Heat Pump Cleaning: How to Clean & Maintain Your Heat Pump


If you’re a homeowner, taking proper care of your heat pump is essential.

A well-performing heat pump can have a major impact on the comfort and energy efficiency of your home. By regularly maintaining your heat pump, you can ensure optimal performance for regulating your living space’s indoor temperature. 

In this article, we provide a step-by-step walkthrough on how to clean your heat pump, including cleaning tips for the evaporator and condenser coils. Plus, we cover the benefits of hiring a professional HVAC technician to assist with your heat pump maintenance needs.

Read on to discover everything you need to know to clean your heat pump effectively!

Before You Begin: Choosing the Right Heat Pump Cleaning Products

Heat pump cleaning products play a key role in maintaining the efficiency and longevity of heat pump systems. These specialized products are designed to remove dirt, debris, and contaminants that accumulate on the coils and other components of heat pumps. 

These cleaning solutions often contain biodegradable and environmentally friendly ingredients to minimize their impact on the ecosystem. 

Here are the essential cleaning products for heat pumps:

  • Coil Cleaner: Coil cleaner is a specialized cleaner designed to remove dirt and grime from the coils of the heat pump. It helps maintain optimal heat transfer efficiency.
  • Foaming Cleaner: Foaming solutions are useful for cleaning hard-to-reach areas. They expand to cover surfaces, ensuring thorough cleaning of coils and fins.
  • Mild Detergent: A mild detergent can be used to clean exterior surfaces and housing. Detergent helps remove dirt and stains without causing damage.
  • Soft Bristle Brush: A soft brush is handy for scrubbing away dirt and debris from surfaces that may be more delicate, such as fan blades.
  • Fin Comb: A fin comb tool helps straighten bent fins on the condenser and evaporator coils, ensuring proper airflow.
  • Garden Hose or Pressure Washer: A gentle stream of water from a hose or pressure washer can be used to rinse off cleaning solutions and debris, especially on the exterior of outdoor units.

If you are unsure of the best products to use for your heat pump, you can always refer back to your manufacturer’s guidelines. 

How To Clean Heat Pump Filter

Cleaning a heat pump filter is a relatively simple process that helps maintain the efficiency of the system. Replacing or cleaning your heat pump’s filter is the most common maintenance task for you to keep up with and should generally occur around once per month.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean a heat pump filter:

  • Turn Off the Heat Pump: Before you begin cleaning, turn off the heat pump to ensure safety.
  • Locate the Air Filter: Identify the location of the air filter in your heat pump system. The filter is typically located in the return air duct or near the air handler.
  • Remove the Filter: Carefully remove the filter from its housing. Some filters slide out, while others may require unscrewing a cover.
  • Inspect the Filter: Examine the filter for visible dirt, dust, and debris. If the filter is heavily soiled, it’s time for cleaning or replacement.
  • Vacuum or Wash the Filter: Use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to gently remove dust and debris from both sides of the filter. Ensure the vacuum is set to a low suction setting to avoid damaging the system. Alternatively, if the filter is washable, rinse it under lukewarm water. Use a mild detergent if necessary and allow the filter to air-dry completely before reinstallation.
  • Check for Damage: Inspect the filter for any signs of damage, such as holes or tears. If the filter is damaged, it’s advisable to replace it.
  • Reinstall the Filter: Once the filter is clean and dry, place it back into its housing. Ensure it is securely positioned, following the arrows or markings indicating the correct airflow direction.
  • Turn On the Heat Pump: After the filter is reinstalled, turn the heat pump back on. Monitor its performance to ensure proper airflow. If you are planning on completing a more extensive cleaning, wait until you are finished to turn your heat pump back on. 

How To Clean Heat Pump Evaporator & Condensor Coils

Cleaning your heat pump coils requires a bit more effort than cleaning the filter. 

Your heat pump system contains two types of coils — evaporator coils for absorbing heat and condenser coils for releasing heat. Maintaining these coils is essential for ensuring optimal heat pump performance and avoiding costly repairs down the line. 

Before beginning any cleaning process for either coil, always turn your heat pump off. Once you have done so, you can begin opening the device up and locating the coils. 

Let’s take a closer look at how to clean the individual evaporator and condenser coil components:

How to Clean Evaporator Coils

The process for cleaning evaporator coils is fairly straightforward and involves five main steps:

  • Access the Evaporator Coils: Locate the access panel to the indoor unit and remove it to access the evaporator coils. 
  • Use a Soft Brush: Gently brush away any loose dirt or debris on the coils using a soft brush. Be careful not to bend the delicate fins. 
  • Apply Coil Cleaner: Spray a specialized evaporator coil cleaner onto the coils as per the product’s or manufacturer’s instructions. Allow it to sit for the recommended time.
  • Rinse with Water: Use a gentle stream of water, either from a hose or a spray bottle, to rinse off the cleaner and dislodged dirt. Make sure that water doesn’t enter electrical components.
  • Let it Dry: Allow the coils to air dry completely before reassembling the unit.

How to Clean Condensor Coils

The process for cleaning condenser coils is similar to cleaning evaporator coils. The main difference between the two is that condenser coils are often located in the outside unit, requiring you to be mindful of environmental factors during the cleaning process.

Here are the five steps for cleaning condenser coils: 

  • Access the Condenser Coils: Locate the outdoor unit and remove any debris or vegetation obstructing access to the condenser coils.
  • Brush Away Debris: Use a soft brush to gently remove leaves, dirt, and debris from the condenser coils. Clear the area around the unit to keep new debris from entering the device.
  • Apply Coil Cleaner: Apply a coil cleaner specifically designed for outdoor coils. Follow the product’s or manufacturer’s instructions, allowing the cleaner to sit for the recommended time.
  • Rinse with Water: Use a hose to rinse the coils thoroughly, removing both the cleaner and dislodged debris. Ensure proper drainage of any leftover moisture. 
  • Allow Drying Time: Let the condenser coils dry completely before starting the heat pump again.

How To Clean Heat Pump Outdoor Unit

Maintaining the outdoor unit of a heat pump can often get overlooked, as it can be easy to forget about due to its outdoor location. However, cleaning your outdoor unit is essential for maintaining optimal performance and efficiency. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean the outdoor unit:

  • Turn Off the Heat Pump: Once again, always turn your heat pump off to prevent accidents during cleaning. Never try to clean or maintain your heat pump while it is on. 
  • Remove Debris: Clear any debris, leaves, or vegetation around the outdoor unit. Trim plants or bushes to provide adequate airflow.
  • Disconnect Power: If the outdoor unit has a disconnect switch, turn it off to ensure complete safety during the cleaning process.
  • Clean the Coils: Follow the steps detailed above to clean your outdoor unit’s coils. Always use a soft brush to gently remove loose debris, dirt, and dust from the condenser coils. 
  • Clean the Surrounding Area: Clear any remaining debris from the surrounding area. Ensure that there are no obstructions that might impede airflow.
  • Inspect the Fan Blades: Check the fan blades for dirt and debris. Clean them with a soft brush or cloth, acting carefully so as not to bend or damage the fan blades. 
  • Check the Fins: Inspect the fins for any bending or damage. Use a fin comb to straighten any bent fins, ensuring proper airflow.
  • Allow Drying Time: Allow the outdoor unit to air dry completely before returning power to the heat pump. Once it is completely dry, you can reconnect the power and turn the unit back on. 

How Often to Clean Your Heat Pump & When to Use Professional Services

Heat pumps are critical components of a home, helping to supply heat or cooling depending on the weather. As such, you should take special care to maintain your heat pump system adequately. 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) recommends cleaning or changing filters at least once per month.

According to the DoE, dirty filters, coils, and fans can disrupt your system’s airflow, ultimately leading to reduced efficiency. Additionally, the DoE recommends having your heat pump professionally serviced by a trained technician at least once per year. 

Hiring an HVAC technician to maintain your heat pump can be beneficial for many reasons, such as:

  • Expertise and Experience: HVAC professionals possess specialized knowledge and experience in working with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Their expertise allows them to identify issues, conduct thorough cleaning, and perform necessary maintenance with precision.
  • Comprehensive Cleaning: Professionals have access to specialized tools and cleaning solutions to perform a comprehensive cleaning of both indoor and outdoor components, including evaporator coils, condenser coils, filters, and other critical parts. 
  • Preventative Maintenance: HVAC professionals not only clean the system but also conduct a comprehensive inspection. They can identify potential issues before they escalate, preventing future breakdowns and addressing issues early on, which can save you money on costly repairs.
  • Energy Efficiency: A well-maintained heat pump operates more efficiently, leading to energy savings. HVAC professionals ensure that the system’s components are clean, reducing the workload on the unit and promoting energy efficiency, which can contribute to lower utility bills.
  • Safety and Compliance: HVAC professionals are trained to prioritize safety during maintenance. They can identify and address any safety concerns, such as electrical issues or refrigerant leaks, ensuring that the heat pump operates safely and complies with industry standards and regulations.

Hiring a qualified HVAC professional for heat pump cleaning not only guarantees a thorough and effective maintenance process but also provides you with the peace of mind that your system is in great working condition. 

What is the Cost of Professional Heat Pump Cleaning?

Forbes Home reports that annual heat pump maintenance performed by an HVAC technician costs between $100 to $200. Ensuring your heat pump is properly and regularly maintained is crucial, as Forbes Home further reports that repairs can cost upwards of $1,950 for severe repairs. 

Final Thoughts

Investing time and care into maintaining your heat pump ensures its longevity and efficiency. 

By embracing the recommended practices discussed here, you contribute to energy savings and a healthier indoor environment. Whether you tackle the cleaning yourself or enlist the expertise of HVAC professionals, the rewards can be plentiful — lower utility bills, fewer repairs, and a reliable heat pump ready to meet your heating and cooling needs. 

Here’s to a cleaner, more efficient, and comfortable home!

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