What to Do if my Heat Pump is Running Constantly

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Heat pumps have become very common nowadays due to its energy efficiency at heating up houses in moderate climates, also cooling and dehumidifying. Compared to gas furnaces and other electrical heating devices, or air conditioners, heat pumps don’t use electricity as much.

Rather, they move heat from the outside and into your home to warm you up and vice versa – removing the heat from inside to the outside atmosphere and making it cooler. This is where the efficiency comes from as moving heat is easier and faster than generating it, which is typical for conventional heaters or ACs.

However, if you’ve used a furnace before a heat pump, you’d think that heat pumps will run the same way. If you see the heat pump running constantly, you will immediately worry and ask yourself: why is my heat pump not shutting off? Is there a problem?

You can relax for a bit because heat pumps are designed to run continuously, especially in colder weather, or during hot and humid. Even so, it’s better to know why a heat pump runs continuously as there could be other reasons.

Why is my heat pump still running?

As mentioned earlier, heat pumps are designed to operate continuously since it provides less heat than the usual furnace, and its functions require less energy to run as it simply moves heat rather than generating it.

However, it is important to note that there may be more other reasons why your heat pump is constantly running, and these could actually be problems that need to be fixed. You should also know that issues causing the unit to run constantly may be related to the season. But first, we’ll tackle the more general or common problems. Here are the most typical ones.

The HVAC unit doesn’t fit

It’s essential to make sure that the HVAC unit you have fits the heating/cooling needs and the size of your home for it to run at its most efficient levels. The units could get damaged or get worn down quite fast if it isn’t sized correctly and might stop working as it should.

If the unit is undersized, it will wear down faster because it is forced to run for a longer time and with more power, making it hard to reach the demand for that room or a house. On the other hand, if the unit is too large (oversized), while it does heat up or cool down a room faster, it will consume more electricity than it should, because it will frequently switch on and off depending on the room’s temperature and thus, will require more energy.

You can’t ignore duct size either. If the duct is not sized correctly, it could possibly shorten the lifespan of the unit, and use up more energy than needed.

Cleanliness of the unit

We all know that clean units run more efficiently than dirty ones. HVAC units usually break down because dirt and other debris clog the air filters and coils, and restrict the airflow. The clogs cause the unit to overheat and, consequently, work harder to warm the house. While the air flows through the coil with the limited capacity, it lessens the unit’s efficiency. This is a common cause of HVAC units constantly running mainly in the summer.

You can clean the coils and filters by yourself by washing them down. Since the unit has parts that can’t be easily reached, such as the evaporator coils, it is recommended to contact your local HVAC maintenance for help. Don’t forget to check the outside units every once in a while. You may also want to take a hose or a washcloth for cleaning.

Thermostat problems

Another reason the HVAC unit might be running nonstop is because the thermostat is going a little haywire. Even if the room’s temperature is fine, the thermostat might not be registering the change in temperature. The heat pump might continue running because the temperatures are “not balanced yet”. If the thermostat has bad read, the heat pump will be forced to meet that temperature.

If you want to check if the thermostat is bad, you’re going to need a thermometer. If the reading on the thermostat does not match the reading on the thermometer, then that’s where the troubleshooting comes in. Fixing the thermostat takes many steps, but you can start with these two steps first, to check:

  • Set the thermostat 5 degrees from the normal temperature; higher in the summer and lower in the winter; and
  • Check the thermostat and circuit breakers switches.
  • Make sure that the thermostat operates normally.

*Do not try to fix the broken thermostat, it is better to buy a new one, and they are not expensive.

Leaks in the insulation

You might also want to check any air leaks in your home’s insulation. Your heat pump running constantly in the winter with very low temperatures is okay. But it should shut off at 30 degrees and above. The room might not be at its ideal temperature because the air keeps leaking out, thus, prompting the heat pump to keep running to maintain equilibrium. In this case, you may want to work on the home’s insulation by sealing up the leaks.

Home’s insulation might not be the only thing you want to check. Though it’s a given, keep the doors and windows closed. Not only will you keep the room warm or cool, but it also saves energy too. The HVAC unit will thank you for it too.

Low refrigerant

If the heat pump isn’t blowing cold air when operating in the cooling mode, or there is a frozen evaporator coil, or the refrigerant is low … the heating unit might be running much longer than usual. Refrigerants are used to transfer heat, and if it is low, the units work harder and running continuously. The reason why the refrigerant is low is when there is a leak.

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What to do if a heat pump is constantly running in summer

If the heat pump is constantly running in summer, especially when it is really hot outside, that means that the unit is struggling to reach the set temperature. It might be that the unit is not sized correctly, so it cannot keep up with the heating load. The problem, as confirmed by the experts, is not that the unit is running longer, but when it literally never stops, the thermostat setting is not reached, and you are not comfortable.

Should you worry?

Again, the heat pumps are meant to run continuously (for some time) to warm or cool the house. Your heat pump not shutting off in winter (for a longer time) is nothing to worry about. But if the electric bills are higher than it should be, don’t immediately blame the heat pump. It’s not a bad idea to check its condition either. Again, heat pumps are a lot more energy efficient than gas furnaces, electric heaters, or air conditioners. So, if the heat pump uses up more energy than usual, you should check it immediately.

You may also want to check and maintain the unit every year to avoid most of these problems. You can troubleshoot some issues by yourself with the regular maintenance and service as needed. But some problems are better off left with HVAC maintenance. Consider these options before throwing away the unit. Replacement is only an option if the heat pump can no longer sustain operations and keep the room’s temperatures maintained. Replacing the unit should only be your last resort.

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