Mini-Split Musings

Surviving a Cold Snap!

January 15, 2017

The Northwest cold snap is about to end! It was a bit harsh...The lake near our house stayed frozen for about two weeks lessening the available open water for the ducks and geese who live on it, driving was a bit more treacherous than usual, and I’m sure that a few of my plants will not be around come Spring. Such is the Nature of Life. 

Judging by the service calls we received during the extreme temperature change, a few Ductless Heat Pumps reacted a bit differently that normal. There are a couple reasons for that. One, the ductless heat pumps, and we, simply need time to adjust to the sudden demands brought on by unusual temperatures for our region. The DHPs are calibrated, if you will, for our temperate climate and the ‘effective zone’ that you’re heating. A sudden drop in temperature may make them react in a way that you don’t expect. The DHP may need to work harder than normal; or need assistance from the backup system. If you have a backup heating system, set its thermostat at a temperature below the ductless heat pump’s thermostat setting. Then if backup heating is required, the existing heating system will automatically come on to keep your house from getting too cold. With severe temperature changes, like the ones we just experienced, you also may need to reduce the size of the ‘effective zone’ by closing doors to unused portions of the house. But these are temporary steps only.

 Another reason for a ductless heat pump to respond differently than normal during times of severe weather changes may be due to a condition that I call ‘Out-of-sight, Out-of-mind’. When the ductless heat pump behaves as it should during all of the months of temperate weather, the homeowners (that includes us) simply forget to do the regular maintenance steps that we recommend in our ‘Top Ten Things to Know’ homeowner education sheet offered at the completion of the install. Consider that the ductless heat pump regularly takes in air from the outdoors to operate effectively. Keeping the coils of the indoor unit clean, and the outdoor unit free of debris is key to keeping your ductless heat pump ‘healthy’ and able to respond under adverse conditions. In this case, if your ductless heat pump cannot get air, it cannot produce the heat you need. Remember, if your filters are dirty and the outside unit cannot get adequate air, turning up the remote or thermostat will not result in increased indoor temperatures. Cleaning is easy. 

Remember that these seasonal and severe weather adjustments are normal. It is helpful to review the materials that were left by your installer and refer to the troubleshooting guide in ‘Top Ten Things to Know’ to see if you can avoid a service call. We don’t mind coming to check things out, but to save you a bit of time, and anxiety, refer to the guide first. In case you misplaced our folder of information, here it is in abbreviated form:

Top Ten Things to Know

  1. Read the manual
  2. Set the mode of operation (make sure it’s in HEAT setting, until summer, of course)
  3. Use AUTO for fan speed only
  4. Set the temperature (do not use Auto)
  5. Avoid adjusting the temperature setting-Ductless heat pumps adjust to changing conditions automatically.
  6. Clean the filters regularly-cannot say this enough.
  7. Live in the zone-If you do not need to heat a room in your house, close the door to that room. Conversely, leave it open if you need to heat it.
  8. Let the heat pump work-Use it as your primary system, UNLESS you need to allow the backup to operate in severe conditions (see second paragraph above)
  9. Understand the defrost function-This is an automatic, and necessary function of a Ductless heat pump. It only lasts up to 15 minutes.
  10. Get used to the sounds and smells of your heat pump. Although your Ductless heat pump is very quiet, you might hear the following normal sounds:
  • Whirring, clicking, the sound of ‘rushing fluid’ and a sudden ‘whoosh’ sound of the compressor turning off. The outdoor unit will make a sort of vibrating hum while on, too.
  • Sometimes, a new smell might occur, particularly when the indoor unit begins to produce AC after having the winter off.

 Remember, we’ll always be here to help you. That’s who we are...Customer first, Customer always.

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