Why Shouldn't You Thaw Your Frozen Air Conditioner?

Your air conditioner's job is to take warm air out of your home, so it's reasonable to assume that it can get pretty chilly inside your air handler unit. While your evaporator coils get cold as they transfer heat into the refrigerant, a correctly operating system shouldn't ice up. Instead, the evaporator coils typically remain warmer than freezing.

Unfortunately, numerous problems can upset this balance. If an issue affects your air conditioner, your coils may freeze up. Frozen coils can impact your refrigerant's ability to transition into vapor, causing your compressor to shut down and stop cooling.

What's So Bad About Frozen Coils?

Icy coils might seem like a great way to quickly drop the temperature in your home, but they typically have the opposite effect. The ice acts as an insulator, preventing warm air in your house from giving up its energy to the refrigerant. Since the refrigerant can't absorb this energy, it fails to heat up and transition into vapor.

Since liquids are incompressible, any liquid refrigerant that reaches your compressor will cause the motor to struggle and may even damage the unit. HVAC technicians typically refer to this condition as "slugging." In most cases, your air conditioner will shut down before you can cause much damage, but these safety shut-offs will prevent your AC from keeping your home cool.

Why Shouldn't You Thaw Your Frozen Evaporator Coils?

Thawing your evaporator coils might seem like a good option, given the problems they can cause. Unfortunately, melting the ice on your evaporator is a temporary fix at best. Not only will the underlying problem remain, but you may also produce far more water than your condensate drain can handle. As a result, you can flood portions of your air handler and even damage critical components.

Turning your AC back on after thawing the unit will usually lead to the same problem occurring again. Each time you go through this cycle, you risk damaging your compressor and causing far more expensive damage to your air conditioning system. If you notice your air conditioning freezing up, the best option is to stop using it immediately.

What Should You Do Instead?

If your system freezes up and shuts down, it's critical to remember that your air conditioner is attempting to save itself from further damage. In most cases, evaporators freeze due to issues with refrigerant charge or insufficient airflow over the coils. Changing your air filter is often an excellent first step to rule out an easy cause for poor airflow.

Unfortunately, a simple filter change won't always solve the problem. In these cases, you should get in touch with an HVAC contractor as soon as possible to resolve the issue. You may need to address a refrigerant leak or solve another problem with your system. Regardless of the underlying cause, fixing the root of your frozen evaporator is the best way to ensure your system's long-term reliability.

Contact an air conditioning repair contractor in your area if you require assistance with your AC.