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We’ve had some abnormally cold weather in the Southeast during these first few weeks of the New Year, which may cause abnormal sights and sounds from your heating and air conditioning units. We have listed some of the most common issues people see when temperatures drop below freezing to give you piece of mind in the event that you start to see some odd behavior from your unit.

The Superior Guide to Handling Snow and Freezing Temperatures

Why is my outdoor unit smoking?
Do not despair! This is STEAM, not smoke, coming from the unit as it defrosts.

What is that loud cracking/grinding sound?
This is the sound of ice melting and falling into the unit, or cracking as it melts. If the system is not actively in defrost mode, the ice may make quite a bit of noise as it passes through the actively spinning fan blade. This is not harmful to the unit or the blade.

I noticed the outdoor fan is not running. Why is this happening?
9 times out of 10 this is perfectly normal. Heat pump systems can be very complex, and one of their largest complexities is the defrost cycle. When it’s below 40 degrees outside and your system is heating, it will naturally freeze water in the air that will attach to the unit. The unit can tell when ice is present and will go into “defrost” mode.

How do I know the system is in defrost mode?
The unit will make a loud “swishing” sound, followed by the fan shutting off. Even though the fan shuts off, the compressor will continue to run. This is your system is kicking into AC mode for a short period of time, to defrost the ice.

You may also notice that your electric heat strips will turn on. This is to combat the cold air the system produces while defrosting the ice.

There is water under the unit and that’s usually not a good sign. Is this a problem?
In the summertime, water under the unit would raise some red flags (usually a leak somewhere), but in this instance it is okay for one very simple reason- ice is being melted off the coils. This is a completely normal part of the defrost process. Depending on temperature and run time, this could happen multiple times within an one-hour time span.

Please remember that 9 times out of 10, these things are normal. However, if you are concerned that something still is not right with your system, we ask that you monitor it for 20 to 30 minutes to check for any of the signs listed above. If you feel there's still an issue at that point in time, please give us a call at 843-682-2665.

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