Heat Pump Cleaning: Can I do it myself?

Date Aug 3, 2020
Blog category Power
By Staff Writer

Regular heat pump cleaning and maintenance is essential for keeping the unit power efficient at making your house feel warm and comfortable. Done properly, your unit will keep performing well throughout its lifetime, even during the cold winter months. Of course, as with anything involving a complex piece of machinery, you may find it daunting to take the unit apart to figure out if you can do this maintenance yourself. 

Ideally, you should factor in heat pump maintenance in your yearly heating budget. Getting a professional team to look at your unit can be handy in identifying defects or problems that keep it from working efficiently. However, if your budget is a little tight right now, you can still conduct some heat pump cleaning yourself.

Doing it yourself

Of course, you cannot expect to do all the upkeep jobs by yourself, especially if you are not a professional. In general, these are the tasks that should be quite easy to do on your own, without risking any damage to your heat pump:

Filter cleaning

Dirty filters are the prime suspect for inefficient airflow, as dust and grime can clog up the fan and put the compressor at risk - so be sure to check your filter monthly. In most units, you can simply open the front panel and remove the filters manually. Use a light vacuum cleaner or a hose of running water to remove all the gunk that had accumulated inside. It’s recommended to do this every 8 to 12 weeks. You may have to increase the frequency of cleaning if the unit is near the kitchen though, as it sucks up the oil, making it easier for grime to build up.

Cleaning the outdoor coil

Heat pump coils tend to get clogged around the spring or summer times, due to all the plant clippings flying around. Before any cleaning, ensure that the unit is off, as it is an electrical unit. Remove all the large debris that has accumulated by hand, and either vacuum or hose down the grime that is stuck on the coils. Careful not to bend any of the fins though. You can use either traditional water and soap combination or a specialized condenser coil cleaner for cleaning.

Cleaning the indoor components

Cleaning indoor components do seem like it’s more of a specialist’s job, but it is still possible to do this yourself if you’re comfortable with opening up your unit. You can use some compressed air or even a soft brush to remove dust buildup in the blower fans, and even the condensate pan. You may need to unscrew and remove the components for a more thorough heat pump maintenance clean.

When to call in a specialist?

Of course, there are limits as to what you can do when it comes to heat pump maintenance unless you are a qualified HVAC tech yourself. When it comes to certain aspects, you may want to enlist the help of a professional.

Checking and refilling the refrigerant

When you notice that your heat pump or AC system is not working efficiently, low refrigerant levels could be a potential cause for concern. A technician can sort this problem out for you. They can add or reduce refrigerant to your unit, as well as sort out any leaks it may have. Depending on where you are, you will need a license in order to do this, so it’s best to leave this to the specialists.

Electrical components

Routine heat pump cleaning conducted by specialists includes checking the electrical components - such as the controls and thermostat - and ensuring that all the components are working properly. With some units, attempting to open this up yourself may void the warranty, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and let the accredited professionals handle it.

Mechanical components

While it’s possible to clean and maintain some mechanical parts (fans, coils, etc) by yourself, a specialist may be able to spot any defects or missed spots. Take the condenser coils for instance; its fins may become bent or distorted due to external factors. A specialist would have a much better chance of restoring these for you. Specialists can tell you if there are any damaged components and sort them out before they escalate into more serious issues.

Calling in a specialist heat pump cleaning crew can also be handy if you are unable to disassemble and carry the heavier components due to health problems, or even just old age. You may need to pay for a specialist team to look at it, but it does result in a more thorough clean.

Other steps you can take to ensure your unit is working properly

You can take some steps to minimize dirt and grime buildup in your unit by taking care of its surroundings. As previously stated, try to keep the unit away from the kitchen as much as possible in order to avoid sucking up oil particles. Also, clear out its outdoor surroundings from common debris like leaves, twigs, and other obstructions. If there is shrubbery growing around the area, always make sure it’s trimmed well to avoid interfering with airflow and to keep your unit power-efficient.

Simple steps like these may be time-consuming, but it does help with keeping your heat pump maintenance costs low, and your unit much more efficient. Of course, it doesn’t harm to get a specialist to conduct a more thorough clean either! At the end of the day, it all depends on your capability and budget. Either way helps in keeping your home just a bit more cosy for the cold winter months.