As you rely on your heat pump to keep you warm this winter, you may notice that there is ice building up on the outside unit of the system. Don’t be alarmed; ice on the system isn’t necessarily a problem. However, it is something that you will want to watch closely. Under the wrong circumstances, ice can pose a huge threat to the heat pump. Let’s take a look at why heat pumps ice up, and when to call for repairs.
Why It Happens
When the heat pump is in heating mode, it evaporates refrigerant to siphon heat from the surrounding air. The temperature around the heat pump plummets, and condensation forms on the coil of the heat pump. If the temperature falls low enough, the condensate will freeze and form ice. As ice builds on the coil, it will cut off the system’s access to the thermal energy in the air. This will prevent the heat pump from actually heating your home. The weight of the ice can also cause the coil to permanently warp.
When to Call for Repairs
The reason that ice is not necessarily a threat to your heat pump all the time is that heat pumps use defrost cycles. These defrost cycles reverse the flow of refrigerant through the system, venting heat through the outer coil to melt any ice buildup. If this defrost cycle malfunctions, though, your system may be endangered by ice buildup. If you notice that your heat pump is more than half-covered in ice, it may be a good idea to have it looked at by a professional.