Finding ice on the outside of your heat pump is not uncommon, especially in cold environments. Most people tend to assume that this indicates a problem with the heat pump. This isn’t necessarily true, though there is a way to tell whether you need to call for heating repair for this. First, let’s take a look at why ice forms on a heat pump in the first place. Then, we’ll tell you how to identify if you need to call a professional or not.
The Cause of Heat Pump Ice
A heat pump works by evaporating refrigerant to absorb thermal energy from the surrounding outside air. It then sends that thermal energy inside to heat the home. There are two effects to evaporating refrigerant in this way. First, the temperature in the surrounding area drops as the thermal energy is siphoned out of the air. Second, condensation begins to form on the heat pump coil and the surrounding casing. The combination of those two effects causes ice to form on the heat pump.
When is Ice on My Heat Pump a Problem?
So, the question remains about when ice on the heat pump is a problem. Well, if left unchecked, the ice will continue to build up until it completely encases the heat pump. This is a problem because it cuts off the supply of thermal energy from the surrounding air, essentially preventing the heat pump from heating the home. Now, the heat pump is designed to address this problem by using a defrost cycle. Basically, the heat pump will periodically reverse the refrigerant flow in the system to melt the ice off the outside unit.
The problem you should be aware of is that the defrost cycle can sometimes malfunction. If this happens, there is nothing to prevent the ice from eventually covering the entire heat pump. So, the best way to tell if you should call a professional for this is to note the amount of ice on the pump. If there’s only a little ice, there’s no reason to worry. If there is a large amount of ice, or the ice is slowly growing over time, you should call a technician to check your defrost cycle.