Heat Pump Installation & Repair
What Exactly Is a Heat Pump?
A heat pump is a mechanical-compression cycle refrigeration system that can heat or cool a building. In the winter, a heat pump extracts heat from the outdoor air and transfers it indoors. In the summer, the process reverses. The heat pump removes heat from your indoor air and releases it outdoors.
A heat pump works through the heat exchange properties of evaporation and condensation under pressure.
It sounds a bit complicated and fuzzy, but a simple principle is at the heart of a heat pump. Wet your finger and hold it up to the wind. You can sense the current due to the cooling effect of evaporation.
See, you’ve just created a miniature heat pump! Not quite powerful enough to cool the house, but you get the idea.
Why Install a Heat Pump?
The usual reason to install a heat pump is to save money on energy costs.
A heat pump can be up to four times more efficient than a traditional heating and cooling system. You’ll get up to four dollars of heating or cooling from the unit for every dollar you spend on electricity to run a heat pump.
Another reason to install a heat pump is that it can provide both heating and cooling for your home or business, eliminating the need for two separate systems and saving you money on installation and maintenance costs.
Finally, heat pumps are much quieter than other types of HVAC systems. A heat pump is an excellent option if you’re looking for an efficient and almost silent way to heat and cool your home or business.
Benefits of a Heat Pump
- Lower heating and cooling bills.
- Longer appliance life than most air conditioners.
- Quiet operation.
- Year-round comfort; stable temperatures in your home or business.
What Conditions Are Perfect for a Heat Pump?
A heat pump works best in moderate climates. It will struggle in temperature extremes and humid conditions.
How does that translate to the Los Angeles area?
A heat pump will offer little benefit if you live a stone’s throw from the beach. And if you’re in a low desert environment, a heat pump will be your best friend within a range of 40-90 degrees F. But above 90 degrees, you may have to switch on the AC, and below 40 degrees, you may want to dust off the furnace.
In the moderate and dry inland areas of Southern California, a heat pump is an excellent choice. In other words, in most of Southern California.
How Much Does a Heat Pump Cost?
The cost of a heat pump varies depending on the size and type of unit. A small heat pump for a single room can cost as little as $500, while a large heat pump for a whole building may cost upwards of $10,000.
Types of Heat Pumps
There are three types of heat pumps: air-source, water-source, and geothermal.
Air-source heat pumps are the most common. They work by extracting heat from the air outside and transferring it indoors. In the summer, the heat pump removes heat from your indoor air and releases it outdoors.
Geothermal heat pumps are becoming more popular due to their efficiency. They extract heat from the ground outside and transfer it indoors. In the summer, the heat pump removes heat from your indoor air and transfers it to the ground.
Water-source heat pumps are impractical in dry regions like Southern California. They work by extracting heat from a body of water, such as a lake, and transferring it indoors. In the summer, the heat pump reverses the process.
In Los Angeles, most residential heat pumps are air-source; geothermal heat pumps are primarily commercial.
The Difference Between a Heat Pump & Air Conditioner
Like a heat pump, an air conditioner circulates refrigerant between an outdoor and an indoor unit. But in an AC system, the outdoor unit contains only a compressor and fan. The evaporator coil and air handler or furnace sit inside the indoor unit.
The main difference between a heat pump and an air conditioner is that a heat pump can reverse the direction of the flow of refrigerant, allowing it to provide heating and cooling for your home or business.
Heat Pump Configurations: Commercial & Residential
A heat pump is essentially a heat transfer unit. It works like an air conditioner in hotter parts of the year, pulling warm indoor air over a cooling coil filled with refrigerant and returning cooled air through ducts.
In colder parts of the year, the process reverses. The heat pump pulls warmth from the surrounding environment, then uses a blower system to transfer that warmth to the interior of a building.
A typical heat pump system consists of an outdoor and an indoor unit. The outdoor unit contains a compressor and a fan; it looks like an air conditioner. The indoor unit contains an evaporator coil and an air handler or furnace.
There are three potential sources for the warmth pulled in by a heat pump: the outdoor air, a nearby body of water, and the earth itself, which naturally holds heat beneath its surface. Most residential heat pumps pull warmth from the outdoor air.
However, a growing percentage of commercial pumps are water or ground-source units that use the earth’s stored heat (or coolness in the summer). Water and ground-source heat pumps are far more efficient than air-source heat pumps, but they cost much more to install.
Both home and commercial heat pumps come in multiple configurations.
One standard configuration is a split system.
An outdoor cabinet installed outside at ground level or on a building rooftop holds some of the pump’s main components. Others are in a separate cabinet indoors.
In another standard setup, a packaged system, all heat pump components sit inside in a single outdoor cabinet installed at ground level or on a rooftop. Packaged heat pumps are ideal for townhouses and smaller homes.
When to Schedule Heat Pump Maintenance
Most heat pump manufacturers recommend service at least once a year, preferably in the spring.
During your service appointment, the Chief HVAC technician will inspect and clean all major heat pump system components, including the coils, fans, and compressor. He’ll check the refrigerant levels and make sure there are no leaks.
If you have a geothermal heat pump, the technician will inspect the ground loop to ensure it’s working correctly.
Commercial Heat Pump Maintenance
Lack of regular maintenance can seriously impair the performance of a commercial heat pump and lead to as much as a 25% reduction in operating efficiency. It also increases the risk of premature component breakdown.
Only an HVAC service provider with a comprehensive understanding of the layout and operation of commercial units knows how to formulate an appropriate maintenance plan and reliably carry out that plan.
We have that expertise at Chief and will use it to develop a maintenance plan that suits your needs and budget. Typical steps in periodic heat pump maintenance include checks and tests on:
- Electrical connections and wiring
- Blower and blower motor
- The function of the pump’s energy-storing capacitors
- The accuracy of the pump’s thermostat
We also removed any accumulated debris or grime from units and cabinets.
When to Schedule Heat Pump Repair
If you notice that your heat pump is not working as well as it should, or if it has stopped working altogether, don’t hesitate to call us at Chief.
Heavy loads placed on a heat pump can lead to system malfunction.
Signs that you need heat pump repair include:
- Failure to power up; the heat pump makes a humming noise instead
- Uneven heating or cooling; too much or too little heat
- Weak airflow; inadequate heat or cooling
- Strange noises
- High energy bills
If you notice any of these things or your heat pump is more than 10 years old, it’s time for a professional to take a look. We will send a qualified HVAC technician to your home or business to diagnose and fix the problem.
Heat Pump Troubleshooting
A heat pump may fail to start because of:
- Blown fuses or tripped breakers
- Loose electrical connections
- Malfunctioning thermostats, compressor, or transformer
An inoperative pump that makes a humming sound may have an electrical issue. Other possible causes of pump failure include:
- A damaged start capacitor
- Worn compressor bearings
- A faulty compressor motor
A heat pump that doesn’t produce enough heat during cold weather may have:
- A damaged reversing valve (the component responsible for switching the direction of the heat passing through the unit)
- A refrigerant line problem
- A malfunctioning indoor fan
Failure to cool in the warmer parts of the year may be due to:
- A damaged reversing valve
- A malfunctioning indoor fan
- Refrigerant line problems
- Contaminated refrigerant
- A malfunctioning thermostatic expansion valve
Call West Coast Chief for Expert Heat Pump Repair
Training and practical experience are crucial for the accurate troubleshooting of heat pumps, particularly complex commercial heat pumps. An inexperienced HVAC provider can easily miss critical issues or waste time making repairs that don’t address the root problem.