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Does Your Heat Pump Have “Dirty Sock Syndrome?”

A smelly heat pump signals the need for a biannual heat pump maintenance visit.

Does Your Heat Pump Have “Dirty Sock Syndrome?”Heat pumps are often touted as a highly efficient and cost-effective heating and cooling solution for mild climates like southern California. And this is certainly true—because they get most of their heating and cooling power from the temperature differential between the indoor and outdoor air, heat pumps consume very little energy.

However, they are prone to one unusual problem you have probably never experienced with your furnace or air conditioner: dirty sock syndrome.

What on earth is dirty sock syndrome?

It’s nothing so serious as it might sound. It basically just means your heat pump has a bad smell, kind of like a damp, dirty sock.

Why does your heat pump stink?

In order to understand why the air coming out of your heat pump might smell like a dirty sock, it helps to understand a little bit about how heat pumps work.

Heat pumps consist of an indoor coil and an outdoor coil filled with refrigerant, plus a blower to circulate your air. In the wintertime, the refrigerant enters the outdoor coil under low pressure, making it very cold—colder than the outdoor air. The cold refrigerant then absorbs heat from the outdoor air and transfers it back inside via the indoor coil. In the summertime, the system can be reversed so that heat is transferred out of your home.

All of this heat transferring can lead to issues with condensation on your indoor coil or within your blower. And where there is heat and moisture, there is mold. This is the root cause of your heat pump’s dirty sock smell.

How to remove mold from a heat pump

Obviously, if you want your heat pump to stop putting out stinky air, you need to clean all the mold from the system. The best way to do this is to call in a professional HVAC contractor such as Econo West Heating Air & Plumbing. We can not only thoroughly clean the coils without damaging them, but also sanitize the coils to help prevent future mold growth.

For the ultimate protection against dirty sock syndrome, however, you need to keep up with your routine heat pump service. You should get service twice per year—ideally when you switch your heat pump from heating to cooling in the spring and from cooling to heating in the fall. This not only ensures the coils stay clean but also provides an opportunity for preventative maintenance and repairs.

If you need heat pump repairs or maintenance, please call us at (661) 947-2653 right away.

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