Why is my Heat Pump Smoking? (& Other Common Questions About Heat Pumps)

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Many homeowners, today, are experiencing the advantages of having a heat pump installed as a major component of their heating and cooling system. However, with all of the advantages of owning a heat pump, there are several questions that come up every year, when the heating capabilities of those heat pumps is turned on.

For example, the most common question we get when the Fall/Winter season starts showing up is: “Why is my heat pump smoking?”

The answer to this is quite simple: Your heat pump isn’t actually smoking. It’s steaming. When it gets below freezing outside, a layer of ice can build up on the outside of the heat pump unit. This is perfectly normal. However, in order to keep operating effectively, the heat pump must defrost this layer of ice. This is when the “smoking” takes place. Remember though, it’s not actually smoke coming off your outdoor unit. It’s simply the steam from the defrost cycle of the heat pump.

To keep heat flowing through the home, your back up heat source (usually a gas furnace, or electric air handler) can be set up to turn on during the defrost cycle.

There are many other questions that arise when heat pumps are incorporated into any home’s heating and cooling system:

Question: If I have a heat pump, can I still use my gas furnace to heat my home?

The answer: Yes. Many people prefer the heat that comes from their gas furnace,for one reason or another. When you install a heat pump, you have the option to switch to “Emergency Heat,” or “Backup Heat” from your thermostat. This will switch your heat pump off, and turn your back up heat on. This is another advantage of having a heat pump installed in your home. You get the choice of what kind of heat you want to utilize, based on comfort, or energy costs.

Question: I’ve heard that the heat from heat pumps is colder, so it won’t heat my home as well. Is this true?

The answer: Yes, and No. The air that will come out of your register is, in fact, not as warm as the air that comes from a conventional gas furnace. However, the air from a heat pump system is warm enough to heat your home to the level that you want it (assuming you don’t set your thermostat at 90°). This is actually an advantage, in regards to your comfort. The longer run times of heat pumps will create an environment that provides more even temperatures throughout the home, without the ups and downs that you experience with a gas furnace. We’ve had customers complain about being cold with a heat pump, only to find out that their favorite chair is sitting right next to the register. Once they moved their chair (or shut the register) they are very comfortable.

Many other questions about heat pumps exist, and we would be happy to answer any other concerns that you might have regarding your existing heat pump, or if you are considering purchasing your first one.