How to Protect Your Heat Pump in Winter and Make It Run Efficiently

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Heat pumps are, to a certain extent, easy to maintain, and you will appreciate this more when the winter season approach. Unlike a gas furnace or other types of HVAC systems, you don't need to do anything too dramatic. Protecting your heat pump and making it run efficiently is pretty much straightforward.

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Generally, most heat pumps have the compressor and condenser located outside. And, even though heat pumps are typically designed to bear the harshest weather, they last longer and perform better when carefully maintained. In this article, we'll talk about different ways you can protect your heat pump in winter. And also touch on a few tips to make it run efficiently. Keep reading for more.

How to protect your heat pump in winter

The first thing to do is to keep your heat pump protected from heavy rain, snow, and ice. Although modern heat pumps are designed to withstand freezing temperatures, it is important to keep yours protected from the unpredictable weather.

With a heat pump, damage can be caused by debris, branches, hail, and elements in general, which could easily reduce unit performance and longevity. While your unit can handle some frost, too much snow and ice will lead to problems with the heating process.

So, to keep your unit safe from snow, ice and debris, here are a few tips you should consider:

  • Keep the surrounding area free of snow and debris. This means checking regularly and taking the time to shovel the snow and ice away from around the unit. There should be a clear area around the unit of at least two feet.
  • You might want to get a cover for the unit. Understand that this is not really necessary and, in a humid place, can cause mold. However, if you live in a low humidity area, you can go ahead and get a cover, but not when the air conditioning mode is ON. Just be sure to never place anything directly on it. The best is to install a freestanding shelter, so it is not in contact with the device.
  • Ensure that all the pipes are covered and insulated to stop them from freezing over.
  • It's a good idea to check the weather trend/history for your region to make sure that there are no hazardous elements within the vicinity. This might mean ensuring that there are no storms, high winds, tornados, hail and other. Also, check that icicles don't build up above the unit as this can cause irretrievable damage.

Also, it would help if you got an HVAC person to carry out scheduled maintenance checks on the system. This will not only keep the heat pump safe but will also extend the lifespan.

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Making your heat pump run efficiently

No doubt, your heat pump can run through winter without much stress. However, there are a few things you can do to help it run efficiently. These will include general maintenance of course and tune-ups, and knowing how a heat pump works and what is the best way to install them.

For example, installing the heat pump on the crushed stone could provide better drainage, keep the unit leveled, and since there is no weed around, there will be no air obstruction.

Although most heat pumps operate in the same way, there are a few peculiarities. Therefore, going through the owner's manual and understanding your system is a good step. That said, here are a few steps you can take to ensure that your system runs efficiently during the colder months.

Ensure proper airflow

Correct airflow is vital for the compressor and condenser to operate efficiently. Make sure there is at least 2 feet clearance around the heat pump. Don't stack things on the top of the unit.

Minimize exposure to the elements, other devices and objects

If it is needed to build a shelter around the heat pump, build one. Or if it has to be raised on the platform, do it.

Keep the temperature even

See, when the temperature dips and it gets colder, the natural reaction is to want to fiddle with your thermostat. While this might work for a gas furnace, cranking up the thermostat on a heat pump is counterproductive. For your heat pump system to perform optimally, set it to a particular temperature for a while. Once it stabilizes, you can then increase or decrease as needed.

Understand the defrost cycle

Again, it is vital to understand the defrost cycle of your heat pump. The owner's manual should give you more information about this mode. But, if you're tempted to clean out the ice and snow from the sides of the unit, resist the temptation.

Basically, a heat pump has a period when it gets rid of frost that's on the outdoor coil. This is called the defrost cycle. Usually, this is a short period of about 15 minutes, which is enough to melt the ice. But, not long enough to lose heat in the house. If you're paying attention, you might notice that some cool air is coming into the house. This does not last for too long. If it does, call in your HVAC person immediately.

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Keep your home well-sealed

One of the most practical ways to increase energy efficiency during winter is to air seal your home. This keeps the hot air from escaping and the cold draft outside. The result is, less energy is used in heating your home.

So, if you want your heat pump to run efficiently during the winter months, it's a good idea to air seal your home. The U.S. Dept of Energy recommends using caulk and weather-stripping to seal openings. There are lots of tips for air sealing your home on their website, so feel free to stop by.

Keep your air filters changed

Heat pump systems are to maintain, and this is one main advantage they have over other kinds of heating systems. And, keeping your air filters clean is probably the most important task you will have to carry out. Simply do a routine check of the air filters to be sure they are not dusty or clogged up. Then replace them if they are. This alone can go a long way to improve the efficiency of your heat pump. Plus, it could lower your energy consumption by up to 15%.

Again, a good option is to get a heat pump system with permanent air filters that you can take out and wash.

Ensure that a few of your air registers are open

Yes, we mentioned keeping your home well sealed during the winter, but you also need to keep your air registers open. Not all of them, of course, just a few, so that the cold air can flow out. This balances the temperature in your house.

Be strategic about this by shutting the top registers and leaving the lower ones open. That way, the cold air flows out, leaving the hot air inside. So, check to make sure that there's no furniture or anything else blocking the path for the air registers.


Generally, the heat pump HVAC system is one of the easy ones to operate. You can enjoy a comfy room without sending your energy costs through the roof. Interestingly, you could also install one even though you already have a gas furnace or central heating. This way, your heat pump could become the primary heating source, while others could be used as a backup. The result? Lower energy costs. It's a win-win, whichever way you look at it.

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