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Recognizing Problems With Your Commercial Heat Pump

Commercial HVAC systems are drastically more complicated than their residential counterparts. Although they generally work on the same principles and use functionally similar equipment, they need to heat and cool a larger building with many zones. This means that installation, maintenance, and repair is often more complicated and costly. This extra cost can lead some building owners to ignore obvious signs that a problem is brewing, but procrastination of this type is often counterproductive and leads to more expensive fixes in the future.

If your building is equipped with a heat pump system to provide warm air in the winter, this guide will help you to spot some potential warning signs.

Watch for Rapid Cycling

Cycling is a condition where the heat pump constantly turns on and off, even when it hasn't brought a room up to the proper temperature. Cycling tends to be easier to notice in homes or small commercial structures, since it can often be more difficult to tell when the pump is actually running in a much larger building. Since cycling definitely indicates a problem, though, it's still worth watching for.

Rapid cycling can have a number of causes, ranging from a simple clogged filter to a failing compressor. In some cases, the problem may have nothing to do with the heat pump at all. Since the pump is controlled by the thermostats in each zone, a malfunctioning thermostat can cause a pump that is working correctly to cycle on and off. Whatever the cause, rapid cycling will reduce the life of the system, so it is important to diagnose and correct the issue quickly.

Listen for Noises

Your heat pump system works under the same principles as an air conditioning system, except that it is drawing in warm air from outside instead of pumping warm air away from the inside. Since many of the parts of similar to an air conditioner, they tend to produce the same types of disconcerting noises as they fail. Banging, clanking, or grinding noises from the outdoor unit (or units) usually means trouble with the blower motor or the compressor.

If you notice these noises, don't wait for other symptoms to appear before having the system professionally inspected. A noisy compressor is often about to fail, so putting off a professional repair has the potential to leave your entire building without heat.

Check for Ice

If the vents in your building are blowing air that's colder than it should be, one possibility is a failure of the external defroster. Since the heat pump is drawing warmth from the outside air, the air around the pump itself will be even colder than the overall ambient temperature. This can lead to frost building up on the evaporator coils, ultimately causing the system to seize up. The built-in defroster should take care of this problem, so any ice on the evaporator coils indicates that the unit is not functioning properly.

Heat pumps have become popular in commercial buildings because they are reliable and efficient, but that doesn't mean that they don't suffer mechanical failures, from time to time. Recognizing the symptoms of a problem early is the best way to address it.

If you notice any or all of these problems or have questions about any other problems, call a commercial heating repair professional.