A frozen AC unit is incapable of cooling your home. It's important to find the cause of the problem so you can stop it from happening again.
There are many reasons that an AC system can freeze up. The most common is poor airflow through the system. Dirty filters, grimy coils, and other blockages reduce airflow to the point that the unit can't run efficiently and ice begins to build up on the coils. This is because dirt acts as an insulation blanket on the unit, not allowing the proper temperature exchanges to take place.
The refrigerant is another common culprit for AC freeze-ups. When refrigerant levels are low, the unit doesn't have enough pressure to push cold air through. Instead, it pools and causes the normal condensation on the coils to freeze up. Refrigerant runs in a closed system, so if it is low, then it means that there is a leak somewhere in your AC unit.
Repair means having a full cleaning and inspection. Your tech will first remove and replace all the filters in the unit. Then, they will remove the outer covering of the unit and clean out any debris that has collected inside. Finally, the condenser coils are washed off and a fin comb is used to straighten any that have become bent.
The next step is to test for refrigerant leaks. If refrigerant levels are low, then the system must be tested for leaks. Leaks can be difficult to find, and depending on the age of the unit, it may make more financial sense to simply replace it. If a leak is found and it is repairable, then your HVAC technician will repair the leak and then recharge the system with new refrigerant.
You can take steps to prevent freezing up. The most important step is to replace the air filters every one to two months during the cooling season. Use the filters recommended for your unit. It also helps to wash off the exterior of the outside unit with a hose every few weeks, as this removes surface dust and pollen that could interfere with normal operation. Further, keep plants and grass well-trimmed around the unit so that airflow isn't blocked.
Finally, always schedule annual AC maintenance so that problems with refrigerant levels can be spotted early. Annual maintenance also includes a full interior cleaning of the unit, which further reduces the chances of freezing.
Contact an HVAC contractor service if your AC unit is freezing up.
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