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Even during northern Virginia’s mild winters, a little ice on your heat pump is normal. However, if your heat pump coils freeze completely or the whole unit becomes encased in ice, your system won’t run well and the components will be at risk for damage. Understanding why a heat pump freezes up is the first step toward solving and preventing the problem.

  • Insufficient airflow – The temperature of the heat pump’s refrigerant can fall below freezing. Without sufficient airflow through the unit, moisture in the air can freeze on the evaporator or condenser coil. To prevent this, ensure good airflow by clearing away any leaves, debris or snow drifts that may be blocking the coils. If the coils are dirty, cleaning them may prevent freezing. 
  • Cold water – When freezing rain falls on a heat pump, the rain can cause the top of the unit to freeze and the rest quickly follows. If your heat pump can’t defrost itself after a day or if it defrosts then freezes again, call an HVAC expert for proper ice removal. Water dripping from a leaking gutter is also a common cause of frozen heat pumps. Check your gutters and make any necessary repairs.
  • Settling – Most heat pumps stand on a concrete slab. Over time, this slab can settle into the ground. Even an inch or two of settling can block the drainage path for ice melt and impede airflow, causing ice buildup. If you suspect this is your problem, contact an HVAC technician about having the unit leveled.

Ultimately, lack of maintenance is a big part of why a heat pump freezes up. Prevention is often just a matter of regular upkeep. Annual heat pump maintenance performed by an HVAC professional can take care of the blockages and dirt buildup that are common factors in heat pump freezing. A technician can also check for settling and resolve the issue before it causes problems.

If you need further helping understanding why a heat pump freezes up, or have any other HVAC-related questions, contact the professionals at Griffith Energy Services. We provide reliable HVAC services around Chantilly, McLean, Fairfax and the surrounding area.

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