Summer may be winding down, but that doesn’t mean your air conditioning system is about to shut off for the rest of the year. With hot weather still ahead, expect to get some more days of cooling out of your home’s AC. Also expect air conditioning repair issues—late summer is often a time when they crop up.
One example: if you notice ice developing on the AC’s indoor coil, you almost certainly have a repair issue in need of HVAC professionals.
Why is ice on the AC a problem? Isn’t this natural?
No, it’s not natural. We understand why people might think it is. An air conditioner, after all, sends out crisp, cool air. Why wouldn’t a bit of ice be a natural byproduct of this?
But an air conditioner doesn’t use ice to cool down the air, nor should ice start to appear as a result of the cooling process. An air conditioner works by removing heat from the air inside a home and pumping it to the outside. Refrigerant circulates through indoor and outdoor coils to absorb indoor heat through evaporation and releasing it outdoors through condensing.
When ice starts to appear along the indoor coil of the air conditioner, it means something has gone wrong with this process. For some reason, the refrigerant in the coil is staying colder than it should, causing moisture to freeze along the coil.
What might cause ice along the coil?
There are several possible sources for ice developing on the condenser coil:
- A clogged air filter. If the HVAC filter becomes heavily clogged, the blower fan won’t be able to draw enough warm air through the return vents to run over the condenser coil to warm up the refrigerant.
- Grime along the coil. Any layer of dirt or other grime on the evaporator coil insulates it, making it harder to absorb heat. The refrigerant will remain below freezing, leading to ice. And because the ice also restricts heat absorption, the problem will only worsen.
- Loss of refrigerant. This sounds counter-intuitive—less refrigerant leads to ice? However, if the refrigerant charge in an AC falls because of leaks, it throws off the heat absorption along the coil. The remaining refrigerant will be too cold, triggering ice.
Can’t I just scrape off the ice?
No, for two reasons: you may damage the coil, and it doesn’t address the root issue behind the development of the ice. Professionals can safely defrost the coil without doing damage, and they’ll also fix whatever caused the ice in the first place. Leaking refrigerant, in particular, is a serious problem that puts the whole AC in jeopardy. Technicians must seal the leaks and recharge the refrigerant to prevent the air conditioner from a full breakdown.
Keep in mind that if you ignore the ice on the air conditioner, the problem will only worsen because the ice will continue to grow and eventually cover the entire coil, stopping the AC from providing any cooling at all.
We are the Rockville, MD, HVAC contractor to handle your iced-over air conditioning system—or any other AC or heating trouble you may encounter.