Why Do Compressors Fail In Condo Heat Pumps? – Toronto & GTA

This article explores common reasons why Condo Heat Pump Compressors Fail and discusses preventative strategies to avoid unwanted and costly repairs.

It takes a lot to break a heat pump compressor. Heat, Acid Contamination, Leaks & Electrical issues are the leading causes of compressor failure in Toronto & GTA condo buildings.

According to compressor manufacturers Emerson Electric Co, a surprising 30% of compressors returned under warranty are misdiagnosed as faulty by service companies. This means many homeowners are unnecessarily replacing entire heat pump systems due to a repairable compressor issue. 


Facing a Heat Pump Replacement Due to a Faulty Compressor? Hold off on that full system replacement! 

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Understanding Condo Heat Pump Compressor Failure: Causes and Solutions

Condo Water Source Heat Pumps typically rely on rotary or scroll compressors, which are the industry standard for condo heat pumps due to their efficiency and reliability. Here are (3) common reasons for compressor failures:

1. Air, Moisture, and Oil Contamination

A heat pump compressor is designed to work with a balanced mix of refrigerant and lubricating oil (Polyol Ester or POE oil). Unfortunately, the introduction of Air & Moisture has negative long-term effects on your heat pump operation. Moisture reacts with the POE oil, triggering oxidation and hindering its lubricating abilities. Furthermore, acidic contaminants are created when moisture mixes with refrigerant, preventing the compressor from operating at peak efficiency. Unlike refrigerants, these contaminants cannot change state and return to the compressor as a gas. They accumulate over time, progressively reducing system performance and efficiency. This increased resistance forces the compressor to work harder, resulting in overheating.

FAQ 1: How Do I Prevent My Heat Pump From Contamination?

This problem typically does not appear right away. While your heat pump appears to be functioning normally, it may not be noticed immediately. If a compressor continues to run with this problem, extremely high pressures develop extra stress on your system’s overall performance. Eventually, you start developing premature problems such as

  • Short cycling
  • Increased Noise
  • Longer Run Time
  • Reduced efficiency

Preventing Contamination: Early detection is key to avoiding these issues.

  • Schedule semi-annual maintenance for the condo heat pump. Any unusual noises or vibrations should be noted.
  • Request a service call if you’re experiencing frequent on-and-off cycles requiring a manual heat pump reset.

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2. Overcharging, Leaks & Running Low on Refrigerant

If your system currently looks like it is working but is inefficient, chances are there is a leak in the refrigeration compartment. If your system is diagnosed with low refrigerant levels, resist the urge for a simple “top-up.” A qualified technician should first pinpoint and address the leak source before recharging the system. Failure to determine the exact cause of the malfunction may lead to overcharging and repeat failure, followed by unexpected downtime and even a bad business reputation.

Similar to the detrimental effects of insufficient refrigerant, an excess refrigerant charge can be equally damaging. Too much refrigerant creates an environment that potentially leads to compressor failure due to high pressure. Leaks, such as air and moisture, act as entry points for contamination discussed in part (1). Prioritizing leak detection and repair is essential to prevent contamination and safeguard the lifespan of your compressor.

FAQ 2. How Do I Know My Condo Heat Pump Has a Leak?

  • A qualified technician may smell or visually identify traces of oil on the heat pump chassis surface.
  • The unit may be inefficient or non-operational.
  • When the compressor runs, it provides no heating or cooling.
  • Use leak detection tools to identify leaks during the inspection procedure.

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3. Compressor Overheating & Restrictions

As discussed in part one, heat is a significant reason for forming acid & contamination in the system. These contaminants create a high-pressure and high-temperature environment for the compressors to run at peak efficiency, which exceeds the recommended manufacturer level. Heat Pump compressor oil starts forming small residues in high heat conditions. It’s called carbonization. These small residues then move & accumulate with the refrigeration compartment, causing overheating & restrictions in the system. These restrictions do not allow the refrigeration cycle to occur as the manufacturer designed, making the compressor starve for vapour refrigerant to return. Over time, the compressor will experience short cycling due to high heat conditions. The plates will start to make noise due to extra friction, followed by an electrical and mechanical malfunction. 

FAQ 3: What Does Contribute to Heat Pump Compressor Overheating?

Condo Heat Pump Compressor Testing - Toronto

If you are currently experiencing short cycling, the following steps must be taken before proceeding with any mechanical servicing on your condo heat pump. Please note that resetting heat pumps from the breaker panel will only damage your system more in the long run.

  • Dirty Condenser Coil: A dirty evaporative coil restricts airflow, hindering the system’s ability to expel heat. Regular cleaning of the evaporative coil is crucial, similar to how you wouldn’t expect a car engine to run cool with a clogged radiator.
  • Contaminated Building Water Heat Pump Loop: In water source heat pumps, the condenser features a tube-in-tube coaxial coil. This design allows refrigerant and building closed-loop water to flow in opposite directions, enabling the system to either dissipate heat to the water (cooling mode) or extract heat from the water (heating mode). Dirty building water passing through the condenser coil (Coaxial Coil) can reduce heat transfer efficiency. This forces the compressor to work harder, leading to overheating.

Don’t Replace Your Entire Condo Heat Pump! Consider Compressor Repair

At Home Trade Standards, we specialize in condo heat pump repair, refurbishment, and replacement. Our expert technicians can diagnose the true cause of your heat pump’s issue and determine if a compressor repair or refurbishment is a viable option. This can save you thousands of dollars compared to replacing the entire heat pump system.

Here’s what we can offer:

  • Expert Diagnosis: We are factory-trained and licensed to accurately assess your heat pump’s problem and determine if the compressor is truly faulty.
  • Cost-Effective Repairs: Compressor repair or refurbishment is often significantly cheaper than replacing the entire heat pump system.
  • Extended System Life: A repaired or refurbished compressor can extend the lifespan of your existing heat pump for years to come.

Don’t let a misdiagnosis lead to an unnecessary expense. Contact us today to discuss your heat pump concerns and explore the possibility of compressor repair or refurbishment!

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Contact Information:

Kevin Moeini – Business Development Manager

Home Trade Standards – Condo HVAC Specialists – Serving Toronto & GTA

Email: [email protected] | Tel: 416-736-7001

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