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Is It Ever Okay to See Ice on an Air Conditioner?

Frozen air conditioning with icicleThe short answer to this is “no,” but if the questioner part of you is wondering why, stick around! We’re going to explain.

To understand why this is a problem you first need to understand how your air conditioning in Royal Palm Beach, FL operates. You might already know that it is a refrigerant-based system and that it works similarly to your home’s refrigerator. Both these appliances utilize a chemical refrigerant to absorb heat from the inside and move that heat to the outside. This is why you notice the outside condenser unit blowing out heated air when the AC is operating.

But neither of these systems requires ice to function. We understand how this misconception occurs—after all, the cooling system is sending out chilled air—but this just isn’t the case. Transferring heat from one place to another using refrigerant just doesn’t require ice, and it shouldn’t produce it, either.

Seeing Ice on Your AC Isn’t Normal

So then, why does it happen? One reason may be due to the reduction in how well the cold refrigerant moves through the coil, and how well the fans are removing heat from the air. If the refrigerant doesn’t warm up property from the heat transfer process, it will remain below freezing. And as water vapor condenses and water collects on the coil (a natural part of the cooling process)l, the cold refrigerant will freeze on it.

This presence of ice isn’t just an inconvenience. It will negatively impact how well the refrigerant can absorb heat. This means more ice, until eventually your air conditioner won’t be able to remove any heat from the air, and will stop functioning as an air conditioner. This ice buildup can also warm and damage the coil. There are a variety of reasons that the evaporator coil might struggle to absorb heat, and as a result trigger the development of ice:

  • Dirt and Grime Buildup on the Coil: Any dirt or other debris that’s built up on the coil creates an insulating layer against proper heat absorption, which causes ice to develop. This is one of the reasons that routine air conditioning maintenance is so essential during the spring. If our technicians discover that the coil is dirty, we’ll clean it off!
  • Clogged/Dirty Air Filter: The air filter that comes standard with your HVAC system is there for a reason, and it is not to protect your indoor air quality, even though this is the popular belief. Rather, it’s there to protect the inside components of your HVAC system from dirt and debris that can damage it. You should be changing out (or cleaning, if you have a permanent air filter) the filter every 1-3 months during periods of system use.
  • Refrigerant Leak: There’s another common misconception about HVAC systems that has to do with refrigerant. Due to misinformation, many homeowners believe that refrigerant is something that dissipates, like gasoline from a car. However, your HVAC systems are supplied with enough refrigerant upon installation that they should ideally last throughout the systems’ lifespan. So if you’re losing refrigerant, it means there is a leak that must be located and repaired. If not, you might certainly notice ice on your air conditioner, along with a number of other AC performance issues.

Contact Envirotech Air Quality Services today for reliable air conditioning services.

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