A heat pump doesn’t use fuel to generate heat like furnaces and boilers do. Instead, it transfers heat from one area to another. It can also cool homes by moving heat out of the house to lower indoor temperatures. The heat pump can indeed be used either as a heating and cooling system rolled into one or as a complement to your conventional heating and cooling equipment.

heat pump running constantly in cold weather

One thing you need to know about heat pumps is that they’re designed to run almost continuously. You’ll notice the difference once you use yours for a few days; after all, it’s not like a furnace or air conditioning unit that cycles on and off as it works to maintain your home’s temperature. Then again, many homeowners believe that a heat pump’s continuous operation is a sign that something is wrong with the unit.

Should you be concerned about it? Air Comfort, your local residential, commercial, industrial and marine HVAC contractor, sheds light on the matter here.

The Short Answer: It Depends

Whether or not a heat pump that runs all the time is considered a problem depends on the temperature outside your home. If the temperature drops below 30 degrees Fahrenheit in cold weather or rises above 100 degrees in hot weather, the heat pump is performing its intended function. It could be struggling to reach the temperature you’ve set, but as long as the HVAC unit is professionally installed and correctly sized to your home, you have nothing to worry about. Even if it runs continuously, expect it to still reduce your monthly utility bill by a significant amount.

However, if outdoor temperatures are between 30 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the heat pump still seems to run all the time, then you might have an issue on your hands. Along with this, you might notice a spike in your electricity bill and lower supply temperatures.

Possible Causes

This problem can be caused by several factors, including any of the following:

  • Undersized heat pump. Part of investing in a heat pump is putting a fair amount of thought into finding the correct size based on your home’s square footage, location, number of windows and existing insulation and ductwork. If it’s undersized, it won’t provide enough indoor heating and cooling, causing it to work harder than it should. Unfortunately, this can result in mechanical problems over time, shortening its lifespan. Be sure to work with a reliable contractor that can determine the best heat pump size for your home so you can prevent this issue.
  • Refrigerant leaks. Refrigerant is what gives a heat pump life, much like the blood that circulates through the human body’s vital organs. It moves through the coils and lines of the HVAC unit to facilitate heat exchange, bringing you indoor cooling and heating during hot and cold weather, respectively. The refrigerant repeatedly turns from a liquid to a gas in the process, and vice versa, yet its charge doesn’t decrease. However, leaks may develop at connector points such as the compressor. If not addressed promptly, ice could form on the outdoor coils, stopping the heat exchange. Also, low refrigerant puts the heat pump’s internal components under too much stress, which can lead to inefficient performance. Scraping the ice off the coils won’t solve this problem; a heating and air conditioning repair technician will have to identify where the leak is located, seal it and recharge the heat pump’s refrigerant before the ice can be thawed.
  • Dirty coils. The heat pump can switch from cooling to heating mode and back again, depending on the outdoor temperatures, by reversing the refrigeration cycle. In heating mode, for instance, the outdoor coils act as the evaporator, while the indoor coils become the condenser. Here, the refrigerant draws heat from the outdoors via the indoor coils, then distributes the absorbed heat to your living space.

    However, regardless of the time of the year, the indoor and outdoor coils are exposed to all kinds of contaminants. The outdoor ones, in particular, need special attention because they have to deal with dirt, leaves, grass clippings, pollen, storm debris and soot, among other things. If your heat pump is running longer even when it’s not too hot or cold outside, consider checking the indoor and outdoor coils for any signs of dirt and debris. Having the coils cleaned by a local HVAC technician allows the unit to effectively transfer heat. Without leaves, grass clippings and grime clogging the outdoor coils, the fan won’t be working harder and longer to disperse the heat.
  • Old or outdated system. As your heat pump gets up in years, some of its important components will begin to wear down. The whole unit becomes less efficient during operation, which means it will have to work longer and harder to meet the desired temperature set on your thermostat. With proper maintenance, a heat pump can last up to 15 years. If it’s nearing the end of its lifespan and is still running continuously, you need to consider replacing it.

  • Call an experienced HVAC technician to assess the current condition of your heat pump. They can boost the unit’s efficiency by replacing worn-out parts and performing the necessary repairs. However, you have to prepare yourself when it comes to investing in a new heat pump. Keeping an old, inefficient system running for longer periods of time could mean spending more to ensure comfort. Also, you never know when it will suddenly break down and malfunction, leaving you without indoor heating and cooling.

Air Comfort is the leading heating and air conditioning service contractor in the local area. If you need a new system or require service on your current unit, we’ll do an assessment and recommend the best solution for your needs. In addition to installation and repair, our highly-skilled technicians also provide regularly-scheduled maintenance to ensure your heat pump is working properly and is in top shape. Our goal is to provide maximum comfort and energy efficiency, no matter the season.

Call us today at (409) 833-5665 or fill out our contact form to get started.