Heat Pump: How to Defrost It During Winter

Heat pumps are extremely efficient, versatile, and reliable. These popular comfort devices can provide year-round comfort because of their ability to heat and cool your home. However, some homeowners have issues with heat pumps freezing up during the colder times of the year, especially when temps drop enough to bring snowfall and frost. 

If this is a problem you've experienced from time to time during winters past, keep reading to find out how to defrost your heat pump when using it in the winter.

Why Heat Pumps 'Freeze Up'

It's essentially all about water vapor and changes brought on by dropping temperatures when it comes to why heat pumps sometimes have issues with frost and ice accumulation. The refrigerant used in a heat pump is usually around 20 degrees cooler than outside air. However, if temps dip down far enough, frost can form on the condenser coils. There are two ways to deal with this problem.

Letting the Defrost Cycle Run

Heat pumps have a handy defrost feature – which is even on older models. Newer systems typically have a temperature sensor that kicks the defrost mode on when frost is detected. With older heat pumps, there's a manual trigger that launches the defrost cycle. If your heat pump is operating properly, defrost cycles should run for brief intervals – anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes is common – to prevent frost or get rid of it fairly quickly.

During defrost mode, the heat pump sends warm air outside and goes into cooling mode. To maintain your indoor comfort, you may want to consider using a backup heat source like a furnace when defrost mode is regularly kicking in to keep things nice and toasty indoors.

Removing Ice and Frost Yourself

If the defrost cycle isn't helping much, you can do a manual defrost. Start by turning off your heat pump. Do this at the circuit breaker to be safe and prevent it from turning on as you remove ice and frost. Complete a manual approach to defrosting your heat pump by:

  • Using a garden hose to spray the pump with water
  • Spraying the heat pump until the ice and frost melts away
  • Chipping or hammering any solid ice that didn't melt from the water

If it's a warmer winter day, another option is to turn your heat pump back on and run the fan mode to melt the ice. As long as you're outside, take a moment to determine what caused the ice and frost to accumulate. A common culprit is a leaking or damaged gutter that's sending water directly down onto your heat pump. Should this be the case, have your gutters repaired to reduce recurring issues with frost and freezing.

Call Us Today

Romano Bros. Heating & Air is the company to call on if you're experiencing any issues with your heat pump that can't be solved with defrost mode or manual defrosting. We're also here if you need repairs promptly or input about a new, replacement, or supplemental home heating solution for the winter.

Contact our experienced comfort pros today for fast, reliable service.