Ice on Air Conditioner Unit – Why is this a Problem? - Day & Night Air Conditioning, Furnace, & Plumbing

If you ever come home to discover that your air conditioner is covered in ice, you will probably have a lot of questions. Ice on an air conditioning system is not normal and is usually a sign of impending problems. If you find that your system is iced over, it is important to shut it down immediately. Here’s what you need to know about ice in your air conditioner and how to get rid of it.

What Causes an Air Conditioner to Ice Up?

Ice on an air conditioner is typically caused by three things: dirty coils, poor airflow, or low refrigerant. While there are some other ways that ice can form, nearly all cases have to do with these three things. This is because all three of these issues force the system to turn on for extended periods of time to reach the set temperature at your thermostat.

When the system runs and runs for an extended period without ever reaching its goal, the lines build up moisture on the outside. Then the moisture freezes, creating a layer of ice. The longer the system continues to fight to cool your home, the more ice will build up until you come home to find that your whole system is covered in a thick layer of ice.

The good news is that icing can be prevented with some simple maintenance. For instance, you can inspect your unit to make sure that the area is clear and the filters are clean. This will ensure that airflow stays positive.

Cleaning coils take just a few minutes with a brush and some cleaner, but can also be done by a service technician at the same time that they check your refrigerant levels and change your filters seasonally. For the most part, these simple steps are all it takes to prevent a system from freezing up.

Why is Icing Dangerous?

Icing in your air conditioner system is dangerous for several reasons. First and foremost, it indicates that your system is already not operating properly. The more ice builds up, the less work the system can do. If left to run in this condition, the system will eventually cause the compressor to break down, or the motor will burn out completely.

If either of these components fails, the cost of repairing your system can quickly rise to the point where a complete replacement makes sense.

Ice can also be a massive problem because it creates a water hazard inside your home. Typically once the system realizes that it has frozen up, it will shut down and give itself time to thaw.

This can take up to five hours, during which time your house will warm up drastically. As the ice melts on your inside unit, water will overflow the condensation drip pan and leak into your attic or ceiling.

The amount of water that melts varies depending on how much ice was built up. You may just come home one day to find a waterfall coming through your ceiling.  The damage from the water alone can be quite expensive to repair.

What to Do if You Find Ice on your AC

The most important thing to remember is that you need to stop the icing as soon as possible. Shutting off your system will prevent the compressor and motor from burning up.

It will also start the thawing process so that you can determine where the ice is coming from. It is important to let the ice melt on its own. You should never try to break the ice off the lines because the lines will crack or break and you will have a bigger problem on your hands.

Some technicians will use a blow dryer to gently speed up the thawing process, but you could still be looking at several hours of thawing time in your future.

In reality, the best thing to do is call a qualified HVAC contractor once your system is shut off. They will be able to find the cause of the icing and ensure that your system has not sustained any permanent damage in the meantime.

They can also help make sure that the melting ice does not become a problem in your attic or ceiling. If your refrigerant is low, they can charge it back up to keep the ice from re-appearing in the future and change your filters so that airflow is not a problem.

For more information about ice in your air conditioner, contact Day and Night Air and schedule a service appointment with one of our technicians right away.