Even in Tampa’s relatively mild winters, a frosty heat pump is normal. If there’s too much frost to the point of ice on the outside unit, however, there’s a heat pump problem requiring attention. Read on to learn what steps to take if your heat pump has iced over.
Why a Frosty Heat Pump?
In heat mode, the outside condensing coil becomes very cold as cold refrigerant flows through it. When outside air temperature, relative humidity and the dew point are in sync, the water vapor in the air condenses on the coil and forms frost or ice. Ice accumulation may seem unlikely with our mild Tampa temperatures, but when the outside temperature drops below 40 degrees and relative humidity is 70 percent or higher, you get ice accumulation.
Mechanical Causes for Ice
Heat pumps are designed with a defrost cycle to melt ice buildup. The sophistication of the defrost cycle depends on the heat pump’s age and features. In older heat pumps, defrost cycle generally operates on a timer, whether there’s ice or not. Newer heat pumps use sophisticated electronics to monitor ice and weather conditions, and defrost as needed. A faulty part in the defrost cycle could be preventing your heat pump from defrosting, and ice accumulates.
Ice can snowball out of control if there’s an airflow problem. The outside unit should be free of airflow obstructions, such as vegetation, debris or barriers. Electrical contacts and relays may also cause ice to form, which may be indicated by a clicking noise. Incorrect refrigerant charge is another common culprit.
Melting the Ice
If there’s a mechanical problem with your heat pump, melting the ice manually with a garden hose, for instance, will only be a temporary fix. Sooner or later the ice will return, and you’ve got the same problem. Moreover, if you wait until the cooling months, ice may form on the indoor evaporator coil, if the problem is mechanical, and then you have no home cooling.
If your heat pump has iced over, please contact Senica Air Conditioning, Inc., Inc. to schedule an appointment.
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