Heat Pump Not Heating: Heat Pump Blowing Cold Air in “Heat” Mode!

A heat pump that is blowing cold air is rarely a good thing, particularly in the winter months. It’s important to determine the reason for your heat pump blowing cold air as soon as possible so that you can stay warm and prevent your pipes from freezing. Before you contact a professional, be sure to check your heat pump to ensure there’s actually something wrong with it. There are a couple of reasons this might be happening that don’t necessarily require professional help.

1. The Air Coming Out of Your Heat Pump Just Feels Cold

The air coming out of your heat pump can often feel cold to you because it is colder than your body temperature. This often happens on days when it is really cold outside. Your pump moves heat from the air outside into your home. As temperatures decrease, your pump isn’t able to gather as much heat from the air outside, and as a result, the air blowing through your vents decreases in temperature.

If the temperature outside drops by 20 degrees, the heat coming out of your air vents might drop to 85 degrees. While this is still very warm, your normal body temperature hovers at around 98 degrees. 85 degrees is quite a bit cooler than 98, which explains why the air feels cool to you even though it isn’t.

Your heat pump can continue to effectively heat your home when the temperatures drop. If it ever reaches a point where it can’t keep up, it will switch to backup heat. If your heating system is having trouble keeping up and hasn’t switched over to backup heat yet, you may notice cooler air coming out of your vents. Keep an eye on your home’s thermostat if you suspect cold air is blowing out of your vents. If the temperature consistently remains the same or increases, your heat pump is effectively heating your home.

2. Your Pump is Set to Defrost Mode

Another reason for your heat pump blowing cold air is if it is set to defrost mode. In this setting, it will blow cold air out for a couple of minutes before switching to backup heat. Defrost mode often kicks in if the pump’s coils have frosted over due to low temperatures. To prevent them from freezing completely, your pump will go through a defrosting cycle. In this mode, your system starts to blow out cool air temporarily. Blowing cold air into your home will force the coils in your outdoor unit to heat up and melt off any ice or snow that has covered them. Once everything has melted, the system will switch back to normal.

You can tell that your heat pump is doing this by keeping an eye on the outdoor unit. If its fan is no longer blowing and it is now producing puffs of steam, those are signs that it is in defrost mode.

3. Something is Wrong With Your Heat Pump

If neither of these two scenarios seems to be the reason for your heat pump not heating, there may actually be something wrong with it. If your pump does not seem to be heating up your home properly or if it is continuously blowing cold air out of its vents, there could be a more serious issue.

Some of the reasons for your heat pump not heating could be:

  • Leaking Refrigerant: If you notice that your system is leaking refrigerant, you should consult with an HVAC professional immediately. You should not attempt to clean and fix this yourself as refrigerant can be dangerous. Not only that, but the EPA requires that a licensed professional handle this type of problem due to how severe the consequences can be.
  • Your Outdoor Unit is Frozen: If the defrost mode on your unit is not working properly, your system could freeze up and break. It’s best to have a professional check your heat pump, in this case, to determine why defrost mode didn’t kick on and whether the frost did any further damage to the system.
  • The Reversing Valve is Bad: Your system’s reversing valve switches the flow of its refrigerant. If this isn’t working, your pump can get stuck in cool mode and continue to blow out cold air into your home.
  • The Pump Needs Servicing: Pumps should be checked out about once per year to undergo maintenance. This can eliminate the need for costly repairs and extend the life of your heat pump. If your system hasn’t been cleaned or checked out lately, schedule an appointment with an HVAC professional as soon as possible.

A heat pump that doesn’t seem to be working properly can be frustrating. The next time you notice the temperature inside your home has dropped, check to see if your system is in defrost mode, the air just feels cold to you, or it actually is in need of a professional repair.

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