Your air conditioner’s job is to cool your home, and of course, some of its components get quite cold in order to do so. Have you noticed ice forming on your AC unit’s evaporator coils? Ice means things are very cold, right? So it’s a good sign?
Not at all! It’s an indication that something is going very wrong, and the ice itself makes the problem get worse faster. Here’s some information on why it might be happening and what to do about it.
How Your Air Conditioner Works
It will help to have some basic information about how this system operates. Refrigerant is a chemical that changes temperature very readily. It flows through the whole system in coils. In the indoor unit, the evaporator coils are exposed to the warm air from your home, and the refrigerant absorbs that heat and evaporates into a gas. It continues along the coils to the outdoor unit, where the condenser coils are located. The heat is released out there and the refrigerant condenses back into a liquid, and then it continues on through the system, back to the evaporator coils, soaking up and giving off heat in order to cool your home.
Why Ice Forms on Evaporator Coils
If for any reason the refrigerant is unable to properly absorb and release heat, the evaporator coils will get excessively cold, and ice will form on them. This can happen for a variety of reasons. The two most common are dirty coils and refrigerant leaks.
- Dirty Coils: Anything caked on the coils behaves like insulation, slowing the absorption and release of heat. This could be dust from around the home, debris from a construction project, or actual dirt, which is more likely to occur on the outdoor unit.
- Refrigerant Leaks: If there’s an insufficient amount of refrigerant in the system, it won’t be able to absorb enough heat. Air conditioners contain all the refrigerant they should ever need, but if damage has occurred somewhere in the system of coils, refrigerant can be lost to leakage.
Once ice has begun to form, it further insulates the evaporator coils, making it even harder for the refrigerant to absorb heat and exacerbating the problem.
How to Remedy Iced-Up Coils
The first step is to make an appointment for air conditioning service in New Haven, CT. No matter the cause, there’s a serious problem, and if it is allowed to continue, you could end up with a completely broken-down air conditioner. Struggling like this puts a lot of strain on the compressor, the component that pressurizes the refrigerant, pumping it through the system. This component is absolutely critical to the function of your air conditioner, and it is the most expensive component. When it fails, you’ll probably be looking at replacing the air conditioner rather than repairing it.
In the meantime, you’ve got some ice to get rid of! You’ll have to turn the air conditioner off. If it has a fan function, leave that on. If there’s a condensate pump, that should help to ensure that the melted ice will safely flow out the drain and away from your home. If not, you’ll need to be more attentive during the melting process, making sure the condensate pan doesn’t overflow. The ice should be completely melted within 24 hours or so, and your technician will be able to properly inspect the whole system to diagnose and repair the problem.