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 a typical scenario with the average homeowner: They’re sitting in their house, minding their own business, enjoying a bowl of popcorn and watching their favorite TV show, when suddenly he/she hears terrible sound; drip... drip... drip. They glance over to see the cat licking at a puddle that's gradually forming on the dining room floor. Just like that, the mood changes: Anxiety, stress, and that “how much will this cost?” feeling. What caused the leak?; water heater, leaky toilet, shower, faucet? Nope – it's the air conditioner of all things. This can occur anywhere, from Livermore to Timbuktu, regardless of climate.

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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 Livermore area home. Usually there are two factors why the evaporator coil may freeze:

  1. Airflow restriction
  2. Lack of sufficient refrigerant

Either way, the result is that the air conditioner's evaporator coil cannot operate to properly dissipate heat, and in essence 'overcools' itself. The net effect of this super-cooling is condensation (that's water formation), and over time ice forms from that condensation as it cools below the freezing point. In other words, the A/C just turned into an old-school icebox.

What Can 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 obstructed by furniture or curtains.
  3. Call Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. 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 become a pricey repair. When your AC ices over it can lead to damage to the compressor. Replacing your compressor could cost as much as a downpayment on a high efficiency model. Actually, many homeowners are forced to decide between installing a new system or repairing the old unit. If you follow the steps above and quickly call a NATE-certified technician, you stand a better chance of having a less expensive job.

Your technician will quickly analyze the problem and how to avoid the issue from happening again. If a leak exists (and that is rare, but possible), the leak has to be repaired or the unit will probably freeze again.
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