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Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. Blog

Why Is There Ice on My Air Conditioner?


Your air conditioner’s job is to make things cold. So you might not be shocked or concerned to see that ice has started to build up on the evaporator coils of your indoor AC unit. But we’ve got something important to tell you.

Ice on your air conditioner is bad news. It’s a sign that there’s a problem. Worse, it can cause more problems to occur! What’s going on? We’ll explain.

What the Evaporator Coils Do

The outdoor unit of your air conditioner houses the compressor and the condenser coils. It’s where the heat goes to be released after it’s drawn out of your home. As the refrigerant runs through the coils, pressurized by the compressor, it will head back to your house to suck up more of that unwanted heat. That’s the job of the evaporator coils in the indoor unit.

In this section of the system, the refrigerant is a super-cold liquid. As the warmth of your home raises the temperature of the refrigerant, it evaporates, becoming a hot gas while your home gets cooler. Then it continues to flow so that warmth can be released outside.

Why Ice Starts to Develop

If that refrigerant in the indoor unit can’t absorb enough heat, the coils will get so cold that they’ll freeze up. Condensation that develops on the outside of the coils will solidify into a layer of ice. But why wouldn’t it be absorbing enough heat? There are a few possibilities.

Perhaps the blower fan isn’t pushing enough warm air toward the evaporator coils. This could be an issue with the fan itself or with the motor that powers it. Perhaps there’s a leak somewhere in the coils, so there’s no longer enough refrigerant. Perhaps the air filter is too clogged to allow air to pass through. Or perhaps there’s a layer of dust or mess on the coils themselves acting as insulation and preventing heat absorption.

Why Ice Continues to Develop

Now that a layer of ice has formed, even if the original issue was something other than a buildup on the coils preventing heat absorption, you’ll have that problem now, too. Yes, even ice can act as insulation! Even less heat will be absorbed. More ice will form. Even less heat will be absorbed! It’s a vicious cycle. So what can you do about it?

How to Address Ice on Your AC

Your first step is to turn off the air conditioner. Let that ice melt. The condensate tray should handle the moisture just fine, but check occasionally to be sure it’s flowing out of the drain. In the meantime, work on improving the airflow. Clean the AC air filter. Make sure the supply and return vents are all open and clear. Once the ice has melted, clean the evaporator coils gently.

Now turn the air conditioner on again. With luck, this was all you needed to do. But if you notice that ice is building up again, there’s a bigger problem. As we mentioned, it’s likely to be either a blower fan issue or a refrigerant leak. You need air conditioning repair in Washington, DC to determine which it is and get it repaired before the vicious cycle gets going again.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment or ask any questions you have about your air conditioner.

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