FAQs

General Questions

Q. How long should my heat pump last?

A. The average life-expectancy of a heat pump is 15-18 years.

Q. Does it hurt if the insulation is damaged on my refrigerant lines? 

A.  Not necessarily.  The insulation is there to prevent sweating in the cooling mode.  If the insulation is torn, and the lines are exposed inside, it may cause sweating and possible water damage to whatever gets dripped-on.  If the insulation is torn outside, the likely sweating should not cause any problems.

Filter Questions

Q. How often should I replace my air filter?

A. That depends on two factors 1) the type of air filter in your system and 2) the amount of dust in the air.  In a clean environment, a standard 1" filter should be replaced every 2 to 3 months.  A media air filter (4 to 5" thick) has a much larger surface area and generally only requires replacement 2 times per year. In a heavy-dust area the frequency may increase dramatically.

Q. What type of filter should I use?

A. If you have a 1" disposable filter, we recommend using a standard-efficiency, pleated filter (high-efficiency, ultra-allergen filters tend to cause too much airflow restriction).  If you have a media air filter, you should stick with the exact style and brand.  A different brand (even though the same dimensions) may not fit the cabinet correctly and allow unfilterd air through your system.

Q. Where can I purchase replacement filters?

A. Common sizes of 1" replacement filters (16x20, 16x25, 20x20, 20x25, 25x25) can be purchased at most hardware or home improvement stores.  Odd size 1" filters and media air filters have to be purchased at a HVAC supply house, a heat contractor or ordered online.  GHAC stocks and sells all types and sizes of air filters.

Q. Is it okay to leave my filter out for a little while?

A. Your heat pump does not need the filter to operate.  The filter is just there to catch dust particles in the air as it circulates through your home.  If a system goes unfiltered for an extended period of time, internal components can become clogged and reduce system capacity.  Leaving the filter out for a day or two, however, generally won't cause any measurable trouble.

Thermostat Questions

Q. Why is there a red light on my thermostat?

A. Some outdoor units have an equipment monitor that will energize a diagnostic light at the thermostat if it senses an improper operating condition.  In some cases, this can be a constant red light, and some units will generate a flashing light.  Try turning the thermostat "Off" for a couple of minutes and then back on. If the light comes back, you may need a service appointment.

Q. Why does it say Aux Heat on my thermostat?

A.  In colder conditions (below 30 deg) a heat pump starts to lose heating capacity and may not be able to produce sufficient heat to maintain the temperature in your home.  In these conditions the thermostat will automatically energize the 2nd stage (auxiliary) heat to maintain the desired indoor temperature.  The thermostat may also energize auxiliary heat if you quickly raise the heating setpoint several degrees.  If the thermostat regularly energizes Aux Heat in mild weather conditions, this may indicate a problem with the heat pump.

Q. Should I buy a new programmable thermostat?

A. A programmable thermostat is a good idea if you have a normal schedule when you are away from your home.  Honeywell says that you can save 15 - 20% on your home heating and cooling costs by setting your thermostat temperature up or down while you are away.  But, if you are normally home during the days then a programmable thermostat will likely be more trouble than it is worth.

Q. Should I set the "Fan" switch to "On" or "Auto"?

A. The heat pump will operate fine in either position.  In the "Auto" position, the fan will come on only when your equipment is operating for heating or cooling.  In the "On" position the fan will run continuous and the heating and cooling will cycle on and off as needed.  Some people like to leave the fan in the "On" position to provide more air circulation, more air filtration and more consistent temperatures throughout the home.

Auxiliary/Emergency Heat Questions

Q. Is there a difference between Em Heat and Aux Heat?

A.  Your heat pump uses the same heaters for auxiliary heat as it does in emergency heat.  The only difference is that in normal heat mode the heaters operate as 2nd stage heat and work together with the heat pump.  When you switch to "Em Heat" the heaters operate as 1st stage heat and the heat pump (outdoor unit) does not operate.

Q. At what temperature should my heat pump switch to Em Heat?

A.  Very few heat pumps in the world automatically switch to Emergency Heat when it gets very cold outside - only UPG units (York, Luxaire, Coleman) with a YorkGuard module.  These units have a "Low Temp Cutout" setting that is adjustable from -10 to 40 deg.  Every other unit will operate the compressor for 1st stage heat and then the Auxiliary Heat as 2nd stage.  It is sometimes more efficient to manually switch the thermostat to Em Heat mode when the outdoor temperature is below 15 degrees.

Q. Is it normal for my thermostat to show Aux Heat?

A.  In colder conditions (below 30 deg) a heat pump starts to lose heating capacity and may not be able to produce sufficient heat to maintain the temperature in your home.  In these conditions the thermostat will automatically energize the 2nd stage (auxiliary) heat to maintain the desired indoor temperature.  The thermostat may also energize auxiliary heat if you quickly raise the heating setpoint several degrees.  If the thermostat regularly energizes Aux Heat in mild weather conditions, this may indicate a problem with the heat pump.

Refrigerant Questions

 Q. What kind of freon is in my heat pump?

A. That depends on the age of your system.  If your unit was installed before 2010, it will have R-22.  If your unit was installed after 2010, it most likely has the new R410a refrigerant.  However, some manufacturers have been offering "Dry-ship" R-22 units since 2010, so it is possible for a newer unit to still use R-22.

Q. Is R-22 freon still available for my unit?

A. Absolutely.  The EPA has mandated reduced production with a planned phase-out by 2030, but there is still adequate supply available.  In addition, some companies are reclaiming recovered refrigerant for use in older systems.

Q. How often should I replace the freon in my unit?

A. There is a common misconception that refrigerant wears-out.  It does not.  As long as your refrigerant systems is leak-free it should never need new freon.

Q. Can I upgrade to a newer refrigerant?

A. An R-22 system cannot be easily upgraded to use R410a.  It would basically require all new components.  There are some new refrigerants starting to come-out to replace R-22 but their popularity goes up and down with the price of R-22, and there isn't yet a "drop-in" replacement.

Q. Why do I have to add freon to my heat pump?

A. The primary reason that would require the addition of refrigerant is a freon leak.  There are some systems with an abnormality referred to as a "charge imbalance" which requires freon to be removed in the fall and added back in the spring.

Condensate Questions

Q. Is it normal for my heat pump to make water when it is cooling?

A. Yes. Condensation is a normal side-effect of cooling (so is dehumidification).  All air conditioner coils have a condensate drain designed to remove the water that is produced during cooling.

Q. Will my heat pump make water when it runs for heating?

A. Yes & No. In the heating mode, the outdoor coil becomes the "cold" coil and the indoor coil becomes the "hot" coil, so any water that is made will be at the outdoor unit.  The outdoor coil will often drip water, especially in a defrost mode.  There should be no water produced inside.

Q. How much water will my heat pump produce in the cooling mode?

A.  That depends on how long the system runs and how much humidity is in the indoor air.  On hot, humid summer days, your heat pump may easily produce 5 gallons or more each day.

Q. Should I have water around my indoor unit?

A.  Generally, if there is water around your indoor unit, this is an indication that the condensate drainage system is not functioning properly.

Maintenance Questions

Q. Is there any maintenance I should be doing to my heat pump?

A. The primary maintenance function that homeowners need to perform is keeping a clean air filter in the system.  Other tasks may include keeping the outdoor unit free from obstructions and cleaning the drain line.

Q. How often should I have my unit serviced?

A. The manufacturer would prefer that you have your unit serviced each season.  GHAC offers a very cost-effective maintenance program that provides seasonal equipment maintenance.  

Operation Questions

Q. How can I tell if my heat pump is working properly?

Cooling

A.  The best way to determine if an air conditioner is working at full capacity is by checking the temperature drop (Supply Temp minus Return Temp).  A properly functioning system should have a temperature drop of 15-18 degrees.

Heating 

A. It is often very difficult to tell if a heat pump is functioning properly in the heating mode, especially in very cold conditions.  The colder it gets outside, the less heat the heat pump will produce.  Often the heat that is being supplied is coming from the auxiliary heaters, not the heat pump.  Try to check the air temperature rise when the heat pump is running alone (no auxiliary heat).  There should be at least a 10 deg temperture rise. 

Q. Should my refrigerant lines have ice on them?

Cooling

A.  No.  Ice on ther refrigerant lines would indicate a problem of either low refrigerant charge or insufficient airflow across the indoor coil.  You should turn the system "Off" and the fan "On" until there is good, full airflow coming from the registers.  Check the filter and try restarting the system.  If it continues to freeze, you should have the system checked by a qualified technician.

Heating

A.  No.  It is normal to see frost form on the outdoor coil prior to a defrost cycle, but the refrigerant lines connecting the outdoor unit to the indoor coil should not have any ice.

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