a frozen evaporator coil can spell trouble

A Frozen Evaporator Coil Can Spell Trouble

October 1, 2015

We are about a week into the start of the fall season, and thankfully we are seeing much cooler temperatures in the Hanahan area. However, there will still be a few days in which temperatures might still be warm and you might occasionally rely on your air conditioner. If you did not schedule maintenance service for your air conditioner, it might not perform as efficiently as you would like. A frozen evaporator coil is one problem that could prevent your air conditioner from working properly.

How the Evaporator Coil Works

To understand the problems that could lead up to a frozen coil, it is important to understand how the evaporator coil works. Your air conditioner actually removes hot air from your home and transfers it outside. The coils contain refrigerant, and this refrigerant acts on the air as it passes over the coils. As the hot air flows over the cold coils, the refrigerant absorbs the heat from the air and is changed from a liquid to a gas. For cooling to occur, the refrigerant gas is then converted to a liquid again. The extra heat that is created when the gas is compressed is sent outdoors via the condenser coils.

What Causes Your Evaporator Coil to Freeze?

The cold air is not able to hold as much water vapor. The colder air becomes, the less moisture it can hold. Normally, the water droplets that develop as a result of condensation, collect in a drain pan. However, sometimes, the excess water collects on the evaporator coils, and can turn into ice because of the very cold air. A frozen evaporator coil can also result from:

  • Low refrigerant levels: Ever wonder how a can of compressed air gets colder the longer you spray it? Just as refrigerant rises in temperature as pressure builds up, a drop in pressure also causes the refrigerant’s temperature to drop as well. A refrigerant leak, an inadequate charge or a faulty expansion valve can cause a pressure drop, making the refrigerant cold enough to freeze condensate upon contact.
  • The technician will check if the refrigerant levels are correct or if the refrigerant has enough charge. Checking refrigerant levels requires specialized skills and equipment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requires that technicians acquire special certification for handling refrigerants.

  • Poor airflow: As ice continues to build up on the coils, it also restricts the amount of air that can pass through them. This leaves the refrigerant unable to absorb as much latent heat as it should, which in turn affects the efficiency of the conversion process.
  • The air filter will also be checked to make sure it is not dirty. If it is, your technician will either clean it or replace it with a new filter. A dirty air filter, closed registers, or anything that affects the return air, will impede the flow of air through the system.

  • Dirty evaporator coils: Dirt on the coils also affects the ability of the refrigerant to act on the air as it passes over. This can, therefore, affect the efficiency of the conversion process as well.

Your technician will ensure that the evaporator coil is free of dirt and debris. The coil can be carefully cleaned using a soft brush and a light touch. A qualified technician will know how to properly clean your evaporator coil. Any problems in the condensing unit, such as electrical or wiring issues or damaged parts, can affect the unit’s ability to operate.

Fixing a Frozen Evaporator Coil

Don’t try to clear the ice by chipping away at it. Doing so could damage the evaporator coil. Contact your HVAC professional who has the tools and expertise to properly resolve the problem without damaging the unit. If the cause of the frozen evaporator coil is not obvious, your HVAC technician will have to perform a series of checks to determine the reason. It might be necessary to thaw the system so the ice will melt from the coils. Your technician will turn off the compressor and turn on the fan in order to do so.

Quite likely you won’t be aware that your evaporator coil is frozen unless you specifically look for this problem. You will, however, notice that your air conditioner isn’t cooling as it should. After conducting your typical checks such as checking the air filter, and ensuring that the thermostat is programmed properly, a call to your trusted HVAC technician should be your next step.

To save time and money, and to ensure you maintain indoor comfort, call the experts at Berkeley Heating & Air Conditioning at (843) 277-6030. It is our goal to ensure that your system operates efficiently at all times. So whether a frozen evaporator coil, other HVAC problem, or you just need routine maintenance, contact us today for reliable and effective service.

Image Provided by Shutterstock.

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