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Watch Out for Ice on Your Heat Pump This Winter

Winter preparations are now under way as temperatures cool. Soon, you can expect to have your residential heating system working regularly through the days and nights. Before that time starts, it’s a wise idea to review the warning signs that may crop up during the early days of operation that something is wrong with the heater. The sooner you call for repairs, the easier they will be to get done, and the less likely you’ll run into a busted heater when you need it the most.

This post is for those of you who use a heat pump for winter comfort. You might see ice developing along the outdoor unit when it runs… and that’s not a good sign!

Why Ice on a Heat Pump Means Trouble

It might not seem remarkable for a heat pump to have ice appearing along its outdoor coil during the coldest parts of the year. In fact, some people are surprise to hear the heat pump’s outdoor unit running at all in winter, but this is a standard part of how a heat pump works. The outdoor coil when the unit is in heating mode must absorb thermal energy from the air through evaporating the refrigerant within it. This heat warms the refrigerant, which then moves indoors to release the heat through condensation.

But, if ice forms along the outdoor coil, it will block the proper absorption of heat and severely lower the energy efficiency of the heat pump. You may even start to get lukewarm air indoors as a result. This ice shouldn’t form because the heat pump has defrost controls that occasionally run the refrigerant the other direction through the coil, releasing heat from it to melt off any ice. But the defrost controls can fail like any component, leading to ice developing. This problem may also arise because of a loss of refrigerant through a leak.

Whatever the cause, call for HVAC professionals to repair your heat pump as soon as you see ice that doesn’t melt off after a few hours!

Comfort Master Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. offers 24/7 service for heating repair in Raleigh, NC.

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