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Why Does My Heat Pump Have Steam Coming Out of It?


Solving the basic mysteries of heat pumps.

Heat pumps are an excellent way to heat your home in the winter. They’re efficient and effective. But they can be a bit of a mystery, too. Something you may not expect, but you may see, is steam coming out of the outdoor unit. Surprising? Indeed! Here’s the lowdown on heat pumps, including that steam situation.

What Exactly Is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is a highly efficient HVAC system that uses the transfer of heat to warm your home. Instead of burning fuel to generate heat like furnaces do, a heat pump extracts warm air from outside and transfers it inside. It’s clean and efficient, especially in our mild climate where the temperatures outside don’t drop to extreme lows, even in the winter.

So What’s with the Steam?

When the temperature drops during the winter months, there is a certain level of moisture in the air. When your heat pump works to transfer the warmth from the outside air into your home, that moisture can build up on the coils of the heat exchanger in the outdoor unit and turn to frost and ice. When this happens, the heat pump can’t effectively transfer heat.

For the heat exchanger to properly function after the ice has built up on the coils, it must go through a defrost cycle. The fan will turn off momentarily, and the unit will defrost. Steam might rise from the unit as this happens. Mystery solved! The steam results from an entirely normal defrost cycle.

For answers to any of your questions about your heat pump system, contact the experts at H.H. Hovey Heating and Cooling today.

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