My heat pump unit keeps icing up and the emergency heat is running non-stop. My house is staying warm; however, the energy bills have been through the roof. What can I do to fix this?

Freezing temperatures and an inefficient heat pump can cause energy usage to soar. Energy bills may double or even triple if a heat pump isn’t operating properly. Oftentimes heat pumps are paired with electric heating coils as a source of back-up heat when the outside temperature is below freezing. These heating coils consume a large amount of energy and their usage should be kept to a minimum. When a heat pump system isn’t running correctly, little to no heat is being generated by the heat pump, and the heating coils are running non-stop to heat the house. Thus we have the outrageous electric bill at the end of the month. Here are a few things that you can check before calling a HVAC contractor.

If your heat pump is icing up, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is an issue. A heat pump will ice up and defrost during normal heating operation; however, if your heat pump freezes up and does not defrost, there is definitely a problem. One of the things you can check as a homeowner is that the heat pump unit is clear of debris and has plenty of room to “breathe”. Make sure all sides of the heat pump are clear and any shrubs are trimmed back. Also, be sure to always shovel snow away from the heat pump so it does not build up around it. Keeping your heat pump clear will allow it to run more efficiently and not freeze up as often.

Although it may be obvious to some, make sure that the thermostat is set to HEAT and not EMERGENCY HEAT. Having your thermostat set to HEAT will run your heat pump and only turn on the back-up heat when needed. However, when the thermostat is set to EMERGENCY HEAT, the heat pump will not come on and the back-up heat will be used for all the heating. This is a common problem that often people overlook.

Lastly, when raising the temperature on your thermostat, it is recommended to only raise it 1 or 2 degrees at a time. Depending on what type of thermostat you have, turning the thermostat up 3 or more degrees at a time may trigger the back-up heat to come on immediately. Those with a programmable thermostat may actually do more harm than good when they have big temperature swings in their schedule. Limiting these big temperature swings will prevent the back-up heat from coming on as much and lower energy bills.

These suggestions should help lower your energy usage and allow your heat pump system to run more efficiently. If for some reason you follow these suggestions and still suspect something is wrong with your heat pump, it’s best to call an HVAC professional for further investigation.