Air conditioning units are designed to provide cool and clean air for your living space. It may seem counterintuitive, but if your air conditioner is spitting out ice, it is actually a sign of a problem. We consulted experts to find out what steps you should take if this happens, and here’s their advice.
First and foremost, unplug your air conditioner immediately if you notice ice being ejected. Allow the ice to thaw completely, which typically takes around 4-5 hours. While waiting for the ice to thaw, remove and clean the air filter. Once the filter is clean, let it air dry and then place it back into the AC unit. These steps will provide a temporary solution, but to prevent the issue from recurring, we need to delve deeper and understand the underlying cause. So, stay with us as we explore how air conditioning systems work and how to maintain them to ensure efficient operation.
Why Does Ice Form Inside The Air Conditioner?
The formation of ice inside an air conditioner is a common issue for all types of models, including centralized, ductless mini-split, and window-mounted units.
When the air flowing through the AC unit is obstructed by a clogged air filter, ice can accumulate in the unit’s evaporator. The dust and debris trapped in the filter combine with the cold air passing over the evaporator coils, leading to the formation of ice. Blockages in the airflow force the air conditioner to work harder, resulting in a buildup of ice. Additionally, in humid conditions, moisture in the air can freeze inside the unit, leading to ice particles being expelled when the ice begins to thaw.
Another cause of ice formation is when the evaporator coil chamber becomes excessively cold. Insufficient refrigerant or blockages in the air passages can lead to the coils freezing, causing the temperature to drop further and resulting in layers of frost and ice.
Indicators Of Ice Buildup In The Air Conditioner
It’s normal to see a light dusting of frost on the evaporator coils when your air conditioner is running. However, if this frost accumulates and forms layers of ice, it can be a cause for concern. These ice layers will eventually thaw and be expelled when you run the air conditioner. Here are some indicators that ice is building up inside your air conditioner:
- Failure To Reach The Desired Temperature: The evaporator coils are choked with ice due to humid air, hindering proper airflow and preventing the air conditioner from cooling the room effectively.
- No Airflow: When you turn on your AC unit, you may notice that no air is coming out. This could be a result of the heat from the room being absorbed and expelled outside the house due to the ice buildup.
- Warm Air: If warm air is coming out of your AC unit instead of cool air, it is a clear sign of ice accumulation. This can make your indoor environment uncomfortable.
- Short Cycling: If your air conditioner starts, stops, and then restarts its compressor, and you hear a cracking or popping sound, it is known as “short cycling.” This indicates a serious issue that can cause unnecessary wear and tear on the AC unit, potentially leading to damage.
What To Do When Your Air Conditioner Is Spitting Out Ice
If you observe ice being expelled from your air conditioner, it is crucial to take immediate action. The steps to address the issue are simple and straightforward, requiring only a soft brush and a towel. Here’s what you should do:
- Power off and unplug your AC unit, including the breaker.
- Allow the ice on the evaporator coils to thaw completely, which usually takes 4-5 hours. You can accelerate the melting process by running the blower, using a
hairdryer or a heat gun. Once the ice has melted, use a towel to soak up any water.
- Remove and clean the air filter, ensuring that you eliminate any accumulated dust. You can use a soft-bristled brush or compressed air to clean the filter. In some cases, the filter may need to be replaced.
- Air dry the filter thoroughly and then reinstall it in the AC unit.
Ways To Avoid Having Air Conditioner Icing Problems
The previous section outlined the steps to take when ice starts spitting out of your AC unit. However, these steps only provide a temporary solution. To prevent the problem from recurring in the future, additional measures need to be taken. Ice expulsion from your air conditioner typically indicates poor maintenance. Here are some tips to prevent the issue and ensure efficient operation of your AC unit:
- Clean or replace the air filter: HVAC specialists recommend cleaning or maintaining the air conditioner filter every 4 to 6 weeks, especially if you use the unit daily. This prevents dust and other pollutants from clogging the filter and causing issues. Alternatively, you can opt to replace a dirty or worn-out filter, as there are various brands available in the market that can help keep your AC unit in excellent condition.
- Clean the evaporator and condenser coils: Sometimes, even with a clean or new filter, ice can still form inside the AC unit. In such cases, it’s important to check the evaporator coils. These coils can accumulate dust, hair, grime, lint, and other debris, which can obstruct airflow and cause the unit to overwork and freeze. It is recommended to schedule annual cleaning of the evaporator coils, as they are critical components of any air conditioning unit. Consider hiring an air conditioner technician for this preventive maintenance task.
- Monitor coolant levels: Low refrigerant can be another cause of air conditioner freezing. HVAC specialists can help detect leaks and perform the necessary repairs if needed. The cost of this maintenance and repair job may range from $225 to $1,600, depending on the severity and location of the leak.
- Check the return air intake register: Ensure that furniture, draperies, or rugs do not obstruct the airflow of your air conditioner. Properly arrange these items so that they do not hinder the smooth operation of the unit.
What Not To Do When Checking Or Cleaning Your Air Conditioner
Here are a few important reminders and warnings to follow when repairing or cleaning your air conditioner. These precautions will help prevent further damage to the internal components and ensure your safety:
- Never open, check, or clean the internal components of your air conditioner while it is still plugged in. Always shut down the unit completely, including the breaker, before working on the appliance. This simple habit will protect you from burns and the risk of electrocution.
- If there is residual ice that may have accumulated on the evaporator coils, do not attempt to scrape it off by yourself. Scraping can puncture the coils and cause the refrigerant to leak, potentially leading to more serious and long-term damage to your air conditioner.
- Avoid using hard bristles or abrasive materials when cleaning the evaporator coils, as they can cause damage. Instead, use a soft brush and a mechanical cleaning solution. Alternatively, you can use an air compressor to expedite the cleaning process.
The formation of frost and ice inside an air conditioning unit indicates obstructions in the airflow caused by dust accumulation on the air filter and evaporator coils. When the air conditioner runs, the ice begins to thaw and is expelled from the unit.
To ensure the efficient operation of your air conditioner, it is important to prevent ice buildup. If you notice ice spitting out of your AC unit, take immediate action. Turn off the unit, let the ice thaw completely, clean or replace the air filter, and reinstall the clean filter.
Ice spitting out of your air conditioner is a clear sign of a maintenance issue. Clean or replace the air filter regularly, clean the evaporator coils annually, and monitor the coolant level. Consider contacting an AC technician for preventive maintenance to keep your air conditioning system functioning optimally at all times.