The first major winter storm of 2017 quickly turned into a blizzard as millions of people in Elkhart, Indiana, and the surrounding region dealt with school closures, cancelled flights and snow accumulating on top of their heat pumps. Unless the heat pump condenser unit is elevated or covered, snow will likely pile up and interfere with the proper operation of the system. Although most heat pumps have defrosting mechanisms, they are not sufficient to prevent snow buildup. When snow covers the condenser, airflow and energy consumption issues will follow.

Conventional Heat Pumps

The performance of a heat pump is impacted negatively when covered by a pile of snow. A buildup of snow on the unit restricts the amount of air available to circulate to the heating coil. This impacts the refrigerant’s ability to act on air passing over the coils. Inside the home, the low temperature indicated by the thermostat prompts the homeowner to activate the supplemental heat.

Ductless Heat Pumps

The airflow restriction is even more of a problem for ductless mini pumps because they lack supplemental heat. If the snow accumulation persists, the defrosting mechanism will run for a longer time and may eventually shut down the indoor fan. By the time this happens, homeowners may actually feel cold air circulating through the house. Once a ductless heat pump shuts down the fan due to snow accumulation, it may take a while before it is fully defrosted or until the temperature sensor reaches 40 degrees. For this reason, homes equipped with ductless pumps likely have another source of heat that can be activated when snow piles on top of the condenser.

Clearing Snow off Heat Pumps

Using a shovel to clear a heavy snow accumulation on a heat pump can be risky because it can damage the copper pipes on top of the condenser. If you are snowed in and can’t make your way to the heat pump, you might have to turn on a secondary heat source until you can access your heat pump.

It’s always a good idea to contact a professional to ensure there is no damage and that your heat pump will work as it should. To learn more about proper heat pump maintenance during winter, call Rex’s Heating and Cooling at (574) 500-2867.

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