How Does My Heat Pump Work In Winter?

How does my heat pump work in winter?

Updated: 2/27/2018

It is widely agreed that heat pumps are a great innovation, and one of the best and cheapest options (compared to other electric heating methods that create original heat). They are great because they are environmentally friendly, they reduce the amount of emissions released, and they are an all year round optimal way of keeping your home heated and cooled for a reasonable cost. However, the common issue and question that people have when considering buying a heat pump is around its reliability in the winter. Often people are wary, because they simply can’t understand how it could or does work in the winter. This isn’t silly, pulling heat out of the air when it is freezing outside does seem an odd concept. Let us explain it in more detail.

It is true that as it gets colder outside, heat pumps will start to work less efficiently. However in the winter a heat pump will still heat your home. It works by the unit absorbing heat from the outdoor air using refrigerant. This is pumped to the indoor unit and your home is heated.

So what happens when it gets really cold outside? Do heat pumps still work well like this?

When it gets super cold outside and the heat pump can’t heat your home from the heat outdoors, it switches to a back-up mode. This happens automatically, which is great. You won’t notice a thing! The back-up mode works by supplementing heat from electric resistance coils, if your home is electric, or from a gas furnace that turns on to help when your heat pump is struggling. The downside with the back-up is that it becomes much less efficient than your normal heat pump, and is therefore much more expensive to run.

Another winter function that most heat pumps now have is defrost. This function helps to make sure your heat pump keeps working well when it gets cold. They recognize when the temperature drops and performs a defrost cycle to get rid of ice that may have built up, avoiding any potential heat pump shut downs or repairs for frozen coils.

There are also some simple things you can do to make sure your heat pump keeps working in peak condition throughout the winter:

  • Get a professional to explain. Ask the technician to explain their best winter tips for the system they’ve installed. After all, they are the experts for a reason. Schedule them in for an annual system check up to make sure everything is running smoothly.
  • Check the filter! Change it regularly, if needed, to get the best quality air for your home.
  • Clear the winter ice and snow regularly. Checking and doing this will make sure your heat pump doesn’t get blocked and stop working completely.
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