Can I run my heat pump constantly?

What is a heat pump?

Heat pumps are devices used as an alternative method of heating or cooling your home instead of a more traditional heater or air conditioner. Rather than generating heat, they simply transfer heat from one area to another. They can be used to only heat a home, or to both heat and cool a home. They come in several varieties as well, including systems that transfer heat from the air outside your house and geothermal systems, which draw heat from an underground source that remains at a constant, moderate temperature year-round.

How does a heat pump work?

Typically, there will be a unit inside and outside the home, which pull heat energy from the air and transfers that energy to the other unit through a coolant system. Heating is done by pumping an extremely cold coolant liquid through a series of pipes in the outdoor unit. As long as the outdoor temperature is above the boiling point of the coolant, the coolant in the pipes will increase in temperature and expand into a gas. This is compressed and pumped through pipes in the inside unit where air is blown across the pipes, heating the air that is pushed into the room.

How long should my heat pump run?

During warm months, your heat pump will behave exactly as an indoor air conditioner would, running for a few minutes at a time when the thermostat detects that the indoor temperature has risen above the desired setting. In extended periods of extreme heat, you may encounter an issue with the unit “Freezing up”, preventing it from transferring heat and requiring a defrosting period before it will function properly again. During cold months, however, you will notice a difference from how a typical furnace works. Heating a home with a heat pump is a more gradual and constant process, meaning it will quietly run for extended periods to keep the home at a comfortable temperature. During periods of extreme cold, it is not unusual for the heat pump to run constantly for an extended time frame.

Does that mean my heat pump is inefficient?

Hearing your heating and cooling system run for an extended period can be concerning due to the amount of energy that traditional HVAC systems use. Heat pumps, however, can use as little as 40% of the energy that an electric resistance heating system would use for similar results. They also tend to be better at dehumidifying than standard central air conditioning units, saving even more energy. Most modern heat pump systems transfer more energy than they consume, meaning that they’re over 100% efficient. Compare this to a traditional gas furnace, which is between 50% and 95% efficient when comparing heat transfer to energy consumption.

So can I run my heat pump constantly?

In short, yes. There are several situations where your heat pump may run for extended periods that do not indicate a problem. However, you may want to have your system checked if you notice it is running constantly in mild temperatures. This can be a signal that something has gone wrong. It could be something as simple as a clogged air filter causing the system to work harder and longer to produce results, to something more concerning like a refrigerant leak, or that the unit is too small for the space it is trying to service. If you are concerned by the behavior of your heat pump, contact Hoot today!