The Whys and Hows of a Heat Pump That Freezes Over

  • Plumbing Preventative Maintenance

  • If you have a heat that pump freezes over, you could be in for a miserable time. While it’s normal to see a little frost now and then, having a heat pump sheathed in an icy tomb can cause damage to the entire system and prevent it from heating and cooling your home effectively.

    home heat pumpWhy Does It Happen?

    In a nutshell, it’s all about the water vapor. Even the cold, dry air outside your Cincinnati home contains small amounts of water vapor. When it reaches its dew point, the water vapor undergoes a phase change into liquid form.

    Now consider your heat pump’s refrigerant runs up to 20 degrees colder than the air outdoors. If the weather is just right — around 20 to 40 degrees with a relative humidity above 70 percent — there’s a good chance that frost will form all over the condenser coils.

    To prevent frost formation, a heat pump occasionally undergoes a defrost cycle. This essentially takes all of the heat that’s being transferred inside your home and instead sends it back outdoors through the condenser coils, thus melting the ice that forms around the unit.

    Unfortunately, this may not be enough to remove severe ice formation. In some cases, an underlying problem may prevent the defrost cycle from working.

    How You Can Fix It

    Here are a few quick steps you can take if and when you have a heat pump that freezes over:

    • Turn the heat pump off at the circuit breaker. You don’t want it to suddenly energize while you’re working on the problem.
    • Next, grab a garden hose and spray the heat pump with water until the ice melts. Hammering or chipping away the ice could cause major damage.
    • If it’s warm enough, you can reactivate the heat pump and run it on “fan” mode until the ice melts.

    The next time your heat pump freezes over, contact the trusted professionals at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling and Plumbing. Since 1910, we’ve helped greater Cincinnati area homeowners with their home heating and cooling needs.

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