My Heat Pump Isn’t Heating: What’s Wrong With It?

Is your heat pump not heating? If you are having issues with your electric heat pump, there’s a good chance it’s listed below –– from how to solve it, to immediate steps you can take to remedy the situation and what you should expect to pay.

Are you thinking about investing in a new furnace or heat pump? Home Advisor has a great guide to help you choose what’s right for you. Keep in mind that while a furnace may have more safety concerns, a heat pump issue is more costly to fix. 

Cost Key:

$ – DIY
$$ – low $100’s
$$$ – high $100’s to low $1,000
$$$$ – many $1,000’s/full replacement

Heat pumps can be a great choice for HVAC system, especially if you live in a milder climate where your heat pump might be able to double as your heater/furnace and your central air conditioning system.

Like any HVAC solution however, they can be prone to problems and benefit from routine maintenance just like your furnace or your air conditioner would.

Common Heat Pump Issues

In order to keep your system running smoothly, it’s important to keep an eye out for some common heat pump problems these types of HVAC solutions can experience. This way, you can be prepared to either fix it yourself if you can, or call in the professionals when you can’t.

image depicting common heat pump issues and problems

Why Won’t My Heat Pump Turn On?


Temperature/Thermostat Issues

Perhaps the number one heat pump complaint comes from the unit simply not turning on. This gets tricky because there can be a variety of reasons your heat pump may not be coming on. For example, it could be something as simple as your home’s thermostat not being set correctly, or not being properly calibrated for the temperature in your home. In these cases, it’s pretty simple to spot the problem yourself and correct it.

Bad Capacitor

If, however, it’s something more serious like a bad starter capacitor, you’ll need an experienced HVAC professional’s help to fix it. You can generally tell if it’s the capacitor by listening to the heat pump itself — typically if you hear a faint clicking when it should be running, that’s the capacitor not getting the electrical charge to the motor correctly.

Heat Pump Issues in Cold Weather

Heat pumps can be prone to problems in cold weather, and people often notice heat pumps running more often than a furnace would, especially in colder-than-normal temperatures. The fact that it’s running often during the winter isn’t inherently a problem. Complicating the matter however is that it could be a sign of low or leaking refrigerant, or that there could be a blockage around the outdoor unit.

You can do a visual inspection to look for leaves, debris, or icing over on the unit and this may give you some indication if you’re dealing with the latter of these problems. If you clear away the ice and still experience the perpetual running, it may be a problem with a bad compressor, which you’ll want a technician to take a look. Low or leaking refrigerant can also cause the unit to run irregularly and stop working effectively. This is another situation where you’ll want to have a technician service your unit to make sure you don’t have a serious refrigerant leak or more complicated heat pump problem.

Hot Weather Heat Pump Problems

Since heat pumps act similarly to central air units in the summer months, some of the more common issues with heat pumps overlap central air issues, like thermostat problems. Some however, are uniquely the domain of heat pumps, like broken reversing valves. If these valves are broken or malfunctioning for example, they can cause hot air to blow when the unit is set to cool. In this case, it’s best to have an experienced technician evaluate the problem and recommend solutions for you.

Refrigerant levels can also cause your heat pump problems in hot weather — just as it would in the colder months, if refrigerant is low or leaking, the unit will struggle to produce cool air for the home efficiently. A heat pump’s bad compressor can also be to blame if your unit seems to be running more than normal during the summer. Again, you’ll want to have an HVAC professional take a look to diagnose the problem and recommend the right solutions for your home and your cooling, and heating, needs.

Looking for more details about heat pumps? Visit our resource center to find more information about everything HVAC and more, or call our professionals at (619) 762-3014 today to see how we can help.

Electric Heat Pump Problems – A Guide


In moderate temperatures San Diego experiences throughout the year, electric might be the best option. It operates at the highest efficiency, and offers the lowest installation costs. Since nowhere in San Diego dips below freezing, heat pumps are rarely limited in their effectiveness by climate.

My Heat Pump Doesn’t Run at All

You can DIY common issues for an outdoor unit that is not running. This includes a thermostat not being set properly, an emergency shut-off switch or blown fuse/circuit breaker. Check your condensate pump to make sure it’s not unplugged.

However, issues that might require a service call include a broken contactor/capacitorcontrol modulebad cable/wiring or a faulty relay.

Cost: $-$$

Blown fuses and improperly functioning thermostats can be DIY fixed, however, many of the other fixes can range in the low- to mid-hundreds.

 Thermostat malfunctions are a common cause of heat pump issues. To just make sure it’s sending a signal, set it at 5 degrees higher than your typical setting. Make sure your wires are properly mounted on their respective screws. 

My Heat Pump Freezes

If your heat pump is covered in ice, shut it down! A couple things you can do on your own include:

  • Changing your dirty filters
  • Checking your indoor air registers to ensure they’re not blocked
  • Clean away debris that could be preventing airflow
  • Check your gutters – clogged gutters could cause water overflow on your outside unit.
  • Add refrigerant or replace the defrost timer.

Cost To Repair Frozen Heat Pump: $-$$

Typically, a frozen heat pump is due to external factors. A simple air filter change or gutter cleaning could free up the flow of air. Adding refrigerant or replacing a defrost timer can be a tad more expensive, but it shouldn’t break your bank.

My Heat Pump Blower Doesn’t Work

This is likely an issue with the limit switch located below the plenum (the box that gives heat to your duct system), or a thermostat problem. You can change your heat pump limit switch, which is designed to shut off when the plenum gets too hot.

See your instruction manual for details or make a service call to reset the pointers on the fan side of the limit control.

If the blower motor is running but there’s no air, you probably have a belt issue.

Cost To Repair Heat Pump Blower: $-$$

A fan limit switch or thermostat typically cost under $100.

Heat pump issues? One of the first things you should check is your thermostat.

My Heat Pump Is Short- or Long-Cycling

Your outside unit may be overheating. Check your air filters and thermostat. It is possible your thermostat isn’t properly calibrated or has been placed too close or far from a heat source.

Cost: $-$$$$

An overheating unit could require a replacement, however, a simple thermostat fix can be taken care of quite easily. 

My Heat Pump Makes Odd Noises

Squealing/Grinding Noise – you might have an issue with the motor bearings. This isn’t a DIY fix. Call us!

Rattling – your heat pump’s cover panel might be loose, or your ductwork isn’t well connected. This might be a DIY fix, depending on where your loose ductwork is located. Knowing where to find it might require an expert, though. It depends on how long you’ve lived in your home, and how well you know the layout. 

Popping Noise – this sound is possibly expansion from your ductwork. This sound can be very common, especially in cold months when pressure contracts your ducts. It’s likely not a major issue, but check with your local HVAC contractor to make sure. Each home is structurally different. 

Cost: $-$$$

Simple noises don’t always require an immediate fix. But if you are in need of new ductwork, you could be facing an expensive project – up to $55/linear foot. 

Mathematical Evidence: Save Your Investment With Maintenance 


Here’s something to think about. Maybe you could get away for a year without changing the oil on your car. 

But would you pay a couple hundred dollars annually to ensure that car lasted an extra three, five, or even seven years? The eventual thousands you’d save on major repairs, or purchasing a new vehicle years earlier than you’d prefer, more than balance the short-term spend. 

Looking for another resource? Check out this informative article here.

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