It’s a nightmare on a hot summer day if your AC isn’t working — even more so when you check the air conditioner and find a pile of ice sitting inside your unit. That’s the definition of a frozen air conditioner.
Naturally, the easiest solution to this is to turn off the AC right from the breaker. Within 24 to 48 hours, the ice jamming your unit will have melted, and you can turn the AC back on.
But what if you don’t have 24 to 48 hours to wait and you need that cold air now?
Read on for more tricks and tips on how to unfreeze an AC unit fast and safely.
Best Tips on how to Unfreeze your AC
1. Turn Off the Air Conditioner
Yes, your technician is right. When you realize the AC is frozen, the first thing you have to do is to shut it off immediately. Running a frozen AC can damage the most expensive component inside and cost you a small fortune to replace.
Most people only turn off the control panel and the thermostat, but we recommend doing it from the electrical breaker as well. This will stop all AC activity and help the evaporator coils to warm up and melt the ice.
2. Try a Little Heat
As previously stated, simply shutting off the AC will not melt the ice fast enough. It can take more than a day before it’s nice and toasty. You can speed up this process with some heat directed towards the ice.
Hold a blow dryer turned on low setting at least 10 inches from the evaporator coils and heat that ice up. Don’t be tempted to crank up that temperature or go any closer than 10 inches away because the heat can break the evaporator coils. You only need to hold the blow dryer there for about 15 minutes, and all the ice will thaw.
Speaking of caution, do not use other heating methods like a propane torch or lamp as this can damage the system. A blow-dryer is only safe because it’s hot air, not actual heat, and you only use it in a low-temperature setting.
3. Turn on the Fan
Once all the ice has melted, turn on the AC to ‘fan only’ mode. The fan will blow warm air inside the air conditioner and dry the entire system out.
Any lingering ice will melt, and the moisture that was inside will dry up. The last thing you want is to turn on an AC that still has moisture because it will freeze again immediately.
4. Check the Draining Components
As ice thaws and becomes liquid, it drips into a condensate drain pan and then goes outside through a condensate drain line, which is a white PVC pipe. On a bad day, the condensate drain line can get clogged because the water is dirty, there is mold inside, or the AC hasn’t been cleaned in a while.
When this happens, the water will drip on the drain pan, but it won’t go out because the pipe is clogged. This leads to an overflow which can essentially damage the AC components or lead to another freezing incident. You can tell the pipe is clogged because water will leak around your AC when you melt the ice, or you will notice water stains on the ceiling.
In this case, you will need to connect a shop vacuum to the outdoor condensate drain line and turn it on for two minutes. The pressure from the vacuum will pull out any clog and clear the drain. Alternatively, you can attach a hose pipe and blast water inside the condensate drain at high pressure.
5. Clean the Coils
Once the unit is nice and dry, you can go in there and wipe down the evaporator coils. Dirty coils are just as bad as wet ones, so you need to take care of that fast.
Use a soft towel to get rid of any clinging moisture, dirt, and debris that you find there.
6. Address the Freezing Cause
Unfortunately, the air conditioner freezing up is just a symptom of a bigger issue. Even as you learn how to unfreeze an air conditioner, you still need to figure out the cause because, if you do not, it will happen again.
More often than not, the obvious culprit is a clogged air filter. If it’s even a little dirty and hasn’t been replaced in over a month, the air filter restricts warm air from getting into the AC unit, causing the coils to remain cold and freeze. The solution is to replace the filter immediately.
Other issues that could lead to freezing include:
- Dirty evaporator coil
- A refrigerant leak
- A weak or malfunctioning blower motor
- Bent or collapsed ducts
- Closed or stuck expansion valve
- Old compressor
- Electrical issues on the thermostat or electrical components
Ideally, you should call a qualified HVAC technician to come and look at this for you. They will check all the components and diagnose the cause. Once you sort out this problem, clean the AC and change the filter, you should not have any more freezing incidents for a good while.
7. Turn the AC Back On
Once the technician fixes the issues and gives you the go-ahead, turn the AC back on and see if it’s working properly. Use the thermostat to turn the AC back on and visually check if the fans are working.
There should be cold and clean air coming into your home, and you should not hear any bubbling or hissing noise. Your energy bill should also go back to normal because the AC is not using too much energy.
Whereas some causes of AC unit freezing are technical issues that can’t be avoided, most of them can. You can prevent so many problems with regular maintenance. These include changing the filter monthly, cleaning the coils and condensate drain line, and calling a technician twice a year for an inspection.
Nevertheless, if freezing occurs and you need to unfreeze the unit fast, the above tips on how to unfreeze the AC unit will work great.