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How Snow and Ice Affects Your Heat Pump

Outside care of your HVAC unit is as important as inside care, especially in the winter. All the ice and snow we get can have lasting affects well into the spring and summer. Here's how:

Ice Build Up on Heat Pumps Not all ice and snow build-up on your HVAC unit is an emergency. Heat pumps operate via a refrigerant that absorbs temperature from the Earth's atmosphere. When the temperature is below freezing, the moisture freezes instantly. This can cause your heat pump to run more sluggishly, but nothing to worry about.

Snow Build Up Ice and snow build up on heat pumps isn't common. This is because units are manufactured to account for moisture freezing with an automatic defrost setting, melting it off. However, it does need airflow to work. If there is snow built up around the outdoor unit, the defrost doesn't work, creating wear and raising your energy bill.

Can it Cause Damage? The main issue that arises with snow and ice is when the unit is triggered into an emergency shut-off when the system freezes up, cutting off the heat into your home. This can cause pipes to burst leading to property damage and a cold home. Keep this from happening with regular maintenance. Protection Protection begins at installation. Here is how you to protect your unit for its entire lifespan:

1. Don’t install outdoor units directly on the ground, instead far enough up from normal snowfall (6-10” minimum) - Standard practice.

2. Build a wind barrier with either shrubs or fences, but keep them far enough away for servicing and air-flow

3. Keep the unit at least 18” away from the exterior wall

4. Snow buildup should be shoveled away.

Keep your HVAC system running all year round and call 72 Degrees Comfort Company at 515-965-7272 or email us at

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