You rely on your HVAC unit to keep your home comfortable to live in all year round. In the summer, your air conditioning unit helps you combat humidity and heat, and in the winter, you can keep your home from turning into an icebox. What should you do, though, if you take a look at your air conditioner one day and find it frozen over?
It is generally considered safe to pour hot water on a frozen air conditioner unit to de-freeze frozen coils. You may not have to, though. There are other ways to defrost an air conditioner, including running it on "defrost" mode.
There are other ways, too, to contend with an air conditioner unit that's turned into a popsicle. You can determine which may suit your needs best, depending on the quantity of ice built up around your unit.
Can I Pour Hot Water On A Frozen Air Conditioner?
If your air conditioner freezes in the winter, you may be reluctant to try and experiment with ways to defrost it. However, your air conditioning unit is not as sensitive to temperature changes as some of the other appliances in your home. As such, you can safely pour hot water over an air conditioning unit if you need to defrost or de-thaw it.
Do note, though, that when you talk about your air conditioner freezing, you're talking about the state of the coils inside of your unit. It's your air conditioner's coils that come into contact with the most moisture as your unit goes to work in your home. As such, if the temperature in your home drops abruptly, the coils will be the first parts of your unit to suffer the consequences.
In turn, fixing a frozen or frosted air conditioning means attending to the coils instead of another part of your unit. If, after you pour hot water on the coils, you find that something's still amiss with your machine, then you may want to reach out to a professional in your area for guidance.
Other Ways To Defrost Your Air Conditioner
You don't have to reach for the hot water as soon as you think something's gone wrong with your air conditioner coils. Instead, you can look over the unit you have installed to see whether or not it comes with a "defrost mode." You can run an air conditioner's defrost mode for between 30 and 90 minutes, depending on the degree of frost that you're dealing with, and avoid having to contend with extra moisture in your home when the unit comes back online.
What Not To Do To Defrost Your Air Conditioner
When faced with unwanted frost, you may be tempted to break out a spot heater or even a hairdryer to get your air conditioner back up and running. This isn't in your best interest when you have other solutions, like defrost mode or even hot water, on hand.
If you try to use a spot heater or a hairdryer to defrost your air conditioner, you risk melting the ice on your coils too quickly and damaging the electronics in your unit. When, alternatively, you use hot water, you can slowly run that frost of your unit, preventing more significant damage to your unit's internal mechanisms.
What Does It Mean When Your Air Conditioner Freezes?
Your air conditioner coils aren't going to freeze on a whim. Several circumstances can lead to these coils frosting over. These include:
Heat Mode Versus Cooling Mode
If, for example, you have your air conditioner in heat mode in the wintertime, the shift in the unit's purpose may cause the coils to come into contact with cold air at a higher rate than they would if you were cooling your home.
Your air conditioner unit uses filters to clear out the air that it sends circulating back through your home. However, if your filters start to get dirty, then that dust and grime can prevent your unit from working as it should. The barrier of gunk, after all, can impede airflow through your unit and, in turn, cause your problematic freezing.
Exterior Air Conditioning Units
Similarly, if you have a window unit instead of central air, then a sudden cold snap in early fall may cause your coils to freeze over. You'll need to perform regular checks on your unit throughout the fall, winter, and early spring if you want to ensure that all systems are firing as they should.
Low Refrigerant Levels
Even in summer, though, there's a chance that your evaporator coil may freeze if your refrigerant levels are too low. Lower refrigerant levels make the inside of your air conditioner unit cooler than usual, often resulting in the aforementioned frozen evaporator coils. You'll want to reach out to an HVAC professional if you're going to rebalance your refrigerant levels or if you're having other, similar problems with your air conditioner in the hottest months of the year.
How Can You Defrost An Air Conditioner?
If you come home to find your air condition frosted over or frozen, don't immediately reach for a pot of hot water. There are steps, instead, that you'll want to take to make sure that you're safely taking care of your air conditioner:
Before you start pouring, make sure that your air conditioner is unplugged and that the cords are out of the "splash zone."
From there, you'll want to make sure that you only pour water on the coils of your air conditioning unit. While the whole of your unit may be suffering, pouring hot water on the coils, specifically, in a steady stream, can help bring the whole machine back to life without compromising the sensitive electronics.
You'll also want to try and pour your water in small spurts - don't dump an entire bucket on your coils all at once. Instead, leave about thirty seconds between your pours, and make sure that all of the water drains out of your air conditioner unit before you resume pouring.
How Long Does It Take To Thaw A Frozen Air Conditioner?
The amount of time it takes to clear the ice out of your air conditioner unit will vary on several factors, include:
- The amount of ice you have built up in your unit
- Your use of an automatic defroster setting
- The method, should those mentioned above not be available to you, that you use to clear ice off of your coils.
Defrosting with a defroster setting, as mentioned, lets your machine run for between 30 and 90 minutes as you attempt to bring your coils back to life. Do note, though, that running a defroster cycle may not bring your air conditioner back to life right away. You may need to run a defroster cycle multiple times to bring your machine up to snuff.
Alternatively, if you're using the hot water method, you should prepare to spend a reasonable amount of time clearing off your machine. You'll want to take breaks in between bouts of pouring, meaning that you may be at the process for several hours.
On average, it can take up to twelve hours to clear off an air conditioning unit that's been frozen, with some sessions taking as little as an hour and others going up to 24. If, after a full day, you're still having problems with your unit, it may be in your best interest to reach out to an HVAC professional in your area for guidance.
How Do You Change An Air Conditioner Filter?
If, after a quick once-over, you think that dirty filters may be causing your problems, then you'll want to change your air conditioner filters right away. It's in your best interest to do so after you've poured water on the coils or otherwise invested in means to defrost your unit, as you don't want excess moisture to impact the quality of a new filter.
The good news is that it's relatively easy to replace an air conditioner unit. However, the processes differ depending on what kind of air conditioner you're using.
- If you have a return air duct, then you'll want to find your unit and locate the grille cover. After unlatching the grille cover, you can pull the old filter out of its slot and replace it with the one you bought at your local hardware store.
- If you have an HVAC cabinet, unlatch the door to the unit and remove the filter from its slot. You can then replace the filter and relock the cabinet.
- If you have a window air conditioning unit, you'll want first to unplug your unit and make sure that it is secure in its current position. Then, remove the front cover, remove the filter, and replace it with a clean one facing the proper direction.
Note that you can also clean out your units before replacing a filter, regardless of what kind of unit you have in place. When you take steps to perform this essential maintenance, you can save yourself a lot of hassle later down the line.
If your air conditioner freezes over, rest easy! It's not the end of the world. Instead, you can take a look at the coils to determine whether they've frozen or if you may have a larger problem on your hands. Should the coils be frozen, you can take a pot of hot - but not boiling - water and gradually begin to bring your unit back to life.