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What Does a Frozen Evaporator Coil Mean?


Air conditioners are meant to make your home colder. But are they supposed to produce ice? Absolutely not! Ice on your air conditioner is not a good sign. When ice builds up on the evaporator coil of an air conditioner, you have two problems: the issue that caused the ice, and the issues the ice will cause. We’ll explain both, and we’ll tell you exactly what to do about it.

The Role of Refrigerant

Flowing through the coils of your air conditioner is refrigerant, a substance that changes temperature very easily. It absorbs heat quickly, soaking up excess warmth from your home and evaporating in the process. It also releases heat very readily, allowing it to dissipate outdoors, and that drop in temperature causes the refrigerant to condense back to a liquid. This is the lifeblood of your air conditioner. 

The Role of the Coils

The coils are the system of tubing that the refrigerant runs through. In the indoor unit, warm air is blown across the evaporator coils. The refrigerant inside them absorbs the heat before flowing to the outdoor unit where the condenser coils are located. Another fan helps to dissipate that heat, cooling the refrigerant before it flows back toward your home. The coils are the circulatory system of your air conditioner.

The Role of the Compressor

Located in the outdoor unit, the condenser is the component that pressurizes the refrigerant. Without this pressure, it would not flow through the coils. The condenser is the heart of your air conditioner.

How Ice Builds Up

Ice on the evaporator coils is a sign that something is impeding the heat transfer that would normally occur. This could be something as simple as a badly clogged air filter, which wouldn’t allow enough airflow over the evaporator coils for the refrigerant to absorb sufficient heat. It could be that the coils themselves are dirty and the dirt acted as insulation, preventing heat absorption. Or it could be that there is not enough refrigerant in the system, and since there was enough in it to last its entire lifetime, that means it has begun to leak out somewhere.

The Ice Itself Compounds the Problem

As you can imagine, if being caked in dirt would provide unwelcome insulation, being coated in ice insulates the coils further. The refrigerant is even less able to absorb heat, so more ice forms, and more ice means even less heat absorption, and on and on. 

Prompt Repair is Critical

There are many small problems being caused here, like decreased cooling ability and increased electric bills. But the what should really cause you concern is that this downward spiral will put immense strain on the compressor, which is the single most expensive component. You do not want it to burn out. You need air conditioning repair in Buford, GA right away!

While you wait for your appointment, turn off the unit so the ice can melt. If it has a fan that operates separately from the cooling cycle, keep it running. If there is a suction pump for condensate, the melting ice should flow out the drain just fine. If not, you’ll need to keep an eye on the condensate pan to make sure it doesn’t overflow. The ice should be gone in 24 hours or so, which will allow the technician to access everything they need to diagnose and resolve the problem.

Reach out to Wall Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. with all your air conditioning concerns.

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