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Top 5 Questions About Heat Pumps

outdoor primary heat pump

As the weather cools down and homeowners are turning on their heaters for the first time in months, they begin to have questions about their systems. To help minimize the stress of researching all things heat-pump related, we are answering 5 commonly asked questions.

If you are using your heat-pump for the first time in a while, but aren’t sure about the safety and functionality, give us a call! Our team of heating and ventilation experts will inspect your system for any possible problems. We also ensure that your system is running efficiently so you can save money and energy during the winter months.

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1) Are heat pumps more efficient than furnaces?

primary heat pump outdoors in Gainesville, FL

Yes, especially in Florida! Heat pumps are highly efficient and effective in temperatures as low as 25 degrees. If homeowners use a furnace in the 40-60 degree range, it will provide significantly more heat and power than is needed, which will result in higher energy consumption.

2) What does “EM heat” on my thermostat mean?

If you do not know what the “EM heat” button on your thermostat means, you are not alone. EM heat stands for emergency heat and should be used sparingly. Pressing the EM heat button will turn on a red indicator light, turn off the primary outdoor heat pump, and exclusively use the secondary indoor heating source.

Homeowners in colder regions typically have to use the EM heat function because snow can pile around the outdoor heat pump and prevent warm air from generating. You should only use this setting when a heat pump is malfunctioning, is damaged, or fails to provide any heat. Because the primary heat pump is turned off, EM heat is significantly less efficient and will increase your heating bill.

3) Why does my heat pump smell like it’s burning?

If it smells like something is burning when you turn on your heat pump for the first time in the winter, do not panic. There are several reasons that can explain the smell. Luckily, most of the reasons are easy to fix!

Dust on the Electric Heater Coil

Homeowners typically do not use their heater during the summer months, resulting in months of dust. When a heat pump is turned on for the first time after prolonged inactivity, the electric heat coil will burn off the dust. The burning smell should dissipate within the next few hours, but if it persists, call a local HVAC professional to inspect your system.

Clogged filter

When was the last time you changed your air filter? Clogged air filters can force your heat pump motor to work harder than usual, resulting in a burning smell. Replace your air filter and see whether the problem resolves itself. If it doesn’t, there may be two more reasons why your heat pump is emitting a burnt smell.

Closed AC vents

When you turn on your heat pump for the first time, make sure that the AC vents are open. Proper airflow allows the hot air to disseminate throughout the home, instead of being trapped within the vents. Closed AC vents can lead to serious problems for your HVAC system, so make sure to open your vents before you turn on your heat pump.

Electrical issue

Electrical issues are uncommon but can also be a source of the burnt smell. You can tell whether you are dealing with an electrical problem if you can detect a hint of sulfur or rotten eggs. This can occur when a heat pump short circuits, has worn electrical connections, has loose screws, or even defective breakers. If this occurs, immediately turn off your heat pump and call an HVAC technician.

4) Why is my heat pump blowing cold air?

Before you call an HVAC technician to inspect your system, ask whether your heat pump is truly blowing cold air or whether you are simply perceiving it. New heat pump owners usually ask this question because they are used to heat furnaces, which blast 130-140 degree air into the home. On the other hand, heat pumps only put out 92-degree air that is cooler than your body temperature, which rests at 97-99 degrees. Because of the discrepancy, it may feel like your heat pump is blowing cold air, when in fact, it is heating the home.

While perception is a common issue, in some cases your heat pump may actually be blowing in cold air. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • A malfunctioning heat pump that is running in AC mode
  • Poor efficiency due to infrequent cleaning and servicing
  • Snow is pressing against the outdoor heat pump
  • This is when you would use the EM heat button
  • Bad compressors
  • Bad valves

If this is the case, call an HVAC professional to fix your heat pump and help you stay warm all winter.

5) When should I service my heat pump?

Don’t wait until something’s broken to service your heat pump. Schedule routine maintenance on your heat pump to increase its longevity and prevent expensive repairs. At least once a year, you should:

  • Inspect ducts, filters, and indoor coils for dirt
  • Diagnose and seal duct leakage
  • Inspect heat pump belts for wear
  • Make sure your thermostats are working
  • Verify proper airflow

The more you care for your heat pump, the more likely your heater will work when you need it!

Schedule Heat Pump Maintenance Today!

If you can’t remember when you last serviced your heat pump, it’s probably time to call an HVAC professional. Gator Air & Energy can guarantee that your unit is safe, clean, and efficient for the winter months. Call us at (352) 275-4827 or reach out for a quote for heat pump services in Alachua, Melrose, High Springs, Newberry, and Lake City!

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