Why Is My Heat Pump Not Working? A Portland Tech Answers

We know how frustrating it can be when your heat pump goes haywire on a hot summer day or in the middle of winter.

Don’t worry—we’ll help you troubleshoot the issue to get your system up-and-running again.

In this blog, we’ll cover the 3 most common heat pump issues in the Portland area, including:

  1. A heat pump that blows warm air
  2. A heat pump that blows cool air
  3. A heat pump that won’t turn on

Don’t see your specific issue listed? Contact a trusted HVAC professional for assistance. They’ll quickly be able to determine why your heat pump isn’t working and fix the problem.

Want a Portland pro to repair your heat pump? We offer fast, same-day service!

Request an appointment today

Problem #1: Heat pump is blowing warm air (instead of cool air)

On a hot summer day, the last thing you want to feel is warm air coming from your vents.

The first thing you should do if your heat pump is blowing warm air is to check your thermostat. We know it may sound trivial, but double-check and make sure that:

  1. The thermostat screen is responsive (if not, you may need to replace the batteries)
  2. The thermostat is set to COOL and not HEAT
  3. The thermostat is set to AUTO, not ON

Note: When the thermostat is set to ON, the fan will run constantly—even when your heat pump is not cooling your home. This could explain why you’re feeling warm air. When set to AUTO, the fan will only push cool air into your home.

The fan setting on a thermostat

Still feel warm air after you’ve checked the thermostat?

If so, your heat pump may have one of the following issues:

  • The refrigerant levels in the system are low
  • The outdoor unit is malfunctioning
  • Your home’s ductwork has major leaks

All of these problems will require professional expertise to fix. An experienced professional can quickly find the cause of the problem and recommend the fastest solution.

Problem #2: Heat pump is blowing cool air (instead of warm air)

When outdoor temperatures are low, you’re counting on your heat pump to keep your home warm.

If you’re experiencing cool air coming from your vents, the first thing you’ll want to do is check the thermostat to make sure it is set correctly. In the winter, your thermostat should be set to HEAT, and the fan setting should be set to AUTO (not ON).

While you’re looking at your thermostat, you may see an icon that indicates “defrost mode”. This mode automatically kicks in when ice has formed on the outdoor unit of your heat pump. During defrost mode, it’s normal to feel cooler air coming from the vents. Once the ice has melted (which can take up to 10 minutes) your heat pump will return to normal, and you’ll feel warm air again.

Note: If you don’t see any indication on your thermostat that your heat pump is in defrost mode, go to the outdoor unit. If the outdoor fan has stopped spinning and steam is coming from the unit, then your heat pump is in defrost mode.

If you’ve verified your thermostat is set correctly and it’s not in defrost mode, your heat pump may have one of the following major problems:

  • The refrigerant levels are low
  • The reversing valve is broken
  • The system is losing efficiency

You’ll need to contact an HVAC professional to fix those problems, which you can learn more about in our blog, “Why Is My Heat Pump Not Blowing Hot Air? A Portland Tech Answers.”

Problem #3: Heat pump won’t turn on

If your heat pump won’t turn on at all, it could be because of the following reasons:

  1. Thermostat issues: First, check to make sure the thermostat is set to either HEAT or COOL. If you have a programmable or smart thermostat, make sure the heating/cooling schedule is set correctly. If your thermostat is set correctly but your heat pump still won’t turn on, the wiring in the thermostat could be faulty or there could be another electrical problem that a technician will need to fix.
  2. Loss of power: Sometimes heat pumps draw too much power, which causes the circuit breaker to trip. When the breaker trips, the heat pump won’t turn on. Go to your home’s electrical panel and look for the circuit breaker labeled “HVAC system,” “heat pump” or “AC system.” Check to see if the breaker has tripped and if it has, flip the breaker to restore power to the heat pump. If the heat pump continues to trip the breaker, it usually means there’s a bigger issue that a professional will need to fix.

Circuit breakers on an electrical panel

  1. Failing capacitor: The capacitor is a component that helps a heat pump start. Simply put, if the capacitor is failing your heat pump won’t turn on. If you hear a clicking sound when your heat pump tries to start, this could be the problem. You should contact a professional to inspect the capacitor and replace it if necessary.

If fixing the thermostat or electrical panel doesn’t make your heat pump start back up, it’s time to contact a professional to diagnose the issue.

Need a heat pump repair from a Portland tech?

Request an appointment today

Our highly-trained technicians can get your heat pump working again in no-time. For more information about what to expect when you hire us for the job, visit our heat pump repair page.


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