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What do you with a frozen air conditioner

Posted on: July 23, 2011

Post Highlights

  • A frozen air conditioner can leak refrigerant, causing big problems
  • Dirty air filters, leaking refrigerant and cold ambient temperatures can all cause your AC to freeze
  • If your AC freezes and you need AC maintenance in MD or DC call James A. Wheat & Sons!

Summer is just kicking off and we’re already getting reports of temperatures hotter than 100 F all around the Maryland and Washington, DC area. At James A. Wheat & Sons, we’re already gearing up for those phone calls we get every year – people staring incredulously at their air conditioner compressor, wondering how on earth there can be chunks of ice forming on it. Surprisingly, frozen air conditioners are a remarkably common part of summer, and are caused by a whole host of things that often have nothing to do with the intense heat outside. Fortunately, many of these things are easy to fix on your own, provided you know how to do it.

Before we talk about how you can fix your air conditioner when it freezes, let’s take a look at what might cause your air conditioner to freeze in the first place.

What Leads to a Frozen Air Conditioner

If your air conditioner is frozen, there could be a few things wrong with it:

Weak HVAC Air Flow – the most common, and (potentially) easiest to fix, cause of a frozen air conditioner is weak HVAC air flow. Any time you have limited air flow, whether it’s caused by dirty air filters or undersized ducts, you run the risk of preventing the chilled air blow off of your cooling coil and into the rooms in your house. This in turn causes the temperature of your air conditioner cooling coil drop to below freezing.

A frozen air conditioner coil can potentially result in leaks, so if you notice it you should take steps to fixing it immediately. Start by changing the air filters, waiting a few hours, and then checking back again. If the ice is going away or completely gone, your problem is solved.

If undersized ducts are causing your air conditioner to freeze, call a Maryland or DC HVAC contractor and have them take a look at your problem as soon as possible. It could end up that you need new ductwork installation, or you may need to replace your air conditioner with a smaller model.

Your AC refrigerant is leaking – the level of refrigerant in your air conditioner has to be maintained carefully to ensure that your air conditioner runs smoothly. Too much or too little refrigerant could cause the air conditioner to freeze.

The outdoor temperature is too low – sometimes the cause of your frozen air conditioner has nothing to do with the AC unit itself – instead, it’s just too cold outside! Air conditioners don’t fare too well when temperatures are below 60 F. Fortunately, when temperatures are this low you don’t really even need to use your AC at all – you can just throw open the windows and let the breeze through! You’ll save your air conditioner from freezing, and save some money at the same time!

How to Fix Your Frozen Air Conditioner

If you find that you have a frozen air conditioner, the first thing you should do is figure out what caused it to freeze up in the first place.

No matter what, make sure you start your investigation by turning off your air conditioner. This will give it time to defrost and prevent the freezing from causing serious damage to your unit.

Once you have turned off your air conditioner, check to see if your air filters look dirty – dirty air filters are the number one cause of frozen air conditioners! Pop out the old ones and put in some new ones, then check again in 24 hours – if the compressor has thawed out, changing the filters worked.

If changing the air filters DIDN’T work, your problem may require the help of an HVAC contractor. For instance, your air conditioner could be frozen as a result of problems with the level of refrigerant, your ductwork could be inadequate, or your defrost timer could be malfunctioning – all problems a James A. Wheat & Sons technician can fix!

If your air conditioner is freezing up and you don’t know why, call the air conditioner experts at James A. Wheat & Sons. We can provide air conditioner repair in Maryland or Washington, DC to make sure your air conditioner stays efficient all summer long.