De-Ice Your Air Conditioning Unit In Four Easy Steps

There's nothing like the crispy cool breeze of a well-functioning window air conditioner on a hot day. With a little maintenance, it's possible to keep your unit running cool all year long. But what happens when your air conditioner suddenly develops a thick layer of ice on its shell? Usually, this is a sign that the unit needs a bit of extra care. In this article, you'll learn how to de-ice your unit so you can attempt to get it back up and running again.

Start By Leaving it Alone

It's important to take immediate action when you first notice that your air conditioner is iced up. Turn it off, unplug it, and leave it alone for at least 12 hours. Do not attempt to thaw the ice more quickly. Hairdryers, towels, and putting a heater in front of it may seem wise, but they can cause the unit to flood. Intense heat may even damage the interior of the air conditioner permanently.

Even though it may be tempting--especially if it's broken down in the middle of a hot day--you'll need to be a bit zen about the whole thing. If you're sweltering, you can always use this handy tutorial to make a DIY air conditioner.

Inspect the Unit

Once at least 12 hours has passed, you need to inspect the unit for ice. Start by running your fingers around the exterior shell. Also check the front grate and aluminum mesh in the back. Be gentle with the back--bending the aluminum grate too much will result in poor air flow. 

If you can't feel any ice, it's time to remove the face and check the interior of the unit. Depending on your model, this process may differ slightly, but the majority of machines will have four screws just beside the face on each side. Unscrew each of these, and then hook the edge of the face with your fingernails. Pull it straight out and away from the unit.

Remove, Wash, and Replace the Filter

Directly under the face, you'll find a solid square with gauzy material and a metal frame. This is the filter. If you haven't changed your filter in over six months, consider just replacing it with a new one. Even if it's rewashable, you should replace it completely every 12 to 24 months--doing so will improve your air quality.

To remove the filter, look at the area where it sits. Some filters slide up and out. Others are removed by pulling them straight away from the unit. If you aren't sure, check your owner's manual for instructions.

If you have a rewashable filter, remove any large debris and immerse it in a sink full of hot water with a capful of laundry detergent. Don't use scrub brushes or dishcloths on it, as these can cause tears. You can use your hands to gently rub the surface if necessary.

Once it's clean, allow it to dry. Set it aside for now.

Examine the Interior of the Unit

Next, visually check over the interior of the unit--that's the area directly under the filter housing. Remove any debris you can pull off without reaching deep into the unit. A wide-bristled paintbrush with soft, flexible bristles works well for this purpose.

Finally, look for the condenser coils once you've brushed away any easy-to-remove debris. If they are also loaded with thick dust, or they still have ice on them, the magnitude of your repair issue is too big for fixing easily by yourself. Tampering with your air conditioner's condenser coils is very dangerous if you don't have the training to handle them. They are filled with refrigerant, and if they break, can cause serious harm to your skin.

Self-repairing simple issues with your air conditioner is fairly easy, but it isn't the right step for everyone. If you aren't comfortable with opening the unit, or you need one-on-one assistance with correcting the problem, schedule an appointment with your local contractor. With your unit repaired, you'll be feeling cool as a cucumber in no time.