Why Is My Heat Pump Blowing Cold Air?

My Heat Pump is Blowing Cold Air

Hey Sacramento, it’s still cold and rainy. Amid all of the other stuff happening in the world, you might be hit with the fact that your heat pump is blowing cold air. At Gilmore, we’re ready to help you diagnose and fix the issue. Discover the likely explanation of what could be happening to your heat pump and what could be the cause. Use this information to make an informed decision on whether or not you need to call one of our skilled HVAC repair technicians to help. Gilmore Heating and Air have got you covered!

As you may be aware, a heat pump draws heat from outdoors and brings it indoors. Here lies a possible explanation about why cold air is coming from your heat pump. You see, the temperature outside may drop significantly, especially at night, and this could reduce the temperature of the heated air coming from the vents in your home.

For example, it isn’t uncommon for the temperature outside to drop to 40°F on cold nights in Sacramento and even colder up in the foothills. Even at that temperature, your heat pump will still be able to supply air at 80-85°F, a much higher degree of warmth than what the situation is outside. However, our normal body temperature hovers around 98.6°F, so the air which is at 85°F will appear to be cold since it is at a lower temperature than our body temperature.

In order to confirm that this is what you may be experiencing, the Sacramento HVAC professionals at Gilmore Heating and Air recommend that you take note of the temperature reading on the thermostat of your HVAC system and then check back after half an hour.

If you observe that the thermostat is displaying a higher reading, then your heat pump is working. This means that there is no reason to worry about the “cold air” that you thought the heat pump was releasing into your home.

Possible Explanation #2: The Heat Pump Could Be in Defrost Mode

Sacramento HVAC experts explain that heat pumps are designed to switch to defrost mode from time to time when the temperature drops. This mode entails a temporal change from heating mode to cooling mode to allow warm air to circulate over the outdoor coils. This safeguards the pumps from freezing due to any frost that could have built upon them.

This defrost cycle may run for a minute or two, and this narrow window could coincide with the time when you check and observe that the vents in your home are discharging cold air. Folsom AC service technicians have confessed that a number of service calls that they get fall in this category where the heat pump was okay and didn’t need any professional attention.

To confirm that the cold air from the vents isn’t something to worry about, McQuillan Bros, the best AC Company in Minneapolis, recommend that you go and observe whether the fan on the outdoor unit of the heat pump is running. If the fan isn’t running and you can see puffs of steam coming from it, then you have your confirmation that the heat pump is in defrost mode. If still in doubt and you want a second opinion on the matter, contact Gilmore Heating and Air so that one of our experienced HVAC repair professionals can take a look and allay your fears.

Possible Explanation #3: Something Could Indeed Be Wrong with the Heat Pump

If you notice that your heat pump is blowing cold air into your home and this has lasted for more than the few minutes needed to run a defrost cycle, there is a possibility that something may be amiss with that unit. This means that a professional from Gilmore Heating and Air may need to take a look. Here are some of the common defects that may cause the heat pump in your Folsom home to blow cold air:

Refrigerant Leaks.

When the heat pump doesn’t have the required quantity of refrigerant, the unit will be unable to draw sufficient heat from outside and bring it indoors. A refrigerant leak is a serious problem that needs to be addressed promptly by a Folsom AC service professional from Gilmore Heating and Air, so contact us immediately if you suspect a refrigerant leak may be the culprit.

A Defective Reversing Valve.

The reversing valve in a heat pump makes it possible for the unit to switch from cooling mode to heating mode by reversing the direction of the refrigerant. If this valve malfunctions, then the heat pump will run continuously in the cooling mode. This may explain why you are noticing cold air coming from the vents in your home at a time when you expect warm air. We strongly advise that you leave this issue in the capable hands of our trained HVAC repair professionals since the complexities of this component tend to be beyond a DIY heat pump repair.

The Outdoor HVAC Unit is Frozen.

Despite running several defrost cycles, the outdoor unit could remain frozen and cause the heat pump to blow cold air into your home. A number of defects in that outdoor unit could be responsible for the inability of the unit to defrost, so it is best to invite an experienced Gilmore HVAC professional to check the unit and perform the needed repairs.

Loss of HVAC Efficiency.

Like all machines, a heat pump can gradually lose its efficiency, especially as it nears the end of its expected service life or if it hasn’t been maintained properly. Gilmore Heating and Air recommend that you have your heat pump serviced at least once annually so that it can work efficiently for longer. If your heat pump hasn’t been tuned up within the last 12 months, call a Sacramento HVAC company, such as Gilmore Heating and Air, for the needed maintenance work.

As you can see, one out of a possible three scenarios may be at play if you observe cold air coming from the heat pump in your home at a time when you expect warm air. If you aren’t getting the service that you expect from your heat pump, contact Gilmore Heating and Air. Our experienced technicians will check the unit and repair what is defective, or even advise you to consider HVAC replacement if that is a more viable long-term solution.

Why is My Heat Pump Blowing Cold Air?

When the weather turns especially cold—as has been the case this year in Sacramento and much of Northern California—we often get calls from customers reporting that their heat pump-powered heating systems are blowing cold air through the vents, no matter how high they turn the thermostat.

This is a common complaint, and in order to explain what’s going on, first we have to backtrack and explain what a heat pump is.

How a Heat Pump Works

Classic furnaces work by generating heat—usually by burning natural gas or powering an electric heating element—and then using that heat to warm air that is blown through a heat exchanger.

Heat pumps are a different beast altogether. Heating up air uses a lot of energy and is financially costly. Heat pumps don’t have this problem because they don’t use an energy source to produce heat. Instead, they’re essentially two-way air conditioners, capable of removing heat from a home and emitting it outdoors, or vice versa. This versatility is what has made them increasingly popular: they’re relatively simple, and eliminate the need to install separate heating and cooling systems.

Whereas traditional heaters rely on heat generation, heat pumps work by transferring heat. Their operation relies on a key truth about heat: It wants to be evenly distributed, and will move from areas of high warmth to areas of low warmth. This is why your home warms up in the summertime, while the winter weather seems to suck the heat right out of your home.

Heat pumps take this process and crank it into overdrive, extracting heat from cool and even cold air. Most homes use air-source heat pumps, which run outside air through a series of coils that extract heat energy. This energy is transferred to internal air that is passed through the heat pump and then blown back into the home. Meanwhile, the outside air is redirected back into the outside environment as a blast of icy cold air.

The neat trick with heat pumps is that in summer, this process is easily reversed, allowing the same mechanism to instead transfer heat out of your home, cooling it in the process.

Why a Heat Pump Will Blow Cold Air

Here’s the downside of a heat pump: The warmth of the air it produces is entirely dependent upon the outside temperature. Generally speaking, a heat pump will produce air that is about 55 degrees warmer than the outside air. This isn’t a problem when it’s 55 degrees outside—your system will expel air that’s a toasty warm 110 degrees or so.

But when the winter weather drops to 40 degrees, that means your system will blow air that is about 95 degrees. If it drops to 30 outside, your system will blow 85 degree air, which is much cooler than your skin temperature. As a result, the air will actually feel cool against your skin.

However, this air is almost certainly warmer than the desired temperature of your home (unless you like living in a sauna), and thus will successfully maintain that temperature. You just won’t be able to warm your feet on a toasty warm vent like you would in a home heated with a traditional furnace.

Heat Pump Problems

It is important to note that occasionally, heat pumps will go through a defrost cycle, during which the unit will blow air that is truly cold. But this will only go on for a couple minutes, and won’t affect the overall temperature of your home.

However, if your heat pump blows cold air for more than a couple minutes every hour or so, then your system isn’t working properly. Check to make sure that the air intake isn’t blocked, the ductwork is properly connected, and the filter is clear. If there are no obvious issues, then it’s probably time to give your local heating and air company a call.

Common issues that require professional intervention include:

  • Low refrigerant
  • Internal debris buildup
  • Valve failure
  • Stuck in air conditioning mode
  • Compressor not operating
  • Failure of the deicing unit

If your heat pump isn’t working properly or has failed altogether, give Gilmore a call. We’ll fix it right the first time, so you can rest easy knowing that you and your family will be living in comfort again in no time!