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Heat pumps require specific heat pump thermostat. If you are trying to install a thermostat that is generic forget it. A heat pump is a diff animal than a central unit. Get the thermostat that matches your system. A generic won't cut it.
It probably has a low refrigerant charge. The air coming out of the outside unit should be warmer than the outdoor temperature when in the cooling mode and if it's a heat pump it should be colder than the outdoor temperature in the the heating mode. Check the big line going to the unit, it should be somewhere around the 40 F range and the small line should be hot.
Are you getting 120 vac or 220 vac at the unit? Check the voltage at the first terminals inside the unit as well as the breaker. You should have 220 vac at the elements and you are dropping a leg some where.
Does the air handler take a minute or two to start, this would be normal so that it doesn't blow cool air into the house before the unit is warmed up. If not could be the fan relay is weak and needs replacing. As far as the outside unit it sounds like you need to check the refrigerant. In cooling they are 70/150 psi. This should be checked in cooling mode, once you turn it to heating mode the pressures switch bring heat inside the house instead of out. I hope this helps.
Change the furnace filter. Make sure you use a cheap one when air conditioning, as the better ones restrict airflow when they filter out so much stuff and then plug up, not allowing enough air to pass over the cooling coil in the furnace's air plenum. Turn the A/C off for a few hours (with only the furnace fan on if possible) to melt the ice off the cooling unit inside the furnace.
every single component in your cooling unit is needed for it to work, so anything can shut it down. If you could provide more information as to what type of unit you have: is it a central heat and air package unit? or central split system (furnace indoors and condenser outside)? or a wall a/c? Does any part of the system/unit do anything?