Out of sight and out of mind during the warmer months, heat pumps are a home owner’s best friend during cold winter months. Unfortunately outside heat pumps can freeze up at the very time a home owner needs them the most.
Owners naturally assume that their outside heat pump unit will keep them warm on the inside during cold winter days. But because frost covered evaporator coils and ice build-up on the heat pump condenser can reduce efficiency, home owners often get the cold shoulder from their heating system when they least expect it.
Each heating system unit has a defrosting cycle that is normally activated by a timer. The timer may be set to defrost every 30, 60 or 90 minutes. Some units may also be equipped with a pressure switch that detects frost buildup. When the defrost cycle is activated the freon flow will reverse itself and the warm gas will defrost the lines.
Although, light frost is normal, heavily packed frost or ice indicates a problem. Condensation forming on the coils is what causes frost or ice to form in and around the evaporator and condenser. Restrictive airflow around the coils, freezing rains and even an un-level condenser unit can cause ice to build up.
Below are three recommendations to insure that heat pumps keep you warm during cold weather and don’t get damaged if ice buildup occurs.
1. Allow Proper Airflow
Leaves, high grasses and even snow may be blocking the outside unit. Owners sometimes erect fencing around the unit to hide it. This allows leaves and snow to block airflow, which causes condensation to collect. Change the inside filters regularly, as well, to ensure good air circulation around the coils. Clean the evaporator coils to prevent dust collection. Dirty coils will hold moisture and allow frost to build up.
2. Freezing Rains Can Cause Problems
If the ice is interfering with the fan motion, shut the unit down to prevent damage to the fan blades and other parts. Owners can allow the ice to melt on its own, or they can pour water over the unit. Do not try to break the ice away with a hammer or ice pick. Ensure the copper coolant lines are not ice covered. Pouring water over the lines will remove the buildup. Make sure the guttering system is directing water away from the unit.
3. The Unit May Have Settled
The majority of units are situated on a concrete slab. Over time, the unit can tilt or even sink into the ground a few inches. This will cause water to collect and freeze therefore, reducing air circulation. Blocking even a small amount of air can cause problems. Level the unit to ensure any collected water can drain properly.
Heat Pump Frozen? Not Keeping You Warm? Heating Bills Too High?
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