What to Do When Your Air Conditioner Freezes

What causes and AC to freeze

When it comes to be summertime, we lean heavily on our air conditioners to keep us cool. But what about when things get too cold? Like, freezing cold?

If you’ve owned air conditioners for many years, at some point you have probably experienced the dismay of your air conditioner freezing at some point or another. When this occurs, you might be wondering what that means, and if you should be worried about it.

Here we will take a look at some of the reasons why your air conditioner freezes, and what you can do about it if it happens to you.

With the right knowledge at the ready, you can get your air conditioning back to normal quickly.

What Causes an Air Conditioner to Freeze?

Before we get into discussing how to go about fixing a frozen air conditioner, it can first be helpful to know why air conditioners can freeze in the first place.

There are actually several reasons why this could happen, and that can impact how you should go about fixing them.

Airflow Blocked

Because AC units work by processing the air, if there is blockage in the vents, or another obstruction that is affecting the intake or output of air, this can cause freezing. What happens is there isn’t enough warm air passing through in order to prevent ice from forming. If this is the reason for the problem, you may end up needing to replace your air filters.

Similarly, the function of the blower fan in your air conditioner can also be the culprit for any problems that might occur, as it is responsible for making sure that the air gets where it needs to go. A broken or spotty blower fan can change the airflow of the unit, and in turn make condensation form on the coils and cause freezing problems.

Refrigerant is Low

Older air conditioners run using a refrigerant called R22, which is passed through different lines, where condensation may form on the outside. Should a change occur in the pressure of the system, the R22 may move differently, causing ice to form on the coils.

These days, R22 is being phased out and replaced by R410 and other refrigerants that do less harm to the environment. Even new R410a units can freeze up if there is a leak in the system. Check all fittings and connections to make sure they are secure. If there is still a leak, use refrigerant dye to identify the problem.

As you weigh out whether or not to fix or simply replace your AC unit, keep in mind that these older units using R22 are becoming increasingly difficult to service for that reason.

Coils are Dirty

Depending on where your air conditioner unit is located, it may not be in the cleanest of spots. If there is dirt or other debris on the coils of your air conditioner, it can prevent air from passing through the coils fast enough, ultimately causing them to freeze over. You should check the cleanliness of your AC unit’s coils regularly to ensure that they are not obstructing the intake.

There are a few different ways that you can tell that your air conditioner might be frozen. Usually your first warning will be that the unit stops functioning properly. If you place your hand in front of the register and feel warm air coming out, that is usually a good indicator that it might be frozen.

Once you’ve noticed reduced air quality, from there, you can take a look at the access panel and coils to check for ice, as well as taking a look at the air filters to check for blockage. After you’ve identified the problem, it’s time to go about fixing it one way or another.

How to Fix a Frozen Air Conditioner

Before you do anything else with your air conditioner, turn off the unit and let it thaw. Air conditioners running with frozen coils will strain and weaken the functioning of the unit much faster.

From there, the best option we recommend is to call an HVAC professional who can come and take a look at the issue to diagnosis the problem, and who can give you an estimate on how much it would cost to fix it. Trained professionals can ensure proper handling of the units so as not to cause further damage. While some air conditioner repair might be DIY, some things are best left to the professionals.

If low refrigerant levels are the problem, you’ll need to figure out where the leak is, and both fix the leak and recharge the refrigerant. The Department of Energy recommends that a professional handle this issue, as simply adding refrigerant is unlikely to fix the issue; the leak must be addressed as well.

However, if you feel capable in trying to fix the problem yourself, there are a few things that you can do.

  • If the air filters were the issue, purchase and replace them. (Then check them every 30 days after that).
  • If dirty coils were the culprit, gather your materials and carefully clean off the residue from them with a no-rinse spray foam cleaner. (Then schedule a twice yearly inspection from an HVAC professional.)

Again, a trained professional will be the best person to give you advice on what your air conditioner needs.

To Replace or to Fix?

When an air conditioner unit starts to malfunction, it can be frustrating and costly. If you find yourself with a frozen air conditioner, it is likely that there is either an issue with the airflow, the refrigerant is leaking, or the coils are dirty. All of these issues can cause the air conditioner to be unable to transmit air without properly dealing with the condensation, which causes freezing.

If your air conditioner unit is fairly new, or the cost to fix it rather than buy a new one is significantly lower, it may be worth calling a professional to come and inspect your unit and get it fixed. However, if your unit is older and it would be cheaper in the long run to buy a new one, and possibly more efficient, it may be the better, and less headache-prone route to take to get a new one.

Should you be in the market for a new AC unit, Total Home Supply has what you’re looking for. Check out our wide selection of air conditioners, from window units to central air, to find the best fit for your home and space. We carry the brands you know and trust.

Stay cool out there.

Mickey Luongo

Mickey is the resident heating and air conditioning expert.

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