During normal operation of your heat pump, you’ll sometimes notice white frost or even a small amount of ice on the heat pump coil. It’s normal for heat pumps to ice up from time to time during the winter, which is why these units run a defrost cycle periodically to de-ice the coils. During the defrost cycle, the unit switches to air conditioning mode, allowing the high-pressure refrigerant to warm up and melt the ice. Backup heating kicks in to offset the cold air coming through the vents until the system returns to normal.

However, it’s definitely not normal for the coil or the entire unit to be completely encased in ice. There are plenty of problems that can keep the unit from defrosting properly. Below are a few issues you can address on your own if your heat pump is frozen:

  • Check if there’s ice on top of the heat pump. If so, turn it off and use warm tap water to remove the ice.
  • Make sure the gutters are not leaking water onto the unit. If so, clear or repair the gutter.
  • Keep snow and leaves away from the base of the unit.
  • Make sure freezing rain has not coated the unit with ice.

If none of these solutions work, it’s time to bring in a professional. A licensed HVAC technician will inspect the heat pump and make sure it isn’t low on refrigerant. The technician will also check components such as the defrost relay, reversing valve, outdoor motor fan and defrost sensor. If the unit has settled into the ground or was not placed on an elevated surface, the technician should be able to place it on a raised pad or blocks.

Heat pumps work great to cost-effectively heat and cool your home, but it’s important to make sure these appliances work properly year round. The experienced professionals at Paschal Heat, Air & Geothermal can help you solve issues that cause heat pumps to ice up during the winter. With more than 40 years of experience on our side, we tackle tough HVAC service and maintenance issues all over northwest Arkansas.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Northwest Arkansas 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.

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