Here’s what experts say you should do if your heat pump unit frosts over

Due to the climate in south Texas, most homes have a heat pump unit that can frost over during winter weather

SAN ANTONIO – First responders were not the only ones with a busy weekend due to wintry weather conditions. Workers in the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) industry had their hands full with several calls related to complications and concerns about home air conditioning and heating units.

One typical call during this type of weather deals with heat pump units frosting over.

“The ice will develop because of pressures,” said Manny Mallen, owner of Air Today Heating and Air. “Once your pressures start going down, that is when you will start having that frost buildup. It is typically normal when it does that, but if your unit has never frozen over before, you could have a potential problem. It could be low on refrigerant and could cause it to freeze over, like what happens in the summertime. When your AC unit freezes over, it is low on refrigerant. Vice versa in the winter -- your outdoor unit can freeze over because it is low on refrigerant.”

Mallen said an easy fix would be to turn your thermostat on to emergency heat.

“It is better. Sometimes the thermostats do it on its own, but if your thermostat has the inability to put it on emergency heat, if the homeowner just put it on emergency heat, you should be fine,” Mallen said. “If it doesn’t have an emergency heat option, you can raise the thermostat up to three or four degrees, and usually, it will activate your accelerate heat.”

Mallen said another common question he gets asked deals with whether or not to get a carbon monoxide detector.

“Get a good quality carbon monoxide detector if you have a gas unit,” Mallen said. “The lower the detection, the better, because some of them start detecting at a higher level. And sometimes, once they start detecting, you are already experiencing symptoms of fatigue, dizziness, headaches and stuff like that, and you don’t even realize you are getting carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Mallen said another obstacle to consider is road conditions during winter weather when you are calling your HVAC service provider.

“A lot of service providers right now can’t drive in these conditions,” Mallen said. “It is hard to maneuver these big vehicles on ice. My guys couldn’t go to a home today. There was just a whole bunch of ice. We couldn’t even get to his home. We called him, and the owner was like, let me see outside, and he couldn’t even get out of his driveway, so we had to reschedule for another day.”

Like several other businesses, Mallen said his company is also adjusting its hours to operate safely.

He said to avoid spending $200-$500 for service calls at the last emergency minute, be sure to have your units checked twice a year. Call someone to come out once in the fall and again in the spring.

“We could potentially avoid problems like this,” Mallen said. “This is one of the biggest things where people do call their HVAC provider during bad weather conditions and say, ‘Can you come and make sure my unit is fine?’ A lot of this can be solved way ahead of time.”

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About the Authors:

Japhanie Gray joined 10 News as an anchor in March 2022.