Your outdoor heat pump is also known as the outdoor condenser unit. With a central AC system, the heat pump dispenses heat outdoors in order to keep your home cool and comfortable.

An outdoor heat pump can also be used for heating. It does this by extracting heat from the outdoor environment and transferring it indoors. Learn if you have a heat pump for heating or just air conditioning.

Regardless of if you have a traditional air conditioner or a heat pump that is used for cooling and heating, you want to protect it.

How to Protect Your Heat Pump

If you have a heat pump that you are using for heating, it’s important to make sure nothing is blocking airflow.

Your heat pump needs routine maintenance just like the other parts of your HVAC system. You don’t want snow, ice, leaves, debris, pests, or anything else damaging your heat pump

Ensure Proper Airflow

In order to the compressor and condenser to work properly, proper airflow is essential. Just like a dirty air filter restricts airflow to your evaporator coils, a dirty outdoor unit will restrict airflow to the condenser coils.

Make sure there is a minimum 2-foot clearance around the entire heat pump unit. Always turn the unit off completely before working or cleaning around it.

When dirty or broken components restrict airflow, efficiency levels will decrease and your chances of compressor and condenser damage will increase.

That’s why it’s important to regularly check and clean the area around your outdoor heat pump, but this should not take the place of a professional heating tune-up by a certified technician. If you haven’t scheduled your annual heating tune-up yet, contact OnTime Service for a professional heating inspections and cleaning.

A professional heating tune-up will also prevent safety hazards such as gas and carbon monoxide leaks, as well as improving energy efficiency and indoor air quality.

In addition to annual heating maintenance, take the time once a month to check the condition of the outdoor unit. Learn how to clean heat pump condenser coils.

Minimize Exposure

After a professional inspection and cleaning, and ensuring the area around your outdoor heat pump is clean, you should try to minimize the condenser’s exposure to ice, snow, leaves, dirt, and other debris from things like dryer vents, falling leaves and twigs, and cut grass from the lawnmower.

Don’t plant anything too close to the heat pump as they can easily grow and encroach on the unit. Learn more outdoor fall maintenance tasks.

Don’t Cover the Unit for Winter

If your heat pump is used exclusively for cooling, you may be tempted to cover it for the winter season. While it may seem reasonable, there are many unforeseen consequences of covering the unit.

A covered heat pump can create a shelter for pests, who may decide to create a nest or chew on the wiring. Additionally, the cover can create a buildup of moisture inside leading to mold and moisture damage.

Why You Might Want a Top Cover

Your outdoor heat pump is designed and built to withstand harsh weather conditions. Most manufacturers do not recommend covering them.

But… it can be a good idea to cover just the top part of the unit to prevent icicles, tree branches, and other items from falling on and damaging the unit.

If you do decide to cover your outdoor AC unit for winter, first make sure you don’t rely on the heat pump for heating. Running the outdoor unit with any type of cover can seriously harm the unit.

While it’s probably not necessary to cover your heat pump in the winter, if you live in an area that experiences hail storms and blizzards, a cover can help protect your unit.

If a blizzard is in the forecast, we recommend covering it before the storm and then uncovering it right after. You can purchase outdoor heat pump covers for around $30-$40.

If you are afraid of hail, icicles, branches, and other items falling on top of the unit, consider covering the top of your unit. Use a piece of plywood weighed down with a couple bricks or heavy rocks. You can also install a wood awning or shelter above the unit.

Visually inspect the area above the unit to make sure there are no weak tree branches that could fall and damage your unit.

Heat Pump Defrost Cycle

If you use your heat pump for heating, it has a defrost cycle that gets rid of accumulated ice and snow.

The defrost cycle runs hot refrigerant to the outdoor unit to melt any ice and snow. During this time, you may experience cool air coming through your air vents. This is normal. Just wait about 10-15 minutes and the heat should kick back on.

If, however, the defrost cycle isn’t working properly and there is still an accumulation of snow and ice on your unit. If there is ice and snow covering your heat pump for more than 3 hours, contact a certified technician as soon as you can!


Be careful about covering your outdoor heat pump unit! Do NOT wrap your heat pump in plastic. NEVER cover your heat pump if you rely on it for heating. Speak with a certified professional before you think about covering or blocking your outdoor unit. There are ways to hide an outdoor unit without blocking airflow.

If you are having any problems with your heat pump, contact the experts at OnTime Service. If you haven’t scheduled professional air conditioning maintenance this year, contact the experts at OnTime Service.


We service, repair, maintain, and install all makes and models of heating and coolings systems. Our experienced team of technicians will troubleshoot your home and give you straightforward pricing options.

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