I Axed My Heat Pump and Now It Works Again


There was a lot more ice in the heat-pump box than I had thought, a 10 cm cake covering its floor, but getting rid of it proved easy. All I needed was a screwdriver and a small axe. The hot air gun wasn’t much use.


I turned off the power feed, took the hood off the thing, removed the rotor and hacked away the ice, taking care not to bash the fine heat-exchange lamelles lining the walls. The ice was laminated from the many defrosting cycles that had built it up, and it fractured into large easily manageable chunks. After reassembling the box I hacked away most of the remaining ice on the ground beneath it as well and put a piece of a cardboard box there to make ice removal easier in the future. Less than 20 hours after I put the cardboard there, about 0.2 litres of ice had collected on it after a lot of water had soaked into the cardboard. I shall have to get a plastic tray.

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17 thoughts on “I Axed My Heat Pump and Now It Works Again

  1. Must have felt good! Think of the Viking ancestors, who solved all kinds of problems with an axe!

    But if you’re worried about the lamelles, hose them with hot water. Water carries far more heat than air.


  2. The lamelles weren’t encased in the ice. It’s just that when you swing an axe in a cramped space you run the risk of hitting the walls. Or chunks of ice may do so.


  3. A better toolset is a cold chisel, hammer and piece of sackcloth (I used it to bust up concrete in a confined space with nearby windows). Cover the ice with the sackcloth, push the strike end of the chisel through the sackcloth and whale away. Much more precision than an axe and no flying pieces.


  4. I’d think hot water would have been the way to go as well. However, I’ve been in such situations and it always sucks. You have some task which requires a strong blow and you are in the immediate vicinity of something delicate. Never any fun, always scary. On the other hand the ability to perform surgery with an axe or fine watch repair with a sledgehammer could be an interesting skill….


  5. somewhat like the Sci-Fi movies where a good old tool from the planet Earth saves the day while the high tech types stand around in shock and wonder .


  6. Martin, you can use the axe blade as a chisel. Instead of swinging it, you can place the blade on the ice and hit the back of it with a hammer. Combined with the sack-cloth as suggested, it should be a less risky way to do it.

    What am I talking about? I don’t even know what a heat pump is. I guess I should feel fortunate that I don’t know.

    We have had our second hottest summer on record, and our driest summer on record (and it’s not over yet – more hot weather predicted next week), and you are having to whack ice off your heat pump (whatever it is) with an axe.

    A bit of ‘moderate’ would be nice.


  7. Good idea, Sandy! A heat pump turns your house into a fridge turned inside out. It takes heat from outside and deposits it indoors. This process consumes less energy than it would take to heat the house directly.


  8. Thanks Martin, I understand.

    Having seen your photos, I was going to try to make a joke about “Heat outside? What heat outside?” but decided you would probably not find that very amusing.


  9. It seems there might be a design flaw if water is not draining out of the unit during a defrost cycle. A long term solution might be to get some waterproof heating tape and put it on the bottom of the unit, and when seriously below freezing (which it must have been for this to happen) power the tape on every so often to melt the ice.


  10. The flaw was with the owner, not the design. The pump needs to be in a cool shady place, and so it is mounted 25 cm from the ground surface. I allowed ice to build up on the ground under the unit through months of freezing temperatures until the ice floe’s surface reached the unit’s bottom and stopped the spigot.


  11. Sandgroper, heat pumps are also used in Aus, mostly, it seems, as an energy efficient alternative to solar hot water. (Yeah, it seems crazy, but solar hot water systems come with electric boosters and rely on them to produce hot water through winter and even boost during summer nights [or cloudy days] so that there’s always hot water. By comparison a heat pump runs for 15-30 mins a couple of times a day to compress the gas which then heats the water.) They are sometimes used to heat the water in hydronic heating systems, too.


  12. next time just switch to ac inside and the outer unit will be like 50 degrees in no time 🙂 took some time to figure that out, my pump was a solid iceblock more or less hehe


  13. Thanks eleanora.

    It seems the reverse cycle airconditioning/heat pump technology has become a lot more efficient than it used to be.

    We have a gas boosted solar water heater, and the only way to prevent it continuing to burn quite a lot of gas even in the middle of summer is to turn the whole thing off. Considering our climate, where we don’t get many cloudy days even in winter, that’s disappointing.


  14. I’ve gotten most of the ice from around the unit on the outside; however, the inside has a tremendous amount of ice. The unit does have screws holding the screen on top. It’s been really beautiful for the past couple of days, and the heat pump hasn’t run during the day; however, in the late evenings and at night it sounds like someone dropped a big bundle of metal sheets before the unit comes on. I put some calcium snow melting pebbles in the unit today; however, I haven’t tried hot water. I’m not understanding about switching the unit to air conditioner????? What does this do? How long do I leave it on? You can tell by my questions, I’m an older lady with not a lot of knowledge regarding such matters.


  15. The quickest and cheapest way to get the ice out of the unit is to turn it off, open it with a screwdriver, detach the propeller with an adjustable wrench and remove the ice with a chisel or small axe.

    You can also switch it into air conditioning mode, which will blow a lot of cold air into your house for an extended period and melt the ice inside the outdoors unit. I’m a little skeptical about this method in cases where there is a lot of ice inside the box, because the spigot is on the bottom of the box beneath the ice and the melt water wouldn’t really have anywhere to go.


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