Why is there ice on my heat pump in the winter?

Virtually all heat pump systems will develop ice on them during the cold winter months, but each one should be equipped with a defrost system to handle the problem! When the defrost system is working properly, it will periodically cycle on to melt all the ice on your heat pump.

This defrost cycle will initiate when the thermostat senses your heat pump has reached 42 degrees or cooler, at which point it will send a signal to the defrost control board to start the defrost cycle sequence. Once that happens, your heat pump will basically reverse its cycle. The outdoor fan shuts off and the system reverses the flow of refrigerant back to the air conditioning or cooling state. This will make the outdoor coil become incredibly hot so it can melt any ice on your heat pump. Once the ice has started to melt, it will drain out through the holes in the bottom of the heat pump. Once the defrost thermostat senses that the ice is gone and the temperature has risen, it will open the defrost circuit and go back to heating mode.

It is normal to see steam rising from the top of your heat pump when it is in defrost mode, so don’t worry. However, there is one thing you should worry about, and that’s if there is ice on your heat pump for more than three days. There are two main things that can keep ice on your heat pump from melting:

  1. A low refrigerant charge
  2. A bad defrost system

These two things will make your system work twice as hard and cost you more money to operate, so it’s incredibly important to have your system serviced by a professional at Rick’s Heating & Cooling if there is ice on your heat pump for an extended period of time. If your heat pump isn’t working properly or it has developed ice that hasn’t melted in 3 – 7 days, contact us today for a professional estimate on heat pump services in Cincinnati and the surrounding Ohio areas.