Keeping your heat pump in good working order is certainly a priority when Old Man Winter is in the Wichita area, with his blustery winter winds, snow and frigid temperatures. A serious problem to watch for is thick ice on the heat pump’s coils. While a thin coating of frost or ice is normal on the outside condenser/compressor, heavy ice accumulation can cause serious trouble with your equipment and can run up your utility bills.

Heat pump coils are often covered in a thin coat of ice, especially during the winter, as the cold air makes moisture from condensation or precipitation freeze on the coil rather than evaporate. That’s why heat pump systems have a defrost cycle to thaw the coil periodically, preventing ice accumulation. So thick ice on the heat pump’s coils means that the defrost system isn’t able to do its job efficiently, a situation that must be corrected quickly to avoid costly damage to your system.

It’s important to go out and check for ice on the heat pump’s coils fairly regularly. Since heat pump systems have auxiliary electric heating that pitches in when the heat pump can’t keep your house warm on its own, you probably won’t be alerted to heat pump trouble by dropping indoor temperatures. However, you’ll see a difference in your utility bills with auxiliary electric heat running more often, since it will use more energy than your heat pump would. (Some homeowners address this issue by using a dual-fuel system, where a gas-fueled furnace provides the backup heating.)

The first things to look into if you find ice on the heat pump’s coils is whether there’s snow or debris blocking the unit or if it’s being soaked by water leaking from a damaged or blocked rain gutter. If there is no sign of these problems, it’s time to call your HVAC service professional. Neglected maintenance may be at the root of the problem, for example with dirty coils or low refrigerant levels, or it may be a malfunction in the defrost system or outdoor fan motor.

If you’re in the Wichita area and find ice on the heat pump’s coils, please feel free to contact Comfort Systems. We’re dedicated to providing reliable, expert assistance for all of your home comfort needs.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Wichita, Kansas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about Heat Pumps and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.