Three Common Signs that Your Heat Pump is Running Low on Refrigerant

Some homeowners are surprised to learn that a heat pump requires refrigerant in order to function properly, but this is the case. The refrigerant is subjected to changes in pressure and temperature, reverting from liquid to gas and then back again in order to warm or cool the surrounding air. However, though your heat pump uses refrigerant, it should never actually run out. If the level of refrigerant becomes lower, it means that there is a leak, which can cause serious problems.

Here are just three common signs that your heat pump is losing refrigerant.

1. Ice on the Evaporator Coils

Given the name, you might expect a lack of refrigerant to cause a build-up of heat. However, this is not what happens. A lack of refrigerant will mean that the heat pump has problems absorbing heat. In turn, this will make the interior of the pump colder and make it more likely for moisture to develop. When this happens, the moisture that lies against the evaporator coils will start to freeze. As this occurs, heat absorption is further impaired, creating a vicious cycle. If you can open up the machine and see ice on the evaporator coils, your heat pump certainly requires attention.

2. Motor Problems

With too little refrigerant in your heat pump and ice over the evaporator coils, your motor is going to start to experience problems of its own. After all, a proper system will see the electrical motor cooled by the refrigeration system. Without proper cooling, the motor can begin to overheat; you may find that it starts shutting off while in use, or you may find that the circuit breaker is tripped. Replacing a heat pump motor can be expensive, so make sure this isn't a problem that you ignore.

3. Rise in Energy Bills

Heat pumps tend to consume a fair amount of electricity, but not enough to make them stand out too much. Unfortunately, having a low amount of refrigerant can place more stress on almost every part of a heat pump. Thanks to that additional stress, the system will have to work harder. It will also need to work harder thanks to the build-up of ice within the system; this will form a barrier between coils and air, meaning that more energy needs to be expended to cool the air. As a result of all these issues, it is not uncommon to find that your energy bills start to rise over time. There could be other reasons for this, of course, but low heat pump refrigerant levels are one.