How to Fix a Frozen Air Conditioner

February 23, 2015

Summer’s coming (as hard as it is to believe right now) and here's an often cited scenario with the average homeowner: They’re at home, minding their own business, happily indulging a bowl of popcorn and watching their favorite TV show, when suddenly he/she hears dreadful sound; drip... drip... drip. They look over to see the cat licking at a puddle that's gradually forming on the dining room floor. In a flash: Anxiety, stress, and that sinking feeling. How did the leak start?; water heater, leaky toilet, shower, faucet? Nope – the central air conditioner is frozen solid. This can happen anywhere, from Knoxville to Africa, regardless of summer heat.

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Why Air Conditioners Freeze

When a central air conditioner freezes up, what actually freezes is the condenser unit's evaporator coil. This component of the air conditioner transfers (evaporates) heat from the inside to the outside of your Knoxville area home. Usually there are two factors why the evaporator coil may freeze:

  1. Airflow restriction
  2. Low refrigerant

Either way, the result is that the air conditioner's evaporator coil does not properly dissipate heat, and in essence 'overcools' itself. The net effect of this super-cooling is condensation (that's water formation), and eventually ice forms from that condensation as it cools below the freezing point. Yep, the A/C has morphed into an old-school icebox.

What Might You Do When Your A/C Freezes?

  1. Turn the unit completely off at the thermostat, and do not increase the thermostat temperature as a way to melt the frost on the coils. Just make sure the A/C system is completely OFF.
  2. Check to ensure that the airflow around your system is unrestricted. Replace the furnace or air handler's filter as well as any return air filters. Open all the registers completely and ensure that they are not impeded by furniture or drapes.
  3. Call R & M Climate Control Service Experts. The air conditioning system needs to be professionally inspected to ensure there are no refrigerant leaks or damage to the equipment. Simply schedule a Performance Inspection or Repair Diagnostic online, or call to talk to a live person right away.

What Does it Cost to Repair?

This can lead to an expensive repair. When your air conditioner ices over it can lead to a totaled compressor. Replacing your compressor can cost as much as a downpayment on a high efficiency model. Actually, many homeowners are forced to choose between installing a new system vs repairing the damaged unit. If you move fast, follow the instructions, and call a NATE-certified technician, you stand a better chance of having a less expensive repair.

Your technician will diagnose the situation and how to avoid the issue from occurring in the future. If a leak was really the cause (and that is rare, but possible), the leak has to be repaired or the unit will probably freeze again.
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