It's never a good feeling when you discover the reason your AC isn't doing so great during a sudden heat wave is because the condenser coil has frozen over. Fortunately, if you catch the problem and remedy it before it has a chance to spread and cause more damage, it's likely to be a relatively easy fix.You may even be able to correct the problem yourself, depending on the source of the issue. Here are three steps to take when you need to get your condenser coil back in working order.
1. Thaw The first step is to turn off the entire unit.
Allowing it to keep running will simply cause the freezing to spread, which can have catastrophic consequences for your unit (and ultimately your summer comfort and repair budget). Next, turn the AC fan on while keeping the thermostat off so the fan blows without cooling. This will help, but you'll still have to wait a few hours to make sure the thawing is complete before you try to run your unit again. And while you're at it, make sure the condensate pan is draining correctly, since it will be in heavy use for the next few hours.
2. Discover what's wrong
Next, you'll have to do a bit of troubleshooting in order to determine the most likely cause of the issue. Some common ones include:
- Low airflow, perhaps because of debris or vegetation near the unit
- Overwork (especially likely if the unit is too small or the weather is especially hot)
- Low refrigerant
First check for low airflow. If bushes, weeds, and dead leaves are crowding around the unit, this could easily be the cause of your problem. If airflow doesn't seem to be a problem, it may be a case of overwork (especially if you've noticed the unit running nonstop yet not managing to keep your home as cool as you'd like). Otherwise, you may have a case of low refrigerant, which will require a technician's help.
3. Remedy the problem and test
For an airflow blockage problem, the fix is very easy. Simply clear everything away to a distance of several feet. For suspected overwork, try turning your thermostat up a few degrees and, after your coil is recovered, turn the machine on and make sure it's resting between cycles. If this doesn't seem to fix it, you'll need to call in a contractor to possibly top off the coolant levels.
Once you've fixed the most likely culprit (and once the coil is thawed, of course) you can use the machine again and see if that fixes the problem. If none of the problems mentioned here seem to be the issue, it may be best to simply skip ahead to a professional diagnosis like Doctor Fix-It. There are other less common causes for freezing over which may require professional expertise to fix.