Ice Buildup Under Heat Pump

This morning when I got my bike out of the yard to take Juniorette to school, I heard a loud clattering noise from the box-like outdoor part of our air source heat pump. At first I thought the ball bearing on the rotor had crapped out. But the guy who installed it explained over the phone that the problem was most likely not as severe as that.

A heat pump like ours dribbles condensation water through a spigot on the under side. It’s been an unusually cold winter, and so the water has collected as ice on the ground beneath the box, building up layer by layer until it made contact with the casing and blocked the spigot. Then the water started to collect and freeze inside the machine. The clattering noise is caused by the rotor blades hitting an ice ridge, which is plainly visible if you shine a light into the thing.

Coming home today, I shoveled away the snow around the heat pump box and poured three buckets of hot water onto the ice floe under it. Then I used a spade, an electric drill and a small axe to remove the ice. Dunno how to get the ice out of the box before the temperature rises above freezing.

Live & learn. Next year I won’t let this happen.

Update 22 Fabruary: Turned out all I needed to get the ice out of the box was a screwdriver and an axe.

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Comments

  1. #1 Adela
    February 10, 2010

    Got a hand held electric hair dryer to blow hot air at the box to warm it enough to melt the remaining ice away?

  2. #2 Martin R
    February 10, 2010

    Maybe… The front grille of the box is like 15 cm from the ice.

  3. #3 Nomen Nescio
    February 10, 2010

    hot air gun, the sort people use to soften paint for removal from walls and suchlike. got a tools and hardware rental company nearby?

  4. #4 Mu
    February 10, 2010

    More hot water (this time into the box) sounds like a good idea.

  5. #5 Martin R
    February 10, 2010

    Good suggestions. Wonder how to deliver hot water for a long time slowly through a thin straw. Also, I’m kind of hoping that the machine’s own effluvium might open the channel now that the ice slab below is gone.

  6. #6 Nomen Nescio
    February 10, 2010

    the condensate will likely be cold; unless your weather is fairly close to freezing, it’ll just build up the ice ridge even more. i keep thinking you likely don’t want that rotor bumping into a solid ridge for too very long. maybe you could throw a handful of salt at the ice to help melt it? that would corrode the inside of the housing, of course, but that may be preferable to breaking a rotor.

  7. #7 Pierce R. Butler
    February 10, 2010

    A small heater under the box, a blanket over it.

    A thin, slanted membrane (even a paper plate if sufficiently distant from the heat source, otherwise aluminum) to divert meltwater from the heater.

  8. #8 Kaleberg
    February 10, 2010

    My old heat pump back in the 90s handled icing by simply pumping out some heat from the house whenever it got too cold internally. After a cycle, it would resume pumping heat back in. It had a little thermostat inside.

  9. #9 Heat Pumps
    February 11, 2010

    Such problem generally happens in winter, we can not dispense with heat pump in winter because of this trivial matter. in this case, selection of heat pumps matter, and positioning of the pump. the market is stuffed with variety of heat pumps for residential applications and commercial buildings, but there are two types of heat pumps such as Ground source and Geothermal heat pumps. which can stand out in terms of efficiency, performance, technology, and cost effectiveness.

  10. #10 Martin R
    February 11, 2010

    We have alternative heating, electric radiators under most of the house’s windows. So maybe it’s best to simply let the machine rest until the temperature picks up. Though Pierce’s suggestion about the car heater and the blanket sounds entirely workable.

  11. #11 Eamon
    February 11, 2010

    One thing I used when my locks froze in a Yamagata winter was a cheap plastic oil squirter filled with boiling water. Squirt enough of the water in to clear the lock and go.

    So I’d suggest the same – as you can see the ice ridge. Might be a multi-stage job, and you’d probably have to use a hair-dryer or heater to clear any water that freezes in the casing

  12. #12 Porta
    February 25, 2011

    Recently purchased a new heat pump, then the winter ice caused it to make a loud sound, banging… After that, the aux was on most of the time needing help to heat the home…Called the company from where I purchased the unit, and he said it was damaged. So, later he came out and said that the unit was ok, and that the aux comes on just to reach the temperature in my home. Is this right? The banging stopped after the ice melted, but do I need to worry about this each winter? Why aren’t these heat pumps manufactured to withstand winter???

  13. #13 Martin R
    February 25, 2011

    The banging was probably due to ice buildup inside the casing. Make sure the spigot on the bottom of the unit doesn’t get stopped by ice. I check my unit once a week.

  14. #14 Robichaud
    shippagan
    January 1, 2013

    I put a self regulaing heat wire inside the heat pump( in the bottom),,220 volts wire plug directley in the same electric box outside. work great ..cost mayde 5 dollars for 3 months! disconnect the rest of the year!

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