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We’ve been writing and talking with our customers more about heat pumps in recent months. Why? Because heat pumps are energy-efficient HVAC systems that provide homes with both heating and cooling for year-round comfort. They are great for our Georgetown, KY climate.

Although heat pumps are extremely reliable, like all HVAC equipment, regular heat pump maintenance and repair services are important to keep them running in tip-top shape. One of the most common complaints we receive from customers about their heat pumps are strange, loud noises. In our most recent blog, the HVAC technicians at Gibson Heating & Cooling discuss why your heat pump is making loud noises and how to fix them.

Normal Heat Pump Noises

First, let’s discuss some common heat pump noises so you can differentiate between what is a cause for concern and what might be part of the heat pump’s normal operation.

  • Starting and Stopping a Cycle. You’ll hear a slight sound when the heat pump starts or stops a cycle, but any sounds should only last a brief moment. Sometimes, the compressor can make a vibrating noise when it starts a cycle, but this should only last a minute or two.
  • Defrost Mode. Since heat pumps also provide heat in the winter, you may notice the outdoor unit go into defrost mode frequently on cold days. This is completely normal, as it’s the heat pump’s way of preventing parts from freezing over.
  • Humming/Buzzing Sound. A light humming or buzzing noise is typically normal while it is in operation. This could be caused by the various internal electrical components as they receive energy.
  • Clicking Sound. Clicking is also a typically normal sound that occurs when you turn on the heat pump for the first time in a while. Clicking can also come from electrical components or from the refrigerant control valve.

Loud Heat Pump Noises Which Are Cause for Concern

Not all heat pump noises are normal, though. If you hear any of the following sounds, contact an HVAC professional right away.

Grinding Sound

A grinding noise usually indicates that a part or parts need lubrication, or excess dirt and dust have built up on equipment. If you don’t address this issue in a timely manner, it could lead to significant damage to various parts, leading to expensive repair or even replacement services.

Metal-on-Metal Noise

The most common cause of a metal-on-metal sound is a loose fan blade striking nearby heat pump equipment, and a professional should be contacted to fix the issue.

Hissing or Whistling Noise

A hissing or whistling sound coming from your noisy heat pump is distinct and means there is a refrigerant leak. The noise is actually the sound of air escaping the refrigerant line. A refrigerant leak can lead to environmental and health issues, decreased cooling and heating output, longer cycles and increased energy bills.

Rattling, Vibrating or Buzzing

If you hear any of these noises coming from your heat pump’s outdoor compressor unit, it likely indicates a loose part that needs to be repaired or replaced. A failing motor can make a vibrating or buzzing noise.

Buzzing or Popping Sound

If you hear a buzzing or popping sound, it’s likely the result of an electrical issue, and an HVAC professional should be contacted immediately. Some of those issues include a faulty motor, failed capacitor or stuck relay switch.


A high shrieking sound isn’t only annoying, but it can cause serious issues with your heat pump, including high refrigerant pressure or a damaged compressor. A misaligned blower belt and bad motor bearings can also cause this noise, so a professional HVAC contractor should be contacted for repair services.

Contact Gibson for Heat Pump Repair Services

If you’re having any issues with your heat pump unit, including a loud shrieking, buzzing, or rattling noise, don’t hesitate to contact the HVAC professionals at Gibson Heating & Cooling. Contact us today to schedule service.

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