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Worried Your AC Is Freezing Up? 4 Reasons Why This May Indicate You Need A New AC Unit

Is your AC freezing up? Here’s some straight talk from the pros: How to know if you can repair it, or you need to replace your air conditioner.

What’s cooler than being cool? Definitely not a frozen air conditioner. Of course, we install and use air conditioners because we want to enjoy cool temperatures in our living spaces. But your AC freezing up is taking things too far. It can seem like a cruel joke. How can something that works hard in hot weather become filled with frosty ice? But this is no laughing matter: A frozen AC unit is a sign of machine damage — and it’s a problem you should address immediately. There are a few reasons why your air conditioner is freezing up, and although it’s not necessary to understand the ins and outs of each one, we’ll give an overview of the most frequent problems. Then, we will provide an overview of common indicators that your AC unit is freezing, and help you troubleshoot it with an action plan.

Why Is My AC Unit Frozen and How Can I Tell?

Air conditioning units consist of a complicated network of coils and ducts, which means there are many potential reasons why one might freeze up. Some of the most common causes of a frozen air conditioner are: poor air flow, dirty coils, and low levels of refrigerant. An inefficient air conditioner, or one that is overworked, is more likely to experience this issue. Older, outdated models are also likely culprits for freezing. For the average homeowner, it’s not necessary to understand the science of what went wrong — but you should know how to spot an issue.

  1. There is ice collecting on the outside of the air conditioner. Okay, this is an easy one. If you see ice or frost accumulation on the exterior of your AC, you can be sure that you’re dealing with an AC that’s freezing up.
  2. There is ice collecting on the inside of the air conditioner. No ice accumulation on the exterior? Turn off the unit and open the panel. Do you see ice accumulation on the interior cooling coils? This is a sign of damage. Do not attempt to scrape the ice from the coils; this could cause serious problems.
  3. The AC is making weird noises. If you hear clanking, sputtering, or any other “funky” noises coming from your air conditioner when it’s on, that’s a potential sign that ice buildup is stopping it from doing its job.
  4. The AC unit is blowing hot air. How can an AC unit that’s frozen produce hot air? Easy; a frozen unit means that the machine is no longer able to do its job, and is cycling out air that’s already warm. Visit each of the air vents in your home and perform a simple inspection while the AC unit is running: Place your hand directly in front of the vent to determine the temperature of the air being distributed.
  5. The AC air filters are dirty. You can check an air conditioner’s filter with ease; if you’ve noticed frost accumulation or warm air distribution, inspect the air filter on your unit. A dirty or clogged filter is a sign that there’s trouble afoot.

How Serious Is a Frozen Air Conditioner?

Now that you know how to tell if your AC is freezing up and why an AC unit freezes up, it’s time to decide if you should repair or replace it. The more times an air conditioner freezes, the greater the chances it will need to be replaced. This is why quick fixes and inefficient DIY repairs are not a good long-term solution (not to mention, time-consuming for you). It’s also not a smart action plan to simply let the frozen AC unit thaw and turn it back on. A frozen air conditioner is an air conditioner in need of repair or replacement.

As soon as you determine that your AC unit is frozen, you should turn off the compressor. Not only does this mitigate potential electrical hazards, it stops new ice from forming on the machine, which could cause irreparable or permanent damage. However, it is a good idea to leave the fan running. The fan may boost airflow, which can help melt the ice. Do not try to diagnose the problem yourself, as this could potentially cause greater problems down the line. Instead, contact an honest and trusted professional who will help you determine if the problem is able to be addressed with maintenance work, or if your unit should be replaced.