The short answer to this is “no,” but we promise to elaborate.
Essentially, trying to scrape ice off of your air conditioner yourself could end up further damaging it, plus removing the ice doesn’t solve the problem that caused the ice buildup to begin with!
So, what does cause that ice buildup? It’s not a normal occurrence, despite your air conditioner cooling the air. We understand how it could be easy to believe that ice might be involved, but transferring heat from one place to another using refrigerant as an air conditioner does, does not use ice, and shouldn’t create it either.
Seeing Ice on Your AC Isn’t Normal
The reason this might occur, though, is due to a reduction in how efficiently the cold refrigerant moving through the coil and fins is removing heat from the air. If the refrigerant doesn’t warm up from transferred heat, it will remain at a below-freezing temperature. And as water vapor condenses and collects on the coil as a normal part of the cooling process, the cold refrigerant will freeze it.
That ice will further prevent the refrigerant from absorbing heat through the evaporator coil, which means more ice will form, until the AC system cannot remove any heat from the air. This means your air conditioner will basically stop functioning. But resolving this problem is imperative, since this ice can warp and damage the coil, leading to expensive repair needs.
Prevention Is Key
The best way to remove ice from your coil is to prevent it from every happening. This can be done with routine air conditioning maintenance, which allows us to check your refrigerant levels (called the refrigerant charge) among many other components to ensure they’re all functioning as they should. Without proper care, your system absolutely can form ice, and it will take a professional HVAC technician to thaw and remove it, and repair the problem that started it.
“So, then, what causes ice to form on my AC?”
There could be one or more of a few possibilities here, including:
- Dirty Coils: Any dirt or debris that collects on the coil creates an insulating layer against proper heat absorption, which causes ice to form.
- Clogged Air Filter: The air filter is something that the homeowner should be checking during each season of HVAC use. This air filter should be changed or cleaned every 1-3 months, depending on the type of filter and the level of contaminants in the home.
- Leaking Refrigerant: There’s a common misconception that air conditioners are meant to lose refrigerant—that it is a fuel that depletes like gasoline from a car. On the contrary, refrigerant is meant to be recycled through your system throughout its entire lifespan. If you are losing refrigerant, it means you have a leak that must be repaired.
Again, we know it’s tempting—but please do not try to scrape ice off yourself or thaw it yourself. This could lead to further, irreparable damage to your air conditioner.