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December 8, 2016

What to Do When Your Heat Pump Ices Up

“Help! My heat pump is covered in ice – what do I do?” This is a common call when the mid-winter freeze starts to set in. While heat pumps provide reliable heat during the winter months, they are not impervious to cold. It can even be normal for the entire coil to be coated in anything from white frost to light ice. It is not normal, however, for the entire unit to be encased in ice – including the top of the unit and the inside of the coil – for an extended period of time. This is a sign of a serious problem that should be addressed right away by your Delaware heating technician.

A Small Amount of Ice is OK

Heat pumps are designed to deal with small amounts of ice on their own: they have a periodic defrost cycle that keeps ice from building up on the coils. This keeps the unit running efficiently, allowing for proper heat transfer between the refrigerant and the outside air. However, if it ices over completely, serious damage can occur: ruined fan blades, crushed coils, refrigerant leaks, a ruined compressor – a total loss.

So how does the defrost cycle work? Your unit will actually switch over to Air Conditioning mode, pumping heated refrigerant into the outside coils and melting any ice. At the same time, your secondary heat will turn on to offset the cold air now coming from your vents. But don’t worry about your house getting cold: the defrost cycle lasts roughly 2-10 minutes, and then your system returns to normal heating mode.

What If My Heat Pump Is Covered in Ice?

This can be caused by a mechanical failure, sure as:

  • A broken defrost control or timer
  • Bad internal thermostat or sensor
  • Low refrigerant
  • Broken or sticking reversing valve

It can also be caused by environmental conditions, such as:

  • Nowhere for melted ice to drain
  • Outdoor coil blocked by leaves or snow
  • Freezing rain coating the top of the unit
  • A full or leaking gutter dripping onto the top of the unit

If you notice any of the above conditions around your unit, turn off your heat pump and remove any ice or snow. If a gutter is dripping onto the heat pump, repair the gutter. But be sure to never use sharp objects to clear ice from your heat pump as it can be damaged very easily. When in doubt, contact your Delaware heating technician for help.

Expert Heating Repairs in Delaware from Gold Star Services

The best way to keep your Delaware heating equipment running smoothly is with regular check-ups from a certified heating technician. Preventative maintenance can help lower your heating bills and keep you from costly emergency repairs.

If your heat pump can’t shake the ice, Gold Star Services is here to help. We are available at 1-302-485-1649.

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