attracted to the heat that is radiated from the heat pump. The big problem with this is that stink bugs are attracted to other stink bugs by the scent of a chemical called aggregation pheromone, which is not the odor they release when they are squished. Before you know it, you could have a colony of stink bugs living in your heat pump.
There's a mechanism called a contactor inside a heat pump. The contactor opens and closes to send voltage to various components. If a stink bug were to get trapped and squeezed when the contactor opens or closes, it could cause your home to smell like stink bugs. It could also cause the voltage to not be applied to the components, which can cause your heat pump to malfunction.
Check the heat pump for stink bugs on a regular basis, especially if you start noticing stink bugs inside your home, since they can get into your home through the ducts going into your home from the heat pump. Hire a pest control company to remove any stink bugs from your heat pump.
Dirty Sock Syndrome
Mold and slime can accumulate on the coils and in the condensate pan. This problem can cause microbial life to live and breed inside your heat pump, which can cause your home to smell like a locker room. In fact, this is known as the dirty sock syndrome in the HVAC community. Not only will it reduce the air quality in your home, it can cause the coils to malfunction if too much slime and mold accumulates on them, which can cause your heat pump to use more energy.
Have your HVAC contractor clean the inside of your heat pump with chemicals and antimicrobial agents. If your case is extreme, the contractor can retrofit your heat pump with UV lights to control the growth of mold, slime and microbial life.
For more information about heat pumps, visit sites like http://www.capefearair.com.