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Why Is The Outside Part Of My Air Conditioning Unit Covered With Ice?

Now, I have to ask…ice or frost?

A layer of frost is not a problem, most units are factory programmed to ‘de-frost’ about every 90 minutes.

A layer of ice is a problem. This invariably is a dilemma with heat pumps. It’s probably a malfunctioning defrost control which could cost between $350 and $1,000 to replace.

The temporary fixes you can try prior to your service technician arriving are:

  • Go to your thermostat and switch it to ‘cooling’. This puts the unit effectively into defrost mode. Once the ice has melted, return it to the heat position.
  • String some Christmas lights on the unit, the warmth from the bulbs will keep the ice from forming. Do not use the new LED Lights for this, they don’t generate enough heat to work.  Make sure this string of lights is plugged into a GFCI protected circuit.
  • Shine large workshop type spotlights onto the unit.

Know this about your heat pump: On a cold, wet morning it is only going to warm your inside air about 20 degrees when measured at the supply register.  That means if your thermostat is set at 70 degrees and your unit is maintaining that temperature, the air temp at the supply register won’t be over 90 degrees. That’s cooler than your body temperature, it will not feel like the heat is on.

For that reason, we tell people never adjust the heat pump thermostat throughout the day. You cannot wake up in the morning and ask your unit to raise the temperature while you get ready for work and then drop the setting to let it rest while you are gone. 

For heat pumps in winter, pick a livable temperature and leave it there until the spring. This is how the unit was designed to work.

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