It’s a warm fall day, and you walk outside to notice something strange … your air conditioner has ice developing on it.
Now, perhaps you think for a minute that this might be normal. After all, the task of an air conditioner is to chill the air, so isn’t ice involved in the process?
Unfortunately, this can be a costly assumption to make. Air conditioning systems simply do not use ice in any part of their process in order to cool your home, and ice is not an effective way to cool any living space (an argument can be made for putting ice in a portable evaporative cooler—but we’re not calling this effective or efficient!)
So, what does it mean when ice is forming on your air conditioner, and what does this mean for your home comfort? Read on and we’ll help you understand.
First, How Does an Air Conditioner Keep You Cool?
Through electricity and with the use of refrigerant.
Electricity is what allows your air conditioner to receive a signal from your thermostat that it’s time to turn on. Then, the air conditioner draws in warm air from your home. This air goes over the evaporator coil, which houses refrigerant. That refrigerant is a chemical blend that draws in the heat, then goes through a process in order to return chilled air out through the vents.
If ice is developing on your air conditioner, it’s likely on the evaporator coil, and the cause is something preventing the coil from absorbing heat like it should. Here are two main reasons that might happen:
Dirt. The air filter that comes standard with your air conditioner is in place to protect the interior components of the air conditioner. When it becomes too clogged up with dirt, dust, and other debris, it restricts airflow going into the system.
When this happens, the evaporator coil doesn’t get enough warm air blowing over it for the refrigerant to absorb, and the refrigerant gets too cold, which then causes ice to form. Therefore, you may be able to prevent ice on your air conditioner simply by changing the air filter every 1–3 months.
Refrigerant Leak: Another possibility is that you have low refrigerant due to a leak. The refrigerant is required to circulate through the evaporator coil and absorb and distribute heat. If there isn’t enough refrigerant, the temperature of the evaporator coil will fall too low and freeze over as a result.
If your AC has a refrigerant leak, professionals must accurately locate it and recharge (refill) the lost amount and then patch up the leak area.
Why You Should Always Contact a Pro About Your Icy AC
If you see ice on your air conditioner, then it’s time to call in a professional. Trying to chip off the ice on your own can do more harm than good. Trying to thaw it can cause the evaporator coil to burst as it will create negative pressure.
Additionally, just because you remove the ice doesn’t mean you’ve resolved the problem causing the ice buildup to begin with, but calling a professional will ensure it gets fixed.