What Causes Dirty Heat Pumps?
Air quality and usage will effect the time in between deep cleanings. The average time between a cleaning is 2 years, although a Biennial or Annual cleaning will work. Its important for you as the customer to know when its ready to be cleaned.
A quick visual inspection of the unit for mold and dirt can be achieved by looking with a flashlight in the blower wheel assembly (where the air comes out of) Pictured Below.
Air Quality - Stagnant air in your home is contributed from things like people and pets to items already in your home.
The heat pump constantly draws in your homes air and traps it between the coils and filters. Over time it builds up and drastically reduces efficiency along with the growth of bacteria and mold.
Usage - Keeping it on continuously OR letting it dry itself out in the humid months is your best practice for slowing mold growth. When you turn your unit off in the humid months, you are making a perfect environment for dormant mold and bacteria to develop:
- No Air Movement
- Humid Air
- Dark Environment
By the time you turn the unit back on after a couple hours or days, all of the bacteria and mold will have grown and have began to spore.
Instead of turning it off, switch it to the dehumidify mode or adjust the temperature until your comfortable.
A ductless heat pump is one of the cheapest sources of heat available today. They use inverter style compressors that only uses as much power as needed.
Even though you may notice your fan inside always blowing air, it may not actually be conditioning the air. The main purpose for doing that is to regulate the temperature set on the remote.
The fan uses very little power, when it senses a temperature disagree with the setting on the remote it will start to either heat or cool as needed.
To put in perspective, a standalone dehumidifier or upright water dispenser that cools/heats the water will draw more power than a ductless heat pump on normal circumstances, these are often forgotten and are usually the culprits for higher power bills.
Its better to leave your unit on continuously and make minor adjustments as needed then turning it off completely. This is more efficient for your unit and house long term for many reasons.
Instead of the heat pump maintaining the set temperature using very little energy when kept ON, it will have to work a lot harder for longer to achieve the temperature set on the remote when turned back on.
If you would like to turn it off to enjoy the breeze and open the windows, put it on heat for 30 minutes. This should dry it out enough that it will prevent mold from growing.
Heat pumps are still your cheapest source of heat, even when its really cold out - use it to its full potential.
Its very important to do your research and make sure the unit you are getting is able to keep up with your demands. DO NOT just take someones word for it. There is a lot of information available and it will benefit you in the end.
Go with a heat pump that has Parts AND a labour warranty. It shows you that the manufacturers and suppliers stand behind their warranty.
Its doesn't hurt to turn it up or down a few degrees before the weather worsens, it will give you a little buffer and you'll be more comfortable overall .
When using your remote on your ductless unit, don't get caught up on all of the bells and whistles with all of the different functions unless you really understand them.
If it gets too complicated or you cant change the settings, just "reset" the remote by following your owners manual.
Auto Mode - Do not use unless you need to keep the temperature constant, this will keep it at the exact temperature you set it at meaning it will turn air conditioning on in the winter or heating on in the summer - it could be as easy as sun coming through your windows to turn the A/C on in the winter. This uses a lot more energy.
Fan Mode - This can be used to circulate air and it's also the same as your dry (dehumidify) mode, the only difference is dry mode will regulate with temperature.
Humid weather will make it pull the moisture out of your house and Dry weather will just act as a simple fan.
Heat Mode - This turns on the heating function of the heat pump.
Cool Mode - This turns on the cooling (Air Conditioning) and dehumidifying function of the heat pump - this will give you the best cooling.
Dry Mode - This option will dehumidify the air, but will do it much slower than the cool mode.
This mode is a lot more economical because it doesn't use your outdoor compressor, unlike cool mode.
Its a popular option for people who like it cool and comfortable in their house but not cold.
It can also be left on when vacant for energy consumption.
Fan Settings - Its recommended to leave the fan on the highest setting, sometimes it gets too loud or uncomfortable but the idea is to pass as much air as possible through your indoor coils, this also helps circulate the air in your home and give you conditioned air to further away from the unit.
Auto Fan - This will adjust the fan as needed depending on the temperature difference from the remote to the unit
This is one of the biggest causes for increases in power bills and having to use a heat source other than your unit.
The usage of small fans will help substantially by either pushing or pulling the conditioned air to other rooms, eventually the non-conditioned air will come back to the heat pump and repeat its cycle.
Ceiling Fans are great but you do not get the directional airflow that you need.
A ductless heat pump is not perfect, it provides cheaper heat right at the unit, but its up to you to carry the air away from it and down to the colder or warmer parts in the house depending on the season.
The added benefit of keeping the air circulated within your house is that the heat pump will keep making conditioned air longer because the air coming back will not be at the temperature on the unit.
This being the cheapest source of heat, its ideal for it to stay on as long as possible so a secondary heat source doesn't turn on.
Primary Heat Sources and Heat Exchangers (HRV's)
In Nova Scotia, Ductless Heat Pumps are not classified as a primary heat source, so by law (Code) you have to have another source of heat.
Ducted Units can be used as primary heat with no back ups due to a a emergency heat already built in.
In the winter, its important to set your primary heat source a few degrees below what your ductless heat pump is set at for efficiency.
Heat Exchangers or Heat-Recovery-Ventilation units are also code in newer homes in Nova Scotia, they have their purpose but should be used in moderation, especially in the winter months.
You are taking your conditioned air and replacing it with fresh outside air that's either very cold or very hot and humid. You do recover a bit of your conditioned air but not all of it, resulting in higher power consumption and making it harder to heat/cool your home.
A good trick to knowing how much or little air is required for your home is take a look at your windows, if you notice condensation starting to accumulate, you should turn the humidity down a little more.
Its a very fine line to either make your home breath or start wasting unnecessary conditioned air.
Outside Unit Best Practices
Covering the outside units too much is just as bad as leaving them uncovered in some circumstances, the idea is to protect it from roof top snow loads as well as cross-wind conditions that could damage your unit or reduce efficiency.
You want it to be able to ventilate as much as possible.
If making a shelter, its best to go a little less then originally planned, it will be better in the long run.
Summer/Fall - Foliage, Trees and Flowers too close to the condensing unit will affect its performance and cooling capability.
Also by having the drain line too close to the ground will cause insects and other small animals to make their way up the drain line.
Winter - Snowdrifts and ice will restrict airflow and defrosting capability, so its good to keep it clear as much as possible.
Icing up - If your unit ices up on the outside in the winter time, it will drastically reduce efficiency and will continue to get worse. The best and easiest thing to do when this happens is to just turn your ductless heat pump on Air Conditioning.
This basically extends your defrost cycle by heating up the outside unit and melting the ice, you can do this until the ice buildup is gone, but keep in mind, the inside unit will be blowing cold air so its best to keep on "low" fan.
Although the icing up condition could be caused by a malfunctioning unit, its more likely the case of wind direction/humidity or temperature.
Unit Not Acting Right?
Turn the unit off with the remote, then shut the whole unit off at the breaker for approximately 30 minutes.
Just like a computer, it gives time for everything to reset and the compressor outside time to cool down and settle.
If that doesn't work, replace the batteries in the remote, sometimes it will give the unit wrong signals.
Water Running Down The Walls?
It means you have a blockage in your drain line going outside. This is usually a cause of a very dirty and moldy unit.
For a temporary fix; go outside with a wet shop vacuum and locate the drain line outside, put the vacuum hose over the drain line and make a good seal with your hand or tape.
Turn the vacuum on and you will feel a large rush of water and debris going into the vacuum.
This should fix your issue temporarily, and should be deep cleaned as soon as possible to prevent further issues.
Unit Icing Up Outside?
If your unit ices up on the outside in the winter time, it will drastically reduce efficiency and will continue to get worse. The best and easiest thing to do when this happens is to just turn your ductless heat pump on Air Conditioning.
This basically extends your defrost cycle by heating up the outside unit and melting the ice, you can do this until the ice buildup is gone, but keep in mind, the inside unit will be blowing cold air.
Usual temperature not enough anymore?
If you find yourself chasing the temperature up or down more than usual its most likely in need of a deep cleaning due to lack of airflow.