What to Do If a Heat Pump Ices Up in the Winter

When winter is in full swing, your home’s heat pump is working hard to keep you warm. However, you may encounter a common issue during colder months – your heat pump icing up. It’s a situation that can leave you feeling chilly and puzzled about what to do next. Grove Heating & Cooling shares the common issues that may be at play if your heat pump freezes and provides practical steps to troubleshoot the issue.

Why Is My Heat Pump Icing Up in Winter?

Lack of Refrigerant

Low refrigerant levels are a common reason for a heat pump unit to ice up during winter. A heat pump works using refrigerant flow to facilitate the heat exchange process within the system. When there’s an insufficient amount of refrigerant, the heat pump’s outdoor coil struggles to absorb heat effectively from the outdoor air when the temperature drops. This inadequacy in heat absorption leads to a drop in temperature around the outdoor unit, causing the moisture in the air to freeze and accumulate as ice.

Insufficient Airflow

Another potential culprit to blame when heat pumps freeze is restricted airflow. This can result from various factors, including dirty or clogged air filters, debris surrounding the outside unit, or a malfunctioning condensing fan motor. When proper airflow isn’t present, the heat pump cannot absorb heat efficiently and generate warm air, creating an environment conducive to the heat pump freezing.

Malfunctioning Defrost Cycle

Every heat pump is equipped with a defrost function designed to prevent excessive ice buildup and stop heat pump freezes. However, if the defrost mode malfunctions, it can lead to an insufficient defrost cycle. If the defrost cycle is unable to run or the defrost cycle cannot run long enough during freezing temps, it can cause too much ice to accumulate on the outdoor unit.

Stuck Reversing Valve

The reversing valve is a critical component responsible for reversing the flow of refrigerant between the indoor and outdoor coils, allowing the heat pump to switch between heating and cooling modes. When the reversing valve gets stuck in one position, typically during the transition from air conditioning mode to heating, it disrupts the normal heating system operation of the heat pump which causes the outdoor coil to become colder than usual. As a result, water vapor in the cold air around the outdoor unit can freeze, leading to the formation of ice.

Leaking Gutters

Leaking gutters overhead can unexpectedly become a significant factor contributing to the icing up of your heat pump during winter. When gutters are clogged or damaged, water may overflow and drip directly onto the outdoor unit of your heat pump. As temperatures drop, this water can freeze, creating a layer of ice on the heat pump. Not only does this ice formation impede the unit’s ability to function optimally, but it can also lead to more severe issues if left unaddressed.

Troubleshooting Heat Pumps

If you find your heat pump freezing in winter, here are some steps you can take to troubleshoot this common HVAC system issue:

Turn Off the Heat Pump: The first step is to turn off your heat pump. This will prevent further ice accumulation and give the unit a chance to defrost.

Check Airflow: Inspect the outdoor unit for any obstructions. Clear away snow, ice, or debris that might be limiting airflow. Additionally, clean or replace a dirty air filter to ensure proper airflow throughout the HVAC system.

Check Your Gutters: Ensure overhead gutters are clear and unobstructed. Blocked or leaking gutters can cause water to drip onto the heat pump unit, which may freeze and contribute to the formation of ice. Correct any gutter issues you find.

Allow for Defrosting Time: After taking these steps, give your heat pump some time to defrost before turning it back on. This can take a few hours, depending on the severity of the ice buildup and the outside temperature.

Contact Us for Heat Pump Repairs

A frozen heat pump in winter can be a frustrating experience, but understanding the reasons behind it and taking appropriate troubleshooting steps can help resolve the issue. If you are unable to thaw your heat pump or the heat pump freezes again and again, it’s time to call for professional repairs as there could be an issue with the heat pump’s defrost mode, reversing valve, or refrigerant levels.At Grove Heating & Cooling, our team of skilled technicians is ready to address your heat pump issues promptly and effectively. Don’t let a frozen heat pump leave you in the cold – contact us today for reliable and professional heat pump repair services. We provide quality repairs for all makes and models of heat pumps to ensure you always have access to an efficient heating and cooling source at home.

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