This is a super NEWB question but - I have just bought a home with a "heat pump" and it is running all day and night (in the dead of winter), some of my neighbors have their "exterior boxes/units" covered and closed - maybe theirs are only AC units?

Anyways - my heat pump (Rheem RPLB-030JAZ) has a huge fan (on top) so snow is getting inside and runs 24/7/365 ... is this normal? Should it be closed up or covered? Am I forgetting some kind of setting or something that I am not aware of?


  • I'd have a heating service come look at it -- it's not unusual for the heat pump to be active in the winter depending on climate, but if it's running 24x7, then something is not right -- supplemental heat should kick on before that happens. Might need a coolant recharge or some other service.
    – Johnny
    Dec 13 '14 at 23:39

Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps and are just refrigeration systems. The following are the differences:

Air Conditioners

Dedicated cooling only systems are often referred to as Air Conditioners and have a single usage cycle that dehumidifies and cools the interior air in the living space. These are turned off in winter time for the obvious reason that you no longer need cool air inside and so often are winter-proofed to also prevent air leakage and precipitation intrusion.

Heat Pumps

Dual purpose heating/cooling systems are referred to as Heat Pumps and have a reversible cycle. They can be used to both Air Condition and Heat the living space by switching the direction of refrigerant flow.

In the summer time, they cool the interior by heating the outside atmosphere. In winter time, they heat the interior by cooling the outside atmosphere. Hence the name Heat Pump.

They run year around and therefore must have free airflow through them year around (not be winter-proofed with air-tight coverings). Having some sort of roof with clearance to allow free airflow and to keep the snow out would be a really good idea.


Go to the outdoor unit in the heat mode and see how hot the large copper pipe is going to the outdoor unit, this is the hot gas that rejects heat into your home, if this is not at least 130F better check the refrigerant level, Heat pumps maintain a temperature better than bringing a room up to temperature so they do tend to operate often, the colder it is outdoors the longer it will run, it should not run all the time if the temps outside are not so cold for example at 60F it should not berunning all the time or you will have problems when its 40 F or less.

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