How to Clean a Heat Pump Without Making a Mess

Clear your afternoon! It's time for an annual heat pump cleaning. We'll show you how.

Published August 5, 2023
heat pumps

You get two for the price of one when your home is heated and cooled with a heat pump. These efficient machines are pretty low maintenance, but they do need an annual cleaning. So clear your afternoon and grab a few supplies. We're learning to clean heat pumps today.

What's a Heat Pump?

We'll let you in on a secret - we don't know what every bit and bob does in our house, and it's okay if you don't either. When it comes to heating and cooling, so long as your thermostats are working, it might not cross your mind to do any maintenance on whatever devices you have.

People like to liberally throw around AC and HVAC when talking about heating and cooling, but they're not the only devices used to heat and cool houses. Heat pumps are an alternative. According to the Department of Energy, "heat pumps use electricity to transfer heat from a cool space to a warm space, making the warm space cooler and the cool space warmer."

There are three types of heat pumps, two of which are common for homes: air-source heat pumps and mini-split heat pumps.

How Do Heat Pumps Get Dirty?

The air is full of particulates which, when circulated through the heat pump, can get trapped and accumulate over time. Too much dust and debris and your machine won't work as well as it's designed to. So, every year you should pencil in a cleaning on your calendar.

Should You Clean Your Heat Pump or Call a Professional?

Technically, you can clean heat pumps at home. However, there are a few specialized tools you'll need, and depending on their location, you'll need a level of precision and care of an expert. If you have the disposable income to hire a professional to service your heat pump once a year, we recommend that course of action first and foremost.

But, when budgets are tight, you can still get the job done. Just keep in mind that you're mainly getting rid of debris buildup and not inspecting and replacing any worn or malfunctioning parts. If you suspect your machine needs a tune-up, you should invest in the professional maintenance.

Easy Method for Cleaning Your Indoor Heat Pump

Indoor heat pumps are usually ductless, often mounted on the wall towards the ceiling. These long, thin devices don't take too much to clean.

Materials You'll Need

  • A plastic cover or trash bag
  • Screwdriver
  • Hand vacuum cleaner
  • No-rinse coil cleaner spray
  • Soft-bristled brush


  1. Turn off the heat pump.
  2. Remove the cover, using a screwdriver if needed.
  3. Attach a plastic cleaning cover or trash bag to keep all the debris and cleaning solution from spraying onto your walls and floors.
  4. With a hand vac, suck up all the debris from all the nooks and crannies. You can also go at it with a soft-bristled brush to reach tight spaces.
  5. Locate the evaporator coils and spray them down with a no-rinse coil cleaner.
  6. Secure the cover in place.

Easy Method for Cleaning Your Outdoor Heat Pump

Outdoor heat pumps are better situated for a quick, mess-free cleaning. Armed with a screwdriver and water hose, you can make your heat pump shine.

Materials You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Water hose
  • Coil cleaner


  1. Turn off the power to the unit.
  2. Remove the outside cover from the pump to get to the coils. On some models, you can just slide it off and on others, you'll need to use a screwdriver to remove it.
  3. Also remove the fan if possible.
  4. Spray the coils with a coil cleaner (you can buy these at any hardware store).
  5. Wash off the cleaner with the water hose, spraying back and forth.
  6. Put the cover back on.
  7. Wait about 15 minutes before turning the power back on.
Quick Tip

While you're in there, look to see if any of the fins are bent, and use a fin comb to straighten them out.

3 Tips to Keep Your Heat Pump From Getting Dirty

Follow these preventative tips, and you'll be surprised at how little cleaning you have to do in your annual checkup.

  • For outdoor pumps, keep grass trimmed around the unit. This can keep bugs, critters, and organic material from blocking/dirtying the grate.
  • In winter, keep snow from building up around your outdoor heat pump to increase its efficiency.
  • Check the heat pump filters once a month to see if they need to be replaced.

Air Is Dirtier Than You Think

Unfortunately, air is much dirtier than you'd think, and all the teeny particulates clump together to gum up your heat pumps. Keep your house comfortable in extreme temperatures by cleaning your heat pump once a year. And if you can't swing for a professional, you can always tackle it yourself with these easy cleaning methods.

How to Clean a Heat Pump Without Making a Mess