James River Air Conditioning Company

Does your heat pump appear to be frozen?  There could be a problem with it, but don’t panic – it could be normal!  Read on to learn how to tell the difference between normal operation and a unit in need of repair.


Normal Heat Pump Operation

Heat pumps use refrigerant to absorb heat from outside air.  During this process, moisture that’s in the air can build up on the outdoor coils.  On very cold days, this buildup of moisture can freeze.  Your heat pump is able to deal with this ice buildup though during its defrost cycle, which lasts approximately 30 minutes.  When it goes into defrost mode, the heat pump basically works in cooling mode and uses heat from the refrigerant to help met the ice.  During this process, the electric strip heat keeps your home warm.


How to Know When There’s a Problem

If your heat pump is frozen and it doesn’t appear to be normal defrost operation, there could be a problem.  Causes of the problem could include airflow issues inside (like a dirty filter) or outside (snow or ice from a storm).


What to Do if There’s a Problem

Ice buildup can be removed from the top of your outdoor unit.  Sometimes a homeowner can remove it with a garden hose, but you never want to use a sharp object or your hands to try to get rid of it.  Sharp objects can damage the unit and hands can get injured!  If in doubt, have a qualified service technician take care of it.


If you experience a frozen heat pump and want to know if you need a service call or not, please give us a call or contact us via e-mail.