Do I need a new heat pump compressor?
Should I buy a new, off-brand, or refurbished compressor?
What is a heat pump compressor?
What does a bad compressor sound like?
Should I replace my compressor or my entire heat pump?
Do I need to hire a contractor or do I replace it myself?
These questions are answered below . . .
If your current heat pump needs a new compressor, record the make and model of your heat pump and contact a dealer. Below are links to the most common dealers in your area:
Pros of a new, equivalent compressor:
Cons of a new, equivalent compressor:
Pros of an off-brand/refurbished compressor:
Cons of an off-brand/refurbished compressor:
In conclusion, it is worth checking out the price of both an equivalent model and an off-brand model.
However, buyer beware!
If the price difference is minor.....go with the equivalent model. While most off-brand compressors do just fine, some do not.
As a result some homeowners have had to spend more money in the end because the heat pump compressor failed more quickly.
A compressor performs two functions within the refrigeration cycle:
When problems with the compressor exist, one or both of the above functions are affected.
Is there a difference between a compressor in a heat pump versus a standard air conditioner?
In fact, a compressor used in an air conditioner can be equally exchanged with the compressor in a heat pump (as long as the heat pump compressor performance for the cooling side of each is the same, as well as other criteria such as pressure differential and refrigerant type).
Most modern heat pumps utilize a scroll compressor, as this is typically the quietest, most efficient compressor for residential and small commercial applications.
Below is a fantastic video from Copeland, one of the largest scroll compressor manufacturers in the world.
It doesn't have any sound explaining the process, but it is somewhat intuitive. Just note for the video: the blue gas is the low temperature/low pressure refrigerant entering the compressor and the red gas is the high pressure/high temperature refrigerant leaving the compressor.
There are many, many different noise that come from a heat pump compressor which can help to diagnose problems.
First let's hear how a good compressor sounds. You will hear slight fluctuations in noise as the compressor loads and unloads.
Good scroll compressor:
Next this is a good example of a compressor that is going bad, but still operating.
Scroll compressor going bad:
When a compressor shuts down, internal equalization can cause the compressor to "backspin" if the check valves are non-existent or not working correctly. Below is an example of what this sounds like.
Scroll compressor backspin at shutdown:
To replace, or to not replace. That is the question.
The answer to this question is actually somewhat simple. Assuming that the technician has made an accurate diagnosis.....
We must determine whether or not the unit is too old to justify a brand new heat pump compressor.
A heat pump that is 5-10 years old requires a little more insight. Due to recent pressure in the HVAC industry for more energy efficiency, a heat pump that is greater than 5 years old is often very inefficient by today's standards. So if you consider the cost required to replace a heat pump compressor, as well as the energy savings that you would lose by not purchasing an efficient heat pump, usually a new heat pump is the best decision.
If the heat pump is greater than 10 years old, buy a new heat pump. Even if you hit the lottery and the heat pump lasts 20 years or more, the energy savings you would lose out on over that time would be significant.
Due to high labor costs many people ask this question. Here are a few things to consider:
With all of this considered, many decide to replace the compressor themselves. Exercise caution and be sure that you are properly trained. Perhaps there is someone that you know who is certified to handle refrigerant. In this case, you could perform the work unrelated to the handling of refrigerant.