AC Repair Tampa

How to Defrost a Heat Pump in Winter: Expert Insights

If you’re feeling a little too chilly right now, take heart. Even though this hasn’t been the warmest winter ever, it’s not the most frigid. In February of 1899, Florida experienced the coldest temperatures on record when the mercury fell to -2 degrees.

Is your heat pump system prepared for that type of weather event?

Although Central Florida doesn’t usually see freezing temperatures, it’s still helpful to know how to defrost a heat pump. We’ll show you how in today’s post, but first, let’s do a quick review of how heat pumps work and why they freeze up.

How a Heat Pump System Works

Following heat transfer principles, a heat pump pulls warm air from outside to heat your home. When summer temperatures rise, the heat pump works in reverse by transferring hot air you’re your home to the outdoors.

Heat pumps work well in moderate climates such as the one here in Central Florida. Even if you do have a few frigid winter nights (or days), the temperatures don’t stay cold for long. You won’t need the heat pump for long-term heating.

Is a Frozen Heat Pump a Huge Concern?

First, a thin layer of frost on your heat pump shouldn’t cause panic as long as it disappears in about 30-90 minutes. Outdoor air contains water vapor, and on a cold day or night, the water vapor may freeze. When the heat pump coils freeze or notice the entire unit encased in ice, you have a problem.

Beyond the typical frost, heat pumps freeze up for several reasons, including:

  • Insufficient Airflow
  • Settling
  • Cold Water
  • Lack of Maintenance

It’s also possible you have a faulty defrost control board, broken reversing valve, bad heat pump thermostat, or low refrigerant.

A frozen heat pump is a concern because when the coils freeze over, heat transfer between the outside air and the inside of your home can’t happen.

How to Defrost a Heat Pump

The defrost cycle on your heat pump helps the system operate efficiently during colder months. Using a defrost control, the system alerts the reversing valve to send heated refrigerant outside to thaw out the frozen coils.

If the defrost control malfunctions, you’ll need to unfreeze the heat pump yourself using the following techniques after shutting the heat pump off:

  • Run the system’s fan on the exhaust setting, if available.
  • Move the outdoor heat pump thermostat.
  • Use the system’s manual defrost setting.

You can also pour or spray water over the heat pump to melt ice or snow buildup. Don’t use sharp tools to pick ice off the coils!

Call Us for Heat Pump Service

When you’ve tried the techniques above and can’t remedy the problem, it’s best to call a qualified HVAC company to come out and troubleshoot the system. They not only know how to defrost a heat pump, but they can also make any needed system adjustments or repairs to help prevent future freeze-ups.

Since 1988, Sun Air Services has taken care of residential and commercial HVAC systems. Contact us and let us help you figure out your heat pump system.


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