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Why Does My Heat Pump Blow Cold Air in the Winter?

Although Arizona is famous for its scorching summers, the winters can also be bitterly cold, particularly in Tucson, one of the coldest regions in the state. During the chilly season, the last thing you want is your heat pump blowing cold air. So, why does this happen? To answer this question, we must first cover a few things, including how heat pumps transfer heat compared to creating it and the difference in "feel" between a heat pump and a conventional furnace.

Once you understand how a heat pump operates, we can explore some possible reasons why a heat pump might blow cold air, such as incorrect thermostat settings, clogged air filters, a dirty outdoor unit, or issues with the reversing valve. We will elaborate on these problems and explain how to resolve them below.

Are you worried about your heat pump performance?

Contact the HVAC pros at George Brazil for fast, reliable service backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee. In most cases, we'll get your unit fixed same-day, and our 100-point heat pump tune-ups can help keep the repair bills at bay. Call us today at (602) 842-0009 or book below.

How Heat Pumps Transfer Heat vs. Create Heat

Unlike traditional furnaces, heat pumps do not heat the air. Instead, they absorb heat from the air outside your home and transfer it indoors. Believe it or not, despite the cold temperatures outside, winter air still contains sufficient heat for the heat pump’s refrigerant to absorb, with heat pumps capable of operating effectively down to 5° F. However, they can begin to struggle when temperatures fall below 40° F, at which point resistance heating takes over.

The Difference in "Feel" Between a Heat Pump and Traditional Furnace

You may be wondering why you feel cold air when your heat pump is functioning correctly. The reason for this is that if you're accustomed to traditional furnaces, you're likely used to air that has been heated directly, often up to 120 degrees or higher. In contrast, heat pumps can produce air that is only around 85 degrees, which may feel cooler in comparison.

Possible Reasons for the Heat Pump Blowing Cold Air

If your heat pump is blowing cold air when set to heat, it could meanone of the following problems:

  • Wrong thermostat settings
  • Clogged air filter(s)
  • Dirty outdoor unit
  • An issue with the reversing valve

The Wrong Thermostat Settings

A right pointer finger pressing the down arrow on a touchscreen thermostat showing 70 degrees

The first thing you should check if your heat pump is blowing cold air in the winter is your thermostat settings. You need to ensure that your thermostat is set to “Heat” and the fan is set to “AUTO.” If your fan setting is set to “On,” your heat pump will blow air, whether heated or not. When set to "AUTO", your heat pump will only blow air when heated.

Clogged Air Filters

A square dirty air filter on a wood plank floor, leaning against a wall.

A clogged air filter can cause your entire heat pump system to freeze up, and before that happens, it may begin to blow cold air into your home, making it very uncomfortable. As with any HVAC system, keeping your air filters clean is essential, which is particularly important for heat pumps. If you experience any problems with your heat pump's performance, the first step you should take is to check the air filter.

Dirty Outdoor Unit

Your outdoor unit gets exposed to some pretty extreme conditions. Sand, dirt, dust, bacteria, and anything that can and will clog up the evaporator coil can lead to a major problem with your heat pump. As the coils get covered, the unit works harder and harder to produce heat until it eventually fails altogether.

Take a look at your unit. If it's dirty and your heat pump is struggling to produce enough warmth, it could mean you need professional cleaning. Don't worry. This is usually included in a maintenance visit. If you still need to schedule your annual maintenance, it's a good reminder to do so now.

An Issue with the Reversing Valve

The reversing valve is critical in switching your heat pump from cooling to heating mode. If the valve malfunctions, your heat pump may remain in cooling mode, resulting in cold air blowing out of the vents instead of warm air. To resolve this issue, you should seek the assistance of a professional technician who can inspect your system and make the necessary repairs.

Why Heat Pump Maintenance Will Help You Avoid Problems

Regular maintenance is critical to ensure the longevity and efficient operation of your heat pump. Over time, components can become dirty, clogged, or worn out, which can cause your heat pump to work harder than it needs to, leading to higher energy bills and potentially costly repairs. Routine maintenance, such as cleaning or replacing air filters, inspecting electrical connections, and checking refrigerant levels, can prevent these issues and keep your heat pump running smoothly. Additionally, regular maintenance can identify potential problems early, allowing for prompt repairs before they become major issues. By investing in regular maintenance, you can extend the life of your heat pump, ensure optimal performance, and potentially save money in the long run.

At George Brazil, we believe that regular maintenance is key to keeping your HVAC system in good health. That’s why we offer a comprehensive HVAC tune-up service to our clients. Our experienced technicians will perform a thorough inspection of your system, clean critical components, and test the performance and efficiency of your HVAC system. This helps identify any potential issues before they turn into costly repairs. We also offer a satisfaction guarantee to give our customers peace of mind. Trust George Brazil to keep your HVAC system running smoothly and efficiently.

Need help with heat pump maintenance?

Contact the HVAC pros serving the Phoenix-Metro area since 1955—George Brazil. We offer comprehensive heat pump tune-ups and fast and convenient scheduling. Contact us today by calling (602) 842-0009 or booking below.