5 Questions to Ask When Your Outdoor HVAC Unit Freezes in the Winter

During the winter, it is not uncommon for snow or ice to form over your outdoor HVAC unit and it’s typically nothing to worry about. That being said, that snow or ice buildup could still become a problem in certain situations. Frost often builds up on an HVAC unit without snow or ice conditions, so it knows how to keep itself functioning. The heat pump inside the unit will defrost automatically using the reversing valve to increase the internal temperature and melt any ice, frost, or snow. So when do you need to worry about your icy, cold, or snowy HVAC unit? Ask yourselves these 5 questions to evaluate your situation and determine what to do next.

How Cold is the Outdoor Temperature?

Temperatures typically have to be below freezing to cause damage to your HVAC unit, since the heat pumps already have a defrost cycle it goes through occasionally to help the unit thaw out from natural frost buildup. You should only have cause to worry if the temperature drops down into the teens for a while, which could cause the defrosting system to overwork itself and stop working.

How Thick is the Snow or Ice?

If the snow or ice covering your HVAC unit is just a couple inches thick, the defroster should be able to take care of the buildup and avoid allowing the coils to freeze up. However, if the snow or ice buildup is closer to a couple feet or more, this may be cause for concern. Do your best to clear as much off of the unit as possible, so the snow or ice doesn’t get stuck in the pump. If thick ice is covering the entire unit, break as much of it away as you can; otherwise, the pump won’t be able to function properly. In some cases, this situation may require professional help.

Is the Pump Making Noises?

Some rattling at first is normal to hear as the defroster turns on. But if that sound doesn’t stop after a short while or sounds odd, it may be a sign that ice has built up in your unit. If this should happen, call an HVAC professional immediately to describe the problem and avoid serious damage to your unit.

Is the Defrost Mode Actually Working?

During icy or extremely cold conditions, it’s important to make sure your HVAC unit is defrosting. If you see steam coming up out of it (not smoke), that is usually a sign your defroster is on and working. Another way to be sure is to check that the fan inside is moving.

If you have any concerns about your outdoor HVAC unit, don’t hesitate to give us a call and explain to us what’s going on. We’ll do everything we can to help talk you through the issue or inspect the unit ourselves to ensure no damage is done to your unit.