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Bayonet Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning Blog

Is Your Heat Pump Smoking!?

“Yes, I think I have an emergency,” a customer says.

“What seems to be the problem?” says the technician.

“My outdoor unit is smoking,” says the customer. “There is steam or smoke coming from the top of the unit! Is it going to explode?”

No, it isn’t! It’s January in Florida and the mercury plunged overnight. When weather extremes hit us, some comfort systems struggle to keep up with demand. In this area, many homeowners have opted for the ultra efficient heat pump technology. It provides energy-efficient cooling and heating and is a great option for a comfort system.

Many times, we receive calls from customers just like the example above who are concerned about steam coming from the top of their heat pump when it is really cold outside. That’s really part of normal operation of a heat pump system.

Heat pumps work by extracting heat out of the air and exchanging it to alter the temperature of the conditioned space. Sounds simple, right? Well, it works well until the outdoor temperature drops to near freezing. When that happens, the unit outside can actually freeze! The engineers behind AC systems have figured that out too: they invented a defrost mode for the unit.

To explain it very simply, the unit actually reverses the cycle and turns the air conditioning on for a few minutes to defrost the outdoor unit. Inside, you shouldn’t feel it; in fact, you should stay nice and cozy thanks to your auxiliary strip heater inside the air handling unit. It powers up and offsets the cold air so you and your family stay warm.

Meanwhile, the defrost cycle completes and the outdoor unit becomes a heat pump again, but during the cycle, if you happen to be standing outside, your unit might steam a little! It’s perfectly normal in these conditions.

Do you have any specific questions? Click on our ask an expert link and send us your questions. We will always send a response within 24 hours.

Don’t sweat! Call Bayonet!

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