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Should There Be Ice on My Heat Pump in Winter?

Posted on: January 4, 2016

Heat pumps are an effective way to provide year-round comfort for a house, and advancing technology has made them more energy efficient during colder weather than they were previously. If this is the first winter you’ve used a heat pump for cold weather comfort, you may have some questions about its operation. One of the more common concerns that new heat pump owners have is the presence of ice along the outdoor unit. Is this supposed to happen, and should you call for repairs when you notice it?

Ice on a heat pump is usually not an issue…

The appearance of frost along the outdoor refrigerant coil of a heat pump is a part of normal operation. As the coil draws thermal energy from the outside air, it also draws moisture. If the outdoor temperature is 40°F or below and the relative humidity is high, it will result in the moisture along the coil freezing. Although ice will restrict the ability of the coil to absorb heat, the heat pump is equipped to handle this. Defrost controls regularly reverse the direction of heat exchange so the coils release heat and melt off the ice.

…although sometimes it is an issue

If the ice on a heat pump doesn’t melt off after two hours and keeps building up, something may be wrong. The likely issue is broken defrost controls, although the reversing valve may also have failed. It’s also possible that the heat pump is losing refrigerant, which is a serious malfunction that needs repairs ASAP.

Make sure you keep snow clear of the heat pump

The ice we’ve talked about above is the sort that forms along the coil. It doesn’t include actual snow. It’s important to keep snowdrifts away from the outdoor heat pump cabinet, since they will interfere with the heat absorption along the coils. Shovel the snow clear of the heat pump after a significant snowfall.

If you need heat pump repairs, call Bud Matthews Services in Durham, NC.

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