Why Is There Ice On My Outside Air Conditioner Pipe?

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Normally when people turn on their air conditioner in the summer, it’s because the temperature outside is unbearably warm. It’s always a strange sight when there’s ice buildup on the air conditioner pipe, especially when it’s the hottest day of the year. How is there ice buildup when it’s nearly 85 degrees out?

Ice buildup on your air conditioner pipe is not an everyday occurrence and is a sign that there is an issue with your A/C unit. Two common problems will cause ice to form even on the most humid days. The air conditioner unit has low refrigerant levels or enough airflow over the evaporator coil.

Keep reading to find out more about how this happens and what you can do to fix the problem so your air conditioner can keep running efficiently to keep you cool this summer.

Is a Frozen A/C Unit Dangerous?

A frozen A/C unit could be dangerous to your bank account if you don’t get the problem taken care of. This is because when things freeze, it could cause the compressor to wear out.

If the compressor to the air conditioner fails, you will likely have to replace the entire unit or order a new compressor, usually in the same price range as a new A/C.

All air conditioners operate through controlled temperature, airflow, and pressure. When any of these components fall out of balance, then the A/C unit could overlock and possibly freeze. Before the compressor eventually fails, you may notice that the air conditioner is still running but not blowing out any cool air. 

Reasons Why You Have Ice On Your Outside Air Conditioner Pipe

As mentioned above, the two main reasons why you have ice on the outside of your air conditioner pipe are low refrigerant levels or lack of airflow over the evaporator coil. Let’s take a more detailed look at both issues, so you know what to look for with your A/C unit:

Low Refrigerant Levels

Refrigerant is necessary for your air conditioner because it circulates in the system from the outdoors to the indoors. It does this through a closed loop. When the refrigerant level is low, its temperature will drop, and the reduced temperature will cause the pipe to freeze, and ice will start to build up.

The most likely reason for this to happen is that the system leaks. When this happens, you should always contact a professional to service the leak because of the refrigerant’s poisonous chemicals.

If you hear a noise coming from the pipes that sounds like hissing or bubbling, there may be a leak. Other signs are no cool air blowing or higher than normal energy bills.

Not Enough Air Flow

If there isn’t enough airflow across the evaporator coil, it could also cause the refrigerant to freeze. Every air conditioner will have an evaporator coil, and as hot air blows over it, the refrigerant will remove the heat and replace it with cool air. Many issues could lead to this problem, such as:

How Long Does It Take For an A/C To Unfreeze?

The amount of time it takes to unfreeze an air conditioner will depend on how much ice has built up. This could be anywhere from 1 to 24 hours. However, if the ice buildup is excessive, it could take longer than a day. As the unit is unfreezing, it’s a good idea to place some towels on the floor around the A/C unit to prevent water damage. 

Can I Pour Hot Water On A Frozen Air Conditioner?

If there is ice buildup on your air conditioner pipe, you can pour hot water over it to help speed up the thawing process and help the ice melt. The water doesn’t have to be boiling, warm water is sufficient to help break up the ice. However, since air conditioners are electrical units, you must pour the water very carefully. 

Before pouring hot water on your A/C pipe, always disconnect the unit from its power source. When pouring the water, make sure you only pour it on the coils in a steady stream. Avoid splashing or throwing the water because it could hit an electrical component. Try to get all the water to drain outdoors to avoid water damage inside. 

How To De-Ice An Air Conditioning Unit

When ice builds up on your A/C unit, then it could cause your air conditioner to stop blowing cool air in your home. Luckily, if this happens, it’s a very easy fix. All you need to get this job done is spare towels, a hairdryer, and new air filters.

Use the following steps as a guide to de-ice your A/C unit and keep the cool air flowing:

1. Go to your breaker box, locate where the air conditioner’s breakers are, and switch those off. Make sure the air conditioner is entirely powered off before starting the de-icing process. Make sure the power switches are turned off to prevent the A/C from accidentally turning on fully.

2. Now, your A/C will need to thaw out fully. This could take over 24 hours, but if the heat is too unbearable, you can use the hairdryer to speed up the process. Ensure the hairdryer is set on low because it’s important to let the thawing process be as natural as possible.

3. When you think your unit may be thawed, check the coils to make sure they have fully thawed.

4. Inspect the air conditioner unit to make sure there isn’t any water pooled around it. If there is, use the space towels to soak it up. 

5. Once everything is thawed and dried off, you can turn the power supply back on to the air conditioner. 

6. Turn the A/C back on and inspect the fans to make sure they are working.

7. To make sure everything is running efficiently, make sure you replace the air filter. Replacing your air filter is the easiest way to improve the airflow from your A/C unit. 

Final Thoughts: Why Is There Ice On My Outside Air Conditioner Pipe?

Ice can form outside of an air conditioner pipe when issues are causing a lack of airflow over the evaporator coils, or the refrigerant levels are too low. When this occurs, it’s important to allow the ice to thaw before rerunning the A/C unit fully. The good news is, you don’t need to have any technician experience to de-ice your air conditioner.

When allowing your A/C unit to dethaw, always keep an eye out for any water leaking or pooling around the unit. This is likely to occur, and if it doesn’t get dried up, it could cause damage to the air conditioner unit and the interior of your home.