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Should My Heat Pump's Outdoor Unit Be Running in Winter?

Delivering Quality Comfort to the Homes and Businesses of Hartford County and New Haven County

It may seem like a strange sight--it’s cold, but your outdoor heat pump unit appears to be working. You may think, isn’t that just for summertime? With an air-source heat pump, the answer is no.

How Does a Heat Pump Work?

The reason the outdoor unit of your heat pump is on during the winter is this: it is absorbing the heat in the surrounding air for your home. It may seem incredulous that cold air can have heat, but it does. Your heat pump, with the help of the refrigerant in the system, absorbs this heat and then concentrates it. Once the heat is concentrated, it is distributed to your home’s living spaces. During the summer, the opposite happens: your heat pump, with the help of the refrigerant, absorbs the heat inside your home and transfers it outside. Heat pumps don’t generate heat; they simply transfer it from one location to another, using refrigerant to facilitate the transfer. This is why you’ll see your heat pump’s outdoor unit operate during the winter months.

How Does a Heat Pump Heat?

The key to a heat pump offering both heating and cooling is a component called a reversing valve. This valve changes the flow of the refrigerant in the system, which is how the heat pump can offer two modes of operation. As the homeowner, the switch from heating to cooling is very easy: simply push a button on your dual-mode thermostat – the heat pump does the rest.

Common Problems with Heat Pumps

If you don’t see your heat pump’s outdoor unit working for a long period of time, there may be a problem with the system. One of the more common problems with any heat pump system is the development of refrigerant leaks. Refrigerant leaks can develop in multiple locations, making them difficult to find; additionally, only certified technicians can handle refrigerant, so it’s important to call for a technician should a refrigerant leak develop in your system.

A second common problem that can develop with heat pumps is low air flow. This is usually due to a clogged air filter. It’s recommended that you change the air filter in your system every 3 months to keep your air filter functional.

If you see the outdoor unit of your heat pump in Wethersfield work during the winter, don’t worry – that’s what it should be doing. But should you run into problems with your heat pump this winter, call Dynamic Mechanical Heating & Air Conditioning to schedule a service appointment for professional heat pump repair service.

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