Is Your Heat Pump Producing Smoke?

Heat pumps function differently than a traditional heating system or window air conditioner. Rain and snow can lead to certain behaviors in the unit that may cause alarm in first-time heat pump users. Most homeowners tend to call for emergency HVAC service as soon as they notice something strange with their heat pump; however, by knowing which things are normal and which aren’t, you can save yourself a lot of trouble and panic.

One example of strange heat pump behavior is when the outdoor unit appears to be generating smoke. Users often assume that the smoke is coming from a malfunctioning fan motor because the fans usually stop working when this happens, but fortunately the truth is actually a bit less concerning. Here our experts at J&M explain why a smoking heat pump may not be a problem.


Is It Smoke?

While it may certainly appear like smoke, it might not actually be smoke. Before you call your local air conditioning service provider, take a closer look at the outdoor unit. The “smoke” you’re seeing is probably steam, and it’s likely coming from the coils in the heat exchanger. Pay attention to the fans as well to see if they’re still continuously blowing air through your duct network. If you see both of these things happening, don’t panic. It’s a normal part of heat pump operation.

Where Is It Coming From?

On cold days, the heat exchanger can become covered by a layer of frost, which will affect its efficiency. Heat pumps have a mechanism that detects this automatically, which then triggers “defrost” mode in the system. The thin layer of ice melts and evaporates, producing the steam you see. While this is happening, the fans will also stop in order to avoid blowing the steam back into your ducts.

Should You Call a Professional?

Defrosting heat pumps are normal; however, if it starts to produce smoke instead of steam, contact our HVAC experts at J&M Air Conditioning & Heating right away. Give us a call at (951) 663-4895 (San Jacinto) or (760) 253-9631 (Palm Desert) to schedule a repair visit. You may also fill out our contact form to request a free estimate today. We serve homeowners in Hemet and all surrounding areas in CA.