When Your Air Conditioner “Freezes” in Florida

When Your Air Conditioner “Freezes” in Florida

Climate change is real, folks, and according to a recent report on the CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell, July 2019, may go down in the record books as the hottest month ever recorded. Nearly two-thirds of the United States and more than 151 million people are under an excessive heat warning with high humidity and heat indices exceeding 105 degrees. Although Florida does not fall under this warning, the heat is on every summer in our tropical paradise!

Air conditioning units throughout Pasco and Pinellas counties and across the state are working overtime to keep our homes and offices cool. If properly maintained, most air cooling systems and heat pumps will perform strongly without fail. Older a/c systems, or those which have not received adequate maintenance, are on course to freeze-up and fail, likely on the hottest of summer days!

So, why does an air conditioner freeze-up causing it to fail, anyway? There are several reasons why this occurs; steps you can take to remedy the situation; and ways to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Why an Air Conditioner Freezes

  • Restricted Airflow is one contributing factor to why an air conditioner freezes. When filters are clogged, or ductwork is leaking, warm air cannot reach the refrigerant to remove the heat and distribute cool air throughout the home. This causes the evaporator coil to accumulate condensation which ices the coils.
  • Air filters are in place to catch dust and other airborne particulates as air passes through the system. If the air filter is clogged, the air conditioner has to work harder to move air through the system. When an air conditioner is forced to work harder, it will often freeze-up, or completely break down, requiring service and repairs, resulting in extra costs.
  • Dirty evaporator coils will freeze when they are clogged with dust, dirt, and debris, which is another critical reason for monthly air filter changes and regular maintenance of air conditioners. 
  • Low refrigerant can be another reason for an air system failure. If the refrigerant is leaking (which can be easily be detected with regular maintenance checks), there may not be enough present to remove the heat from the air, allowing the evaporator coil to freeze.
  • Faulty fan operation keeps air from flowing through the system properly, ultimately causing the air conditioner to freeze.
  • Inefficient thermostats and water drainage issues can result in an a/c freeze. As the air conditioner cools, water is condensed from vapor into a liquid that has to drain away from the system. If evaporator coils are frozen, the ice that accumulates may block the drain hole and prevent proper drainage. Your air conditioner may still run, but it will use much more energy and your home or office won’t be any cooler.

What to do When an Air Conditioner Freezes

  • Turn the air conditioner off, otherwise, frost will continue to build in the unit. By leaving the air conditioner off for a period of time, the ice that has accumulated on the evaporator coils melts, allowing the system to function. However, the likelihood of the system freezing again is greatly increased, as is a complete system shutdown. Professional maintenance by the highly- skilled service technicians at Proficient Air is highly recommended.
  • If there is significant icing, consider turning your thermostat to the heat setting to help accelerate thawing.
  • With thawing, at any rate, be sure to examine drain pipes for debris and monitor the melting process in order to promptly remove water that builds in the drain pan. If water is allowed to overflow into the unit, the damage and subsequent costs could be significant.
  • Since we’ve determined that dirty air filters cause a/c units to work harder, not smarter, set a reminder in your Smartphone to change the air filters monthly, or if using a premium filter that lasts three months, schedule a quarterly change. Air filters are easily found in most home improvement stores and some grocery stores. If you are not sure how to change the filter, check the owner’s manual or tap-into a search engine or YouTube video.
  • Never allow the air conditioner to continue running with frozen coils. This can lead to extensive damage of the compressor, the most expensive component of and a/c unit.
  • Once the air conditioner has thawed, turn it to the cool setting and check that the air blowing from your vents is cooler. If so, the a/c unit is back in business. If these tips don’t help or the air conditioner continues to freeze, it is wise to contact the professional HVAC techs at Proficient Air for an expert analysis.

How to Prevent Air Conditioner Freezes

With all of this information, it is clear what actions should be taken to prevent your central air conditioner from freezing-up.

  • We can’t emphasize enough the importance of routine maintenance of your air conditioner. It’s too important in Florida during the summer to take a chance of losing your cool! Air conditioner Service technicians will make sure evaporator coils are clean, and they are expertly-trained to examine and maintain all components of a/c units, large or small, and troubleshoot areas of concern to reduce the possibility of system failure.
  • Depending upon the type of filter you choose, you should always change air filters regularly. A lesser expensive filter will work fine and should be changed monthly. More expensive filters may only need changing every three months. Always review instructions and the air conditioner manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Check and open all supply vents so they are unobstructed. You may think that closing or blocking vents helps save energy, but the truth is, the air conditioner will be unable to operate efficiently when airflow is blocked at any point of the air cooling process.
  • Something best left to licensed HVAC professionals is checking refrigerant levels. As previously discussed, the low refrigerant will prevent the air cooling system from pulling heat out of the air that will be circulating throughout your home or office. Ensure you have proper refrigerant levels, and reduce your risk for air conditioner freeze-ups.
  • While your HVAC service technician is checking the refrigerant levels, they can also adjust the fan speed, as needed, to make certain air is effectively flowing through the air conditioning system.
  • Thermostats can last as long as 35 years, and yours may seem to work fine. However, in today’s world, digital and WIFI models operate uber-efficiently and can even be accessed through your Smartphone or a mobile device. Check your thermostat, and if you have an older model, now’s the time to consider taking a leap toward the newest technology.

There is no bigger headache than losing your a/c during the hot summer months, which is why we encourage you to schedule preventative, routine maintenance for your central air conditioning or heat pump system to keep it functioning properly without episodes of “freezing-up” for many summers to come!

Proficient Air in Palm Harbor offers a variety of high-quality maintenance contracts, specifically tailored to your needs and budget.  Protect your HVAC investment and keep your business, home and family cool, comfortable and energy-efficient all summer long, with Proficient Air. Call us today: 727.386.2732


CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell