Ask Dirk: Is ice on my air conditioner a problem?
August 3, 2018
If you've noticed ice or frost on your outdoor air conditioning system, you definitely have a problem. Your system is out of balance. Here are the primary causes of an iced-up unit.
Your AC is gasping for air
Fixing this could be as simple as changing your filters. Filters are there to remove debris and pollution from your system. When they get choked up, your system has to work harder to move air.
Change your filter regularly. When you run your AC more often, more air flows through and filters collect more stuff.
Your AC is a sealed system, which means refrigerant should never leak out. If you're losing refrigerant, you either have a leak or an installation problem.
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You can "top it off" but the issue won't go away. Your technician should identify the problem and solve it. Leak checking can be quite difficult depending on the size and location of the leak.
So, you want to be cool. Really cool. So you set your thermostat to 65 degrees inside.
Some higher end systems have internal controls to manage temperature extremes but most systems do not. Now there's ice on the system and it's working at lower capacity, or not at all.
Your AC is specifically designed to work within a narrow range of temperatures. It's an air conditioner, not a refrigerator! Setting your thermostat to less than 70 degrees is likely to make your system work too hard, freeze up and possibly die.
On the flip side if it's cold outside and you still want to run your AC, you still may have an issue. Air conditioners are not typically designed to run when it's lower than about 55-60 degrees outside. If it's too cold outside, refrigerant acts differently than your system is designed for and your AC will work too hard, freeze up and possibly die.
What's the best thing to do?
OK, so your AC isn't working the way it's supposed to. Here's what to do:
Shut it off.
Set your thermostat back to a reasonable temperature.
Change your filters.
Wait for the ice to melt before you try to switch the system on again.
If none of that works, call your friendly local service company. Have your system checked for leaks or mechanical issues.
Have your system checked when you first notice trouble. It may save you more expensive repairs later on. Ask your technician to leave you some extra filters on your next scheduled maintenance and show you how to change them or ask him or her to come back and change them for you. Your AC will thank you.
For more than 30 years Roper's Heating and Air Conditioning has been providing essential indoor climate management services to the citizens of western Nevada. Roper's is a family-owned, community-oriented business that specializes in the restoration and preservation of Total Home Comfort. Roper's Heating and Air Conditioning is located at 2062 S. Edmonds Drive in Carson City. For more information, visit https://roperhvac.com/.