How to Prepare Your Heat Pump for Winter in Nebraska: A Complete Checklist

Advice For Homeowners, Guides, Heating

At Star City Heating & Cooling, we make it easy to keep your heat pump ready for the cold Nebraska winters. Follow this checklist to make sure you’ve protected your system before cold weather arrives.

Posted by Payton | December 21, 2023 | Reading Time:

The cold Nebraska winters can be tough on you and your household, so keeping your heating equipment functional is essential. Your heat pump can provide reliable warmth throughout the coldest months of the year, but you’ll need to follow a few steps to make sure it works properly.

Our team at Star City Heating & Cooling can help. We’ve provided heat pump installations in Lincoln, NE and the surrounding communities for years, so we’re here to show you everything you’ll need to do to keep yours in great shape no matter how cold it gets outside.

See Also: The 2023 Nebraska Heat Pump Buyer’s Guide

DIY Heat Pump Prep

Some of the things your heat pump needs before winter are easy enough to do on your own without specialized tools or knowledge. Here’s a list:

Outdoor heat pump units near Nebraska home

Prepping Your Outdoor Unit

Your heat pump’s outdoor unit plays a critical role in transferring heat into your home. Take these steps to winterize it:

  • Clear Debris: Remove leaves, twigs, and other debris from around the outdoor unit—at least two or three feet away. This prevents blockages and maintains airflow efficiency.
  • Inspect for Damage: Look for any signs of wear or damage to the unit. Check for rust, loose connections, or damaged pipes.
  • Check for Ice or Snow Build-Up: In snowy regions, regularly check the outdoor unit for ice or snow accumulation and gently clear it off.
  • Test the Defrost Mode: Ensure the heat pump’s defrost mode is functioning correctly to prevent the buildup of ice during operation.

Man inspecting air filter for residential heat pump

Cleaning or Changing Your Filter

Air source heat pumps have easily replaceable filters, just like forced air furnaces. You’ll want to change the filter in yours at least once every three months during the heating season (and as often as once each month for best results). Here’s how:

  • Locate Your Furnace Filter: The filter is usually found inside the indoor unit or the return air vent.
  • Check the Filter Type: Determine whether you have a reusable or disposable filter. Reusable filters can be cleaned, while disposable filters must be replaced.
  • Inspect and Clean/Replace the Filter: If you have a reusable filter, use a vacuum to remove dust, then rinse it with water. Let it dry completely before putting it back in. If you have a disposable filter, simply replace it with a new one.
  • Check the Filter Size: Always use the correct filter size for your heat pump. The required size is usually printed on the side of the filter.
  • Install the Filter Correctly: Make sure the filter is installed in the right direction. There should be an arrow on the filter indicating the way the air should move through the filter.

Homeowner setting thermostat for heat pump to 68 degrees fahrenheit

Setting Your Thermostat

Your heat pump is controlled by your thermostat, so take these steps to make sure it’s working properly:

  • Check the Batteries: Do this before the heating season (if you have a battery-powered thermostat).
  • Use ‘Heat’ Mode: Many thermostats have different modes. Set yours to ‘Heat.’
  • Set the Temperature: 68°F (20°C) is a typical daytime setting for most thermostats when people are home. Consider lowering the temperature when away or at night to save energy.
  • Consider a Smart Thermostat: Smart thermostats automatically adjust your heat pump to raise or lower the temperature in your home as needed. They can also learn and adapt to your routines, saving energy (and money) over time.

Vacuum being used to clean dust out of air vent for home HVAC system with heat pump

Clearing Your Vents & Registers

Duct cleaning is a professional job, but you can take a few steps to make sure air treated by your heat pump passes through your vents effectively:

  • Visually Check Vents: Look at your vents and registers to make sure they’re not dirty or blocked by objects (like furniture or rugs).
  • Dust and Clean: Remove any dust or debris you find with a vacuum cleaner.

See Also: The Homeowner’s Guide to Duct Cleaning: Why It Can’t Be Ignored
Insulated ducts and attic crawlspace in home with air source heat pump

Checking Your Insulation

Your home’s insulation ensures that air treated by your heat pump won’t escape to the outdoors. Here are a few easy things you can do to assess it:

  • Seal Windows and Doors: Use weather stripping or caulk to seal any drafts around windows and doors.
  • Use Heavy Curtains or Thermal Blinds: These can help keep heat in and cold out.
  • Check Attic and Basement Insulation: Look for any obvious gaps that could allow heat to escape from the home in cold weather.
  • Look at Your Ductwork: Check visible portions to make sure there are no poorly-insulated sections in unheated areas of the home.

HVAC tech working on outdoor unit of air source heat pump in fall to make it ready for winter

Winter Heat Pump Preparation Tasks for Professionals Only

Some heat pump maintenance should only be carried out by our Star City professionals. Here are a few of the pre-winter tasks we’ll carry out for your heat pump when you have us perform an annual heating tune-up:

Outdoor Unit Tasks

Our team can work with the sensitive components in your outdoor unit to ensure that it performs properly when winter starts. We’ll:

  • Straighten the Fins: Carefully straighten any bent fins on the coil. Bent fins can impede airflow and reduce efficiency.
  • Ensure Proper Drainage: Check that the area around the heat pump is well-drained. Puddles of water can freeze and cause damage.
  • Inspect the Insulation on Refrigerant Lines: Make sure the insulation on the refrigerant lines running to and from the outdoor unit is intact and in good condition.

Indoor Heat Pump Tasks

The indoor unit of your heat pump also contains numerous parts that require an experienced hand. Our team can:

  • Check the Safety Controls: Make sure all safety features are functioning properly.
  • Inspect the Electrical Connections: Identify and secure loose connections to lower the risk of shocks or fires.
  • Inspecting & Cleaning Ductwork: Similar to furnaces, ductwork in all homes with heat pumps should be checked and cleaned for efficiency. Learn more about duct cleaning for Nebraska homes.
  • Calibrating the Thermostat: Ensure accuracy and proper placement away from heat sources.
  • Lubricating Moving Parts: Use appropriate types and amounts of lubricant for each moving part in your heat pump to reduce wear and tear over time.

Find Your Heat Pump Maintenance Partners in Nebraska

Use the steps above to make your heat pump ready for Nebraska’s harsh winter conditions, and remember to contact Star City for the tasks that need expert assistance. With our help, you’ll be able to depend on your heat pump for versatile climate control throughout the year’s coldest weather—then enjoy reliable cooling once spring and summer arrive.

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