Does Frost Build Up on your Air Conditioner as It Runs?

A frosted-over air conditioner is a strange sight for many homeowners to see, especially on extremely hot days. As it turns out, frost formation is a strange but normal occurrence for any air conditioning unit. The culprit lies with the refrigeration process itself — as your air conditioner extracts heat from indoor air, the surrounding moisture condenses and a small portion of it freezes on the coils.

A small amount of frost buildup won’t hurt your air conditioner, but too much of anything can be bad. Heavy frost and ice buildup can have serious consequences for your air conditioner. The following information highlights some of the problems that heavy frost and ice buildup can cause for your AC system.

Insufficient Airflow

Adequate airflow is absolutely critical for your air conditioner. In fact, the evaporator and condenser coils rely on a steady source of airflow to function properly. As indoor air flows through the evaporator coil, for example, the coil helps cool the air by absorbing latent heat in the air stream. Outdoors, the condenser coil relies on airflow to release heat into the atmosphere. A heavy buildup of frost and ice can have the same negative impact on your air conditioner as a clogged air filter. Frost and ice can block air from flowing through the coils, preventing them from functioning properly. Without a steady source of airflow, your air conditioner won’t be able to cool your home effectively. In most cases, the airflow coming from your air conditioner’s vents may feel weaker than usual.

Poor Cooling Performance

Blockages caused by frost and ice buildup can also impact your air conditioner’s overall performance. For starters, you may notice your air conditioner struggling to maintain desired temperatures in your home. No matter how much you adjust your thermostat downwards, you won’t be able to keep your home as comfortable as before.

Increased Energy Consumption

Another consequence of excessive frost and ice buildup is a noticeable increase in your air conditioner’s energy consumption. As your air conditioner struggles to keep your home cool and comfortable, it’ll also use more energy than usual due to its components working harder than usual. All of this constant hard work can lead to an increase in your monthly energy bills. If you’re a stickler for low utility bills during the summer, the sticker shock caused by an ice-bound air conditioner can be an unwelcome surprise.

Frequent Shutdowns

If you don’t take care of your frost and ice buildup issues, sooner or later they can result in your air conditioner’s unexpected shutdown. An AC system will automatically shut off if it overheats due to blockages caused by frost and ice buildup. A complete shutdown can rob your home of its cooling comfort for extended periods. Frequent shutdowns also add wear and tear on your air conditioning components, leaving them less reliable and more prone to failure long-term. To avoid these and other expensive problems that frequent shutdowns can cause, tackle your air conditioner’s frost buildup issues as soon as you can.

Water Leaks

Heavy frost and ice buildup can cause yet another unexpected problem — water leaks. Your air conditioner features a unique drip tray that captures water as it condenses from warm air and drains it out of the system. Large volumes of melting ice can easily overwhelm your drip tray, sending water over the edge of the tray and onto the ground below. You’ll notice something’s amiss when you start seeing puddles of water around your air conditioner. Uncontrolled water leaks can cause water damage to surrounding flooring and even spread mold and algae throughout your air conditioner. If you have a water leak due to melting frost or ice, you’ll need to take care of it as soon as it starts.

Coil Damage

Keeping your coils on ice can eventually damage the coil itself. Ice naturally expands and contracts as it grows and melts. The constant expansion and contraction can make short work of your coil’s aluminum fins, causing them to crack or break apart. The actual copper or aluminum lines that make up your evaporator and condenser coils can also crack under the stress, leading to refrigerant leaks. Attempts to unthaw the evaporator or condenser coil may also cause damage. For example, you should never use an ice pick to break up thick sheets of ice. Don’t pour hot water over a frozen coil either or the coil may crack due to thermal shock. In short, be careful how you unthaw your coils if they’re affected by heavy frost or ice buildup. Good maintenance is the key to preventing frost and ice buildup. The experts at Magnolia Plumbing, Heating & Cooling can help you keep frost and ice at bay through regular air conditioner service. Contact us to schedule maintenance or repairs today.