What to Do About a Frozen Heat Pump in Winter

frozen heat pump

Have you noticed that your HVAC system is not working correctly now that the colder months are coming in? Many things can go wrong with your system, but a frozen heat pump is a likely candidate during the winter.

Most heat pumps have systems in place to prevent them from completely freezing over, but there are a few things that can cause this failsafe to malfunction.

Here’s what to do if your heat pump freezes.

Are Frozen Heat Pumps Common?

Seeing your heat pump frozen in winter is actually fairly common. As the cold weather comes in, your heat pump always stands a chance of icing over and not working.

It happens so often because when your heat pump is working, it naturally creates a layer of condensation over the coils on the inside. This condensation is not a problem during the warmer summer months, but during winter, the condensation freezes and can cause the coils to freeze over completely.

Defrost Cycle

Your heat pump will have a self-defense mechanism built into it to stop it from freezing over completely. A functioning heat pump usually works in cycles, and one of these cycles is the defrost cycle.

Your heat pump unit will be equipped with temperature sensors that can tell when the temperature of the unit has dropped below a certain threshold. Once this happens, your heat pump will start a cycle of heating the unit until it returns to a normal temperature.

The cycles will only last for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, but unless you’re facing particularly harsh winter conditions, it should do a suitable job of stopping your heat pump from freezing in winter.

Signs that You Have a Frozen Heat Pump

If the weather outside gets so cold that you have a heat pump frozen outside, then it could stop your entire HVAC system from functioning properly, and the unit itself could cease to function as it should. Coils that have been completely frozen are unable to pull in the cold air from your home, and you’ll notice that your system is working super hard to heat your home.

There are a few tell-tale signs that you can look for to see whether or not your frozen heat pump is causing issues with your wider HVAC system.

The first thing you should do is inspect the unit and see if it is visibly frozen over completely. If just the top of the unit or the coils are frozen over, you should still try to contact an HVAC technician as this is still a sign that the heat pump is not working properly.

Another tell-tale sign of a problem is that your heat pump’s defrost cycle does not activate at all. This suggests that the system has frozen over too much for the temperature sensors to work and trigger the defrost cycle.

Why Heat Pumps Freeze

So why do heat pumps freeze? There could be a few issues at play here. Let’s take a look at some of the most common things that can cause a frozen heat pump unit.

Technical Problems

Too much ice can wreak havoc on your heat pump. If the coils and top of the unit are covered in too much ice, then it can cause the entire system to stop working.

Systems that are in place to stop your heat pump from freezing over may have malfunctioned and not addressed the problem when it started. The heat pump unit will only severely malfunction if the unit has been frozen over for some time, so this is a good indication that your defrost cycle is not triggering as it should.

Excess Moisture

Nearby issues like a broken gutter can also cause a chain reaction that leads to your heat pump freezing over and breaking. A broken gutter or another leak can send excess water and moisture right into your heat pump unit.

When this happens in winter, all this excess moisture will quickly freeze over everywhere on the unit and cause it to break. This is an especially bad problem for you if the water has pooled at the bottom of the unit.

Not Enough Airflow

When your heat pump is working properly, the air that is being drawn into it needs to pass through the fins.

If the heat pump’s condensing fan motor cannot let enough air through it, then the air and condensation can begin to freeze on the coils and cause you some serious problems.

This problem is one to be vigilant for. If it’s bad enough, it can cause your heat pump to break down permanently, and you’ll need to pay a hefty sum to have it replaced.

What to Do About a Frozen Heat Pump

If you notice ice on your heat pump, the first thing you should do is to wait and see if the defrost cycle kicks in to gear. If it doesn’t, then you’ll most likely have to call out a professional to come out and take a look at it.

While you’re waiting for the technician to come out, there are a few things you can do to make their job easier and get your heat pump ready to be inspected and fixed.

First, you should do your best to clear away any ice that you see, don’t worry about getting all of it, but try and get as much as you can. Next, check all your vents and registers inside the house to make sure that they are easy to access and not obstructed by anything.

Lastly, check your air filter to see if it’s clogged or dirty. If it is dirty, you should clean or replace it.

Find a Technician Today

A frozen heat pump can pose all sorts of problems for you and your house. While you may be tempted to dive in and try to repair it yourself, you’re always better off leaving it to the professionals.

Contact us today to see how we can help you. Our team of dedicated HVAC technicians has experts that are always ready and waiting to help you.

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