As your heat pump works this winter, providing heat for your northern Chicago home, you may notice that some ice or frost builds up on the coils of the outdoor unit. Usually this is nothing to worry about. Some ice or frost accumulation is considered normal. Problems occur when the ice accumulation becomes severe enough to block the coils and prevent air from circulating through the fins in the outdoor unit. When this happens, your frosty heat pump is telling you that it needs professional attention immediately before the system becomes damaged or ruined.
The Source of a Frosty Heat Pump
Ice and frost can form on the outdoor coils of your heat pump when water vapor in the air becomes liquid and contacts the surface of the coils. Large amounts of ice will prevent proper heat transfer and seriously reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of your heat pump. If not corrected as soon as possible, excess ice on the outdoor unit can cause significant damage to the system.
The Defrost Cycle
Usually, a heat pump activates a defrost cycle to remove any ice and frost that has developed on the coils. The defrost cycle temporarily switches the heat pump to its cooling function, allowing hot refrigerant to flow out of your home and into the outdoor coils. If the defrost cycle isn’t working properly, however, there’s no chance for the ice to be removed and it will continue to accumulate.
Other Possible Problems
Ice and frost buildup on your heat pump could also be caused by other problems, such as a stuck reversing valve that prevents refrigerant from flowing out of your home to the outdoor unit. A low refrigerant charge, meaning not enough refrigerant, could also lead to ice accumulation.
Gartner Heating & Cooling serves HVAC customers in Chicago and the northern suburbs and has been doing so for almost 30 years. Contact us today for more information on what to do if you have a frosty heat pump and for the maintenance and repair services you need to get your heating system working properly again.
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