If your space has a heat pump system that provides both heating and cooling, it may seem like there are twice as many possible causes when something goes wrong. Heat pumps do operate somewhat differently than a traditional air-cooled air conditioner. So how do you begin heat pump troubleshooting? And are there issues you can fix yourself?

In some cases, there are issues you can prevent and problems you can solve on your own when you are aware of the heat pump troubleshooting steps. Here is a list of the most common problems we see with heat pumps, possible causes and what to do next.

There are a few standard problems you should familiarize yourself with in the event you encounter a faulty heat pump. You may be able to solve some of the problems yourself, but other issues may require professional attention.


If your heat pump fails to turn on, it is more than likely that there is a problem with your thermostat or your unit receiving power.

Check the main electrical panel and any other subpanels that would supply power to the unit. The circuit breaker could have tripped and will need to be reset.

It is also advisable to check for any frayed wires around your unit. When it comes to electrical concerns, it may be time to contact a skilled professional.


During the cold winter months, your heat pump’s outside unit will sometimes be covered with a coating of frost on the sides, or even light ice. This is perfectly normal. Every so often, the unit will go into defrost mode to remove that frost.

However, if the top of the unit has a heavy coat of ice, the coils are encased in ice, or the entire unit is covered with a thick sheet of snow and ice, this indicates a problem. All that ice prevents the transfer of heat between the refrigerant and the outside air, and impedes the operation of the heat pump. If you don’t take care of it soon, you could damage the unit beyond repair. Ice in the coils can damage the sensitive fins, the fan blades, and eventually lead to compressor failure.


A heat pump transfers heat from one place to another. If your air ducts become blocked, inadequate heat is produced.

Insufficient heat production may also be caused from dust in the air filters, low thermostat settings, poor refrigerant flow or faulty valves.


Strange sounds like rattling could indicate a problem with loose hardware or a simple fix like a register out of place.

If the noise sounds more like grinding and squealing, the motor bearings could be worn. Noises are difficult to interpret. Detecting a heat pump noise early on can save you an expensive future repair or replacement.