Should My Heat Pump Run All the Time? A Portland Tech Explains

If your heat pump is running round-the-clock and you’re concerned that something may be wrong, take a look at the outside temperature before you start to panic.

If it’s really cold (below 30° F) or really hot outside (above 100° F), it’s likely that your heat pump is just working overtime to reach the temperature you have set for your home.

That’s right... the outside temperature could be the cause of your issue.

However, if extreme cold or heat isn’t a factor, you could be experiencing one of the following scenarios:

  • A refrigerant leak
  • Dirty coils
  • An undersized system
  • An old or outdated system

We’ll go over each possible issue in greater detail below, so you can better pinpoint the root of your worries.

Ready to speak to a professional? We’re here to help. Check out our heat pump services or call us at (503) 538-1950. You can also request a service appointment online.

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Let’s break it down…

A heat pump doubles as an air conditioning system and a heating system, working year-round to keep you comfortable.

How do they work?

During warmer months, a heat pump draws heat from inside your home and transfers it outside to keep your home cool. In colder months, the process reverses – and the system captures and carries heat from the outdoor air to the inside of your home.

If it’s too hot out, your heat pump will work harder – and may run continuously – to dump the heat outside.

If it’s too cold out, your heat pump will work harder – and may run continuously – to pull heat from the outdoor air into your home.

So, if the temperatures are below 30° or above 100°, there’s likely nothing wrong with your heat pump.

However, temperatures below 30° and above 100° are rare for our area. That said, if the temperature outside is relatively moderate and your heat pump is running constantly, you could be dealing with one of the following issues:

Issue #1: Refrigerant leak

Refrigerant is a liquid inside your heat pump system that’s responsible for the movement of heat from inside your home to outside and vice versa. Basically, it helps move heat from one set of coils in the heat pump to another.

If there’s a leak in the refrigerant line, the heat pump won’t be able to properly and efficiently transfer as much heat in and out of your home per heating/cooling cycle. This can result in your system having to work overtime in order to reach your desired temperature.

How to solve: You’ll need to hire an HVAC technician to repair your leak and refill (i.e. “recharge”) your refrigerant.

Issue #2: Blocked or dirty coils

When a heat pump is in cooling mode, the refrigerant (as mentioned above) carries heat to the condenser (outdoor) unit and releases the heat through coils and tiny metal “fins” surrounding the outside unit.

When in heating mode, the refrigerant pulls heat from outdoor air through these condenser coils. The absorbed heat is then carried inside your home.

It’s important that the outdoor unit remains clean and clear of any dust or debris, such as leaves or sticks. If the outdoor unit is blocked or clogged in any way, your heat pump will struggle to successfully transfer heat in or out of your home.

It’s also important that the coils in the indoor unit (evaporator coils) remain clean. Over time, dirt and dust can build up on the evaporator coils, making it more difficult for your heat pump to work efficiently.

How to solve: If you notice your heat pump running nonstop and you suspect debris is to blame, call an HVAC tech to clean both the inside and outside units. Keeping up on maintenance is always a good idea if you want to steer clear of this problem in the future.

Issue #3: Undersized system

If your heat pump isn’t the proper size for your home, it will have a tough time thoroughly heating or cooling your property. A smaller system will work overtime to reach the temperature you’ve set on your home’s thermostat, causing it to run continuously.

If you recently purchased an AC system, this could be your problem.

How to solve: In this case, the best solution is to replace your undersized system with a system that's equipped to handle the size and space of your home.

Before your new heat pump system is installed, double-check that your technician completes a load calculation to determine the correct size heat pump needed for your home. Although this is standard practice, some technicians cut corners and sizing mistakes can ultimately be made.

Issue #4: Old or outdated system

As time goes on, parts of a heat pump can andwill eventually operate less efficiently.

On average, heat pumps have a lifespan of 10-15 years. If your heat pump is running night and day, and it’s been around for longer than 10 years – you could be dealing with an age issue.

How to solve: Have your current system assessed by an experienced HVAC technician. Your system’s productivity could temporarily be improved through minor repairs and replacements, which can buy you a little time before you need to replace the entire system.

Keep in mind – the longer you run an old or ineffective system, the more likely it is you'll spend more on heating and cooling costs. It can’t hurt to start shopping for a new heat pump when age is the issue, as you'll never want to unexpectedly be left without heat or AC.

Looking for heat pump repairs? Our Portland pros are ready to help!

At Four Seasons, we offer fast same-day service and 2-hour appointment windows – and our repairs are backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee. You can always rely on Four Seasons to have the best brands, top-notch service, and competitive pricing.

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We look forward to hearing from you!