What To Do When Your AC Unit Freezes Up

frozen air conditioner in summer

Air conditioning units are meant to effectively cool a building. They lower the temperature while keeping optimal humidity levels. In the process, they are not meant to freeze. When these units do freeze, it typically means something inside the unit is malfunctioning. Obviously, the air conditioner won’t work properly when it exhibits air conditioning problems like this. A frozen air conditioner can result in your home not getting sufficient cooling. Also, your system will work harder and use more energy to produce a poor level of cooling. Below, we will be going over why this occurs and what to do when your AC unit freezes up.

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Reasons Why Your Air Conditioner Can Freeze

Below we discuss some of the common causes for this type of cooling system problem.

1. You Have Dirty Filters

A dirty HVAC air filter is one of the more common reasons for your air conditioner to freeze up. Having dirty air filters can be a major issue. After all, your air conditioning unit needs to have optimal airflow to perform as it should. Without sufficient airflow, not enough air will flow through the evaporator coils. Consequently, a lack of airflow can cause the coils to freeze.

Having regular and sufficient airflow through the unit will regulate the coil temperatures by transferring enough hot air over to the refrigerant. This can keep the unit from freezing as the chemical usually ranges anywhere from 10-20 degrees Farenheight throughout the process. One of the most common reasons for having obstructed airflow is having clogged filters that need to be changed. Having any sort of buildup blocking the filters from working can reduce airflow and even keep sufficient air from getting into the system. The particulates clogging the air filter also significantly reduce indoor air quality and system efficiency.

2. HVAC Airflow Obstructions

air conditioning vent with ac unit that is blocked

If you have already replaced the filters in your unit and it’s still malfunctioning and freezing up, it could indicate you have other things causing HVAC airflow problems. Unfortunately, several things could cause airflow to get obstructed in your unit. You’ll want to look around your home to see if you are accidentally blocking vents or registers. You also want to check to see whether or not you have furniture that’s blocking the optimal flow of air out of the vents too. If you suffer from a lot of freezing, it could be a sign that you had the air ducts improperly installed or that they simply have a bad design. You may even find that there are pests blocking airflow which would indicate you have a pest problem. By calling a professional HVAC contractor, you can get their assessment to figure out the root cause.

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3. Air Conditioner Refrigerant Leaks

image of manometer measuring air conditioner refrigerant pressure

Having a frozen air conditioner could also mean that there is a coolant leak somewhere in the cooling system. You can generally figure out if there is a leak by checking for other signs. For example, when an AC unit has a leak, it will produce a noise such as a hissing sound or you will feel hot air coming from the air conditioner unit. If the system leaks, you need to take immediate action to seal it. You will also need to supply the unit with new coolant to get the levels back for normal operation. These aren’t problems that a homeowner should try to correct themselves because it requires professional experience. Not only are the chemicals toxic, but you can mess things up if they aren’t done properly. You want an experienced technician on hand to remedy the issue as they have the skills, expertise, and tools to do it safely.

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4. Evaporator Coils Are Dirty

Another thing that could be causing the issue is dirty evaporator coils. Your coils could be causing the issue directly. This can happen as these coils accumulate dirt over time. If a lot of grime builds up on the coils, it can reduce the transfer of heat between the coils and the surrounding air. It can also cause the condensate lines to clog up which can cause the trapped water to freeze. This is also true for the cofrozen air conditioner in summerils themselves. All of this can result in the system being overworked to compensate. An annual tune-up can help prevent this issue from happening in the first place.

What You Should Do If Your Cooling Unit Freezes

Below we share some tips should you find that your AC unit has frozen over.

1. Thaw Your Air Conditioner Out

The first thing you want to do if you notice that your system is freezing up is to thaw things out. You want to completely shut off your air conditioner to keep things from getting even worse. This will effectively thaw your system because it won’t have the power to continue running. You simply need to wait for the system to thaw itself out without supplied power. Keep in mind that this isn’t a quick process. The thawing process is likely to take several hours. Because of this, you can do it right before you head out for work. If you need sufficient airflow and cooling for your pets while it’s thawing out, consider opening your windows to allow air to circulate. Don’t try to break the ice on your own. This is only going to make things worse.

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2. Dry The Air Conditioner Coils

Once you’ve successfully thawed the cooling system, you will have wet coils. The coils are going to be wet for a while unless you do things to speed the process up. You can speed up the drying process by turning the power back on and running only the blowers. This can help the coils dry up without cooling anything yet. As mentioned, you don’t want to turn on your air conditioner just yet. You only want the fans running to increase the speed of the drying process. You can check back after a few hours to see if the blower has done its job. Once the coils have effectively dried, you should be able to use the air conditioning unit normally.


How To Prevent Your Air Conditioning System From Freezing In The First Place

The good news is you can generally prevent these issues from occurring. Here are some of the top tips you can use to prevent the issue from happening in the future.

1. Regularly Swap Out The HVAC Filters

image of dirt on air conditioner air filter

As mentioned, you want to change the filters frequently. The filters in your unit prevent particles from getting into the system itself. You need to swap out the filters when they get too dirty and clogged. They help to improve not only the performance of your unit, but they also help to keep the air quality as good as possible. These filters can only do so much before they get clogged. Dust and other debris will gradually build up and cause the filters to become ineffective. Eventually, they will get clogged to the point where no air can pass through which can choke the entire unit. By replacing them before it gets to this point, you can avoid a lot of airflow problems. A good idea is to check your filters once per month and replace them whenever deemed necessary.

2. Check The Coolant

You want to check the coolant levels in your system. You don’t want the levels to dip to a specific threshold. With coolant levels too low, you will notice a lot of system errors that could have been avoided. You’ll want to call on a professional HVAC technician to regularly maintain your system. By doing this annually, you can avoid a lot of these issues. They will always check the coolant levels during the maintenance visit to ensure it has a sufficient amount. If the levels are too low, they will recharge the system and if they notice any sort of leak, they can fix it.

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3. Clear Any Obstructions

This one is an often forgotten preventative measure. However, it’s just as important to keep your cooling system running smoothly. You will find HVAC technicians going through your home to ensure there isn’t anything obstructing the airflow externally. They will be able to spot issues that you might have with furniture placement and more. This can help you make any necessary changes to get your system functioning better. In some cases, it would require you to modify some ductwork, but they will let you know if it’s necessary. Be sure to remove any debris, such as landscaping, that has grown too close to the outside air conditioner unit.

4. Clean The Coils

If your system is having issues because of dirty air conditioner coils, you’ll need to get them cleaned. You want to look at the condensate lines when you are checking the system. These can develop clogs that can cause issues. A professional HVAC technician can open the entire system and check it. They will also be able to remove whatever is causing the clog to help the water flow freely. This is one of the things you get when you pay for yearly maintenance from an HVAC professional.


Final Thoughts

The fact is, your air conditioning unit is essential in the summer months. You need to take good care of your system to keep it running optimally. Scheduling routine maintenance is essential to keeping your HVAC system running as it should. You can call on a professional and reputable HVAC technician to handle the yearly maintenance of your system.

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