The Frigid Truth: Your AC Unit is Not Suppose to Be Frozen!

January 8, 2021

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If you’re a homeowner asking the question, “Is my AC unit supposed to be frozen,” the quick answer is no! While it’s not uncommon to find ice and frost around the compressor housing, this indicates that it’s time for repairs or replacement. An AC unit should also never “freeze up” as in suddenly stop working before it reaches the temperature set on the thermostat.

To ensure you’re keeping your home’s AC in good repair, check out some quick tips of what to do if your AC stops working or otherwise freezes up, and how to avoid this problem in the first place! It’s also helpful to note a few things to avoid when fixing your air conditioner so you don’t cause even more damage. Remember to call an air conditioner repair contractor as needed, so your home is always cool and comfortable during summer months.

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What Causes an AC Unit to Freeze Up? Here are 5 Reasons to Explore.

There are several reasons why an air conditioner might stop working suddenly or show ice and frost around the compressor housing. First note a few common reasons and simple suggestions for getting the unit working again:

  1. Air conditioners actually extract warm air from the home and circulate it around the cold coil inside the compressor, to keep that coil from freezing. Without warm air, that coil freezes before condensed water drains away from the unit. When a furnace filter is clogged, it impedes airflow and the cold coil freezes; change the filter and note if the AC then begins operating.
  2. Air is also vented through the grilles around the compressor unit. Without proper venting, trapped air gets cool and won’t keep the coil from freezing. Ensure the compressor housing unit is not blocked with leaves, twigs, and other debris, or that a blind or covering is not overly close to the unit and preventing proper ventilation.
  3. Low refrigerant levels actually make the coils in the air conditioner too cold; the less refrigerant in the unit, the faster it cools. If the coil cools too quickly, the unit can develop frost or ice around the grilles and then shut down. An air conditioner repair contractor can check refrigerant levels and recharge the unit as needed.A broken or faulty fan can also stop air from moving around the compressor unit and then circulating back into the home. That cold air then gets trapped in the unit so that ice or frost forms and the unit shuts down. Without opening the housing covering, note if the fan seems to be spinning as it should when the AC cycles on. If not, turn off the circuit breaker to the unit, open the top cover, and check for obstructions around the fan. If you can’t find anything blocking its movement, it’s time to call an AC repair contractor!
  4. An air conditioner condenses water vapor which then turns into a liquid and drains through a hose connected to the unit. If this hose gets blocked or doesn’t drain quickly enough, ice forms and the unit doesn’t condense that vapor as it should. In turn, the unit might cycle on but not cool the home as it should. You can check the hose for blockages and clear those away, and note if the unit cycles on again as it should.
  5. An air conditioner might also freeze up, meaning shut down unexpectedly, due to a faulty thermostat or wiring between the thermostat and unit. An electrician or AC repair contractor can check that wiring and replace it as needed.

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What To Do If an AC Freezes Up?

If your home’s AC unit stops running and you notice ice or frost around the compressor housing, first turn off the unit! As the ice melts slightly the air conditioner might start operating again, but running a unit with any remaining frost or ice can lead to costly damage.

In some cases, it can take all day for that ice to melt, as there might be cold air trapped in the unit. However, never attempt to break or chip the ice with an ice pick, screwdriver, or another tool, as it’s easy to push that tool through the ice and damage the compressor housing.

You can try using a hairdryer to melt the ice more quickly, but be mindful of keeping its cord and extension cords out of water puddles. Once the ice is melted, run the unit with just the blower so it circulates more air, ensuring the entire unit is frost-free.

Can I pour hot water on a frozen air conditioner?

The short answer is yes, you can pour or spray warm or hot water on an air conditioner without damaging the coils or motor. The biggest risk to trying to remove ice this way is splashing and hurting yourself!

To melt ice as quickly as possible, pour warm water over the frozen areas slowly, giving the water time to wash over the frost. Repeat as needed to remove the ice. You can even use warm water to rinse away debris and dust from the compressor housing, ensuring it’s clean completely.

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Where do you pour vinegar in your air conditioner?

Dirt and debris in the air conditioning condensate drain line can cause the unit to freeze up, so it’s vital you keep that line clean. First, locate the drain line; this is typically a PVC pipe located near the unit, attached to a wall of the home. The drain line will usually have a plug on the top of that pipe which you can remove.

Pour about 1/4 cup white vinegar into the drain line, return the plug, and wait several hours for the vinegar to clean algae and other debris. If needed, you can also use a wire brush, available at home improvement stores, to brush out any visible debris and “gunk.” Do this every month or as needed to keep that drain line clear.

How long does it take to thaw a frozen air conditioner?

Depending on how much ice is clinging to your air conditioner and if there is cold air trapped inside the unit, it can take all day for it to melt, as said. In most cases it’s recommended you wait at least a few hours of letting the AC unit sit and thaw before running it again, to ensure there isn’t ice inside the unit.

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Maybe Your Dirty Filter is the Culprit!

The short answer is yes, a dirty filter is actually a common cause of an air conditioner freezing up, as well as an AC blowing lukewarm air through the home or otherwise struggling to work. Homeowners often fail to realize that the air conditioner circulates air through the home’s furnace filter; when that filter is overly dirty or clogged, this impedes airflow.

Without uninterrupted airflow, the air conditioner can’t cool the air as it should. In turn, it might circulate warm air through the home, or struggle to work; you might see a sudden spike in utility costs or notice the fan not spinning as it should.

Since airflow also keeps that coil from freezing, the AC might form ice crystals along the compressor housing and then shut down, as said. To avoid this happening, change your furnace filter often, at least once before you start using the AC in summertime and again before you switch on the furnace in winter. Depending on dust levels in your home, your home’s size, and filter type, you might even change it every month!

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When to Call an AC Repair Contractor for a Frozen AC

If the unit doesn’t cycle on after ice and frost melt from the compressor housing, this might indicate a blown motor, broken fan, damaged thermostat or wiring, or damaged condenser drain. As these fixes are typically outside a homeowner’s area of expertise, it’s recommended you call an AC repair contractor to inspect the unit and perform needed fixes.

An air conditioner freezing up repeatedly can also indicate that it’s time to call a repairperson, so he or she can check refrigerant levels and inspect the unit’s drain line. If the unit cycles on but only blows warm or lukewarm air, this can also indicate low refrigerant levels, dirty ductwork, or other needed fixes.

How to Keep an AC From Freezing Up

A few simple tasks can ensure your home’s AC doesn’t freeze up and keeps operating efficiently throughout the year. One vital tip homeowners should remember is to change the filter, as said, and even upgrade to high-quality filters that trap and lock as much dust and debris as possible, keeping it out of the AC unit itself.

Keeping the outside condenser unit clean and free of debris also helps avoid a shutdown. Regular maintenance calls with full-service cleaning can also alert you to needed repairs, and ensure the AC and furnace are free of dust and debris. An AC maintenance call also typically includes calibrating the thermostat, so you know it’s always operational.

A Word From Our Team

This information is proudly presented to our readers by 24/7 AC Repair Garland. If you’re still wondering, Is my AC unit supposed to be frozen, or have any other questions about your residential or commercial HVAC system, don’t hesitate to contact us! We specialize in AC repair in Garland and carry a full catalog of the latest HVAC systems for home and office, and fully guarantee all our AC repair and installation work.

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