When Your Heat Pump Ices Over, Here’s What to Do

Posted On: February 02, 2014

When the temperature gets cold, it’s good to know that your heat pump will keep your family warm. Unfortunately, sometimes the heat pump’s outside unit (the compressor/condenser) may become encased in ice, inhibiting the heat-exchange process and reducing heating efficiency, or potentially shutting down the heat pump altogether. Unless the problem is a mechanical malfunction, it should be easy to fix yourself if you know what to do.

The first thing you should do is turn off the unit. If ice builds up around the outside fan motor, it can damage the sensitive components. Unless it’s very cold outside, you can try using the garden hose or warm water from inside to defrost the unit. Never use an ice pick or any other sharp object to break up the ice, as this can puncture the copper coils or damage the fragile fins.

After you’ve defrosted your unit, check for the reason the heat pump froze up. Look for leaves or other debris that may be limiting airflow, and use your garden hose and sprayer to remove the blockage. Check for any gutters that may be leaking on your unit and repair them. Make sure your heat pump condenser/compressor is flat and level, as settling may have caused it to shift and water is accumulating. Clear away any snow or ice that’s adjacent to the unit.

If it freezes again, the problem is likely mechanical, and it’s time to call a service professional. If you do need to call an HVAC repair company, you should be aware of some of the things they will look for.

  • Bad defrost timer or control
  • Bad defrost thermostat
  • Malfunctioning reversing valve
  • Improperly functioning fan motor
  • Low refrigerant

If you find that you need the help of a professional or if you have any other questions about your heating system, please contact the pros at Ernst Heating & Cooling. From Alton and Bethalto to Maryville and Staunton, we’ve been keeping southwest Illinois communities comfortable for more than 50 years.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Hamel, Alton, Glen Carbon, Highland, Greenville, and Troy, Illinois and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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