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Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. Blog

Heat Pump FAQ: Why Is There Ice on My System?


The heat pump is an excellent HVAC option for those homeowners interested in great versatility and efficiency. Like any other heating and/or air conditioning system, though, the heat pump is not perfect. Eventually, you are going to run into trouble with your heat pump in Alexandria. When you do, remember that you depend on our team to diagnose that problem accurately and to resolve it entirely.

Now, you should also keep in mind that certain problems with your heat pump may not be exactly what they appear to be. In fact, certain issues may not actually be “problems” at all. This is the case with the icing over a heat pump in the winter. It is not an unforeseen issue, and is one that heat pumps are actually equipped to deal with. Even so, in certain cases, this ice could prove more problematic than usual.

Why Might Ice Form on a Heat Pump?

As we said above, ice developing on the heat pump is not necessarily a problem. If that ice does not go away on its own, however, you may have an issue that requires repairs. Remember, the heat pump heats your home by drawing heat out of the air outside. To do so, it evaporates refrigerant in the outdoor unit.

When the heat pump evaporates refrigerant to draw heat out of the air, the condensation on the outdoor unit can freeze over. This can happen on the indoor coil of a central air conditioner in the summer, too. A heat pump is manufactured with an automatic defrost cycle to deal with the problem. Basically, it just reverses its operation temporarily to resolve the issue.

The heat pump will switch to cooling mode, drawing heat out of the air in your home, and using that heat to melt the ice. An auxiliary heat source will keep your home warm during this time as the ice melts off. It is a quick enough process that you don’t have to worry about your home cooling down or wasting energy.

When Should I Be Concerned?

Now, there is a big difference between a system frosting over or developing a thin layer of ice, and that system being completely encased in that ice. If the ice is covering the unit and is thick enough, it can cover the outdoor coils. That will inhibit the heat transfer process, and will put a lot of strain on the system. Eventually, very real and irreversible damage can be done. The outdoor coils could even be crushed, leading to refrigerant leaks.

There are many reasons as to why major icing may happen. They include the following.

  • Bad defrost thermostat.
  • Bad defrost relay, control, or timer.
  • Low refrigerant charge.
  • Blocked coil.
  • Gutter water leaking onto the outdoor unit.
  • Poor drainage.

Whatever the precise cause of the problem may be, it is best to have it take care of promptly. Putting the issue on the backburner puts your system at risk of serious damage. Give us a call if you suspect that you need heat pump repairs.

Contact Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. to schedule your heat pump services. 

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