If you recently had a heat pump installed by a heating and air conditioning replacement contractor and find it covered in ice, you’ll be relieved to know that this isn’t uncommon during the winter months. In fact, it’s fairly normal for the entire coil of your outdoor unit to be lightly covered in frost in such weather conditions. However, the defrost cycle should kick in if too much of it is detected. When this happens, your heat pump operates in cooling mode to allow heat from the refrigerant to melt the ice away.
Normally, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about, since most heat pumps are built to withstand winter temperatures. This is assuming that the unit itself has been regularly maintained and that defrost mode works properly to melt off the frost. If you notice that your unit seems to be covered in ice too often or for too long, then there might be something wrong with it that needs the attention of a professional.
To help you understand how to effectively deal with a frozen heat pump, our air conditioning replacement team at Air Products & Services shares their insight here:
How Your Heat Pump Freezes Up
Heat pumps freeze up when heat from the air outside is transferred to the refrigerant and excess moisture from the air builds up on your unit’s coils. This same moisture can freeze into layers on your heat pump on cold days, and if this accumulates, it becomes difficult for your unit to perform properly.
Fortunately, most heat pumps are built with a defrost cycle that turns on right before the ice accumulates too much. They’re designed to pull cold air from a home and prevent freezing by going into defrost mode when it becomes too cold. Heat pumps are essentially reverse air conditioners, and by reversing the cycle, they generate heat instead of cold air. This is how some heat pumps redirect hot air during the defrost cycle to melt ice formations on the outdoor unit.
Without this cycle, it would be nearly impossible to remove frost and ice buildup without damaging the unit itself. At this point, you’ll need to call in a trusted heating and AC repair technician to do the repairs. So, when your outdoor unit is running in defrost mode, this typically means no heat will be released indoors until the cycle is complete.
The Common Causes Behind Frozen Heat Pumps
• Technical malfunction – If your whole unit becomes completely covered in ice for a long period of time, including the top and inner coil, this is usually a sign of a serious problem that should be addressed by a trusted technician. These may include a bad defrost relay, low refrigerant levels, a bad defrost control or timer, a sticking reversing valve or a bad fan motor.
• Excess moisture – Even professional AC repair technicians are aware that water buildup and extra moisture that gets trapped in your heat pump can be caused by things such as a broken gutter that allows excess water to pour directly onto your heat pump. Add to that water ponding at the base of your heat pump, and the chances of it freezing over greatly increase.
• Insufficient airflow – Keep in mind that the temperature of your heat pump’s refrigerant can fall below freezing. The air has to pass between the fins of the unit, so if the condensing fan motor can’t get sufficient airflow in and out through the fins, the air can freeze on the evaporator or condenser coil and the unit could suffer even more damage. This results in a permanent breakdown, forcing you to pay for a costly replacement. To prevent this, ensure good airflow by clearing away any leaves, debris or snow drifts that may be blocking the coils. If the coils are dirty, cleaning them may prevent freezing.
The reasons behind your frozen heat pump will vary. But when you hire our services, our trusted AC troubleshooting system will effectively address what’s causing it to freeze, which may otherwise not be possible if you try to do it yourself.
Troubleshooting Tips To Remember
Heat pumps often develop ice, even during the summer months, which is why most feature a defrosting cycle. So, if your heat pump is completely covered with frost or ice, first check if the defrost cycle has kicked in. If the ice melts away after a while, then your pump should operate normally again soon.
However, if it’s still covered in ice after 30 minutes with the defrost cycle still running, you may need to call in an HVAC technician to check your unit. In the meantime, there are a few things you can still do:
• Make sure to remove any ice that’s built up on the top of your heat pump, using a garden hose to melt the ice away. Never try jabbing it with a sharp object; doing so will only damage your unit.
• Check the air vents and registers indoors to make sure they’re not blocked by boxes, clothing, furniture or other items.
• Check the air filter to make sure it isn’t clogged or damaged, and replace it if it’s dirty.
• Small debris such as grass, leaves, sticks and snow near your heat pump can disrupt its airflow or block the outdoor coil. Make sure to properly clean them out.
Working During the Pandemic
Even with the advent of vaccines giving us hope that we’ll soon live in a post-Covid world, we still take steps and precautions to ensure that we work safely during each job to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We’re aware that we’re still in a pandemic, and we highly value the health and safety of both our staff and customers. To ensure that the virus won’t spread when working together, we wear masks and safety glasses at all times, even wearing face shields and gloves when needed.
With Air Products & Services, we have a reliable AC troubleshooting system in Tarzana and nearby areas in CA, so you can be sure that your HVAC system is safely maintained and cared for. You can reach us at (818) 989-2030 or submit an online form.