Comprehensive Heat Pump Maintenance Checklist

Meg Scanlon
Written by Meg Scanlon
Updated December 9, 2021
Mom and daughter are cozy under blanket with hot chocolate
Photo: teksomolika / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Here’s how to keep your heat pump happy and healthy

A well-maintained heat pump will work efficiently and save energy, so you won’t have to bundle up with blankets in the winter or struggle to cool down in the summer. According to the US Department of Energy, the energy consumption of a properly maintained heat pump and one that is neglected varies between 10% and 25%. Follow these steps to keep your heating system working optimally for as long as possible. 

Frequently Clean Your Heating Pump

Not cleaning the heat pump regularly can result in decreased airflow and performance as well as harm to your heating unit compressor. Read your owner’s manual for guidance. 

  1. Replace disposable filters or clean reusable filters once a month to increase the airflow. 

  2. Clean dirty coils and fans, especially outdoor ones. Make sure the fan is turned off before cleaning to avoid injury. 

  3. Clean the supply and return registers when they look dirty, and straighten the fins if they are bent.

Inspect Outdoor Heating Pumps

Clear away any plants, tools, or belongings near the outdoor unit to prevent blockages. Find a new spot for bicycles and toys that could impede airflow. 

  1. Clear a space of 18 inches or more on all sides to allow for sufficient airflow and access for any necessary heat pump repairs.

  2. Clean outdoor coils with a degreaser and hose (turn it off first).

Beware of Winter Weather

Woman pours herself a hot tea on a cold day
Photo: FreshSplash / E+ / Getty Images

If you live in an area with chilly winters, keep your home warm and cozy by checking for any ice and snow covering your outdoor heat pump. 

  1. Before cleaning, turn the thermostat off or switch it to emergency heat mode.

  2. Pour warm water or cold water from the hose over the unit to help melt the snow and ice. Avoid using hot water to melt it.

  3. Do not use any sharp or pointed objects to chip away the ice. Not only could you puncture or damage the unit, but you could injure yourself. 

  4. After removing all snow and ice, you can resume normal heating settings.

  5. If you notice the unit icing up again, call a local heat pump repair company for professional assistance

  6. Be sure the heat pump is at least 4 to 8 inches above the ground, so the coils steer clear of ice or snow and can drain properly. If it’s too low, your heating pump pro can raise it for you.

  7. Check that the outdoor unit is not directly below a leaky gutter. Water from a leak could drip and freeze on the unit in cold temperatures, which can block airflow and cause the whole unit to freeze. Repair the leak to avoid a malfunctioning unit. 

Get Your Heat Pump Serviced Regularly

Have a professional HVAC technician in your area perform an annual service on your heat pump. It’s even better if you can get a service every spring before running the AC and every fall before temperatures drop. According to HomeAdvisor, heat pump maintenance costs between $158 and $598. A technician will do the following:

  1. Ensure proper thermostat function and sufficient airflow

  2. Measure refrigerant levels and identify refrigerant leaks

  3. Look for any duct leaks

  4. Inspect all parts, including filters, ducts, blowers, and indoor coils  

  5. Look for any blockages

  6. Inspect electrical terminals and apply a nonconductive coating if needed

  7. Lubricate the motors and examine the belts

  8. Flush the drain line

  9. Clean debris from the drain pan 

Address any common heat pump problems