Can a Dirty Air Filter Cause My Fairfield Air Conditioner to Freeze Up?

can a dirty air filter cause my air conditioner to freeze up fairfield

Just like you, your HVAC system needs to breathe—but that can be hard in a city sandwiched between I-80 and Highway 12, two of the busiest roadways in the region. Fairfield summers mean an increase in both temperatures and traffic.

Combined with low air movement, these added stresses to the environment mean Fairfield air quality drops , making it a sometimes unpleasant time of year to be outside, despite everyone pitching in on “Spare the Air” days. Our variable air quality outside makes it that much more important to have a working air filter in your HVAC system inside your home, not only to help you breathe easy, but to keep your air conditioner from freezing up during the hottest days of the year.

Air Filters Can Cause Motor Burnout

In the early days of our business, we got a service call about a motor burnout in Fairfield. It was around this time of year and the client’s AC wasn’t working—meaning things were getting heated in their house.  When our tech arrived he saw that the AC would turn on, but then turn off again within a minute or two.

Our tech immediately had a pretty good idea about what the problem was once he saw the service history—the system had not been serviced since installation, which meant the air filter had never been changed in four years.

Why Motor Burnout Leads to an Overheated AC

When your HVAC system blows hot or cold air, it uses a fan called the “blower.” This is a motor that pulls air in from outside the house and passes it through an air filter. Imagine sucking on a straw in a glass of water. Pretty easy, right? Now imagine trying to do it with a milkshake from Dave’s Giant Burgers—delicious, and arguably the best shake in Fairfield, but also much more difficult to suck through a straw.

Milkshakes are thicker, much thicker, than water, and so create more resistance when you try to drink them. A clogged air filter that’s never been changed creates resistance in the same way, causing the motor to work harder. Day in and day out, that motor works until it finally overheats. And when it overheats, it shuts down. Without a motor to keep it running, your air conditioner simply cannot work.

How to Break the Cycle of Overheating

This cycle of overheating and shutting down was what had been happening to our client’s motor and was the reason for his AC unit freezing up. Eventually, though, it overheated one too many times and simply gave up the ghost. The motor was fried, burning smell and all. There was nothing to do but replace it in order to bring his air conditioner back to life.

We did replace it, incidentally. Since it had been 4 years since his HVAC system was maintenanced, we also cleaned the client’s ducts and, most importantly, we put in clean filters and set the client up on a regular maintenance schedule. It was a no-brainer for them once we explained that regularly replacing their air filter for ten dollars apiece could save them hundreds in repairs over the years.

The moral of this story is simple: regular maintenance can save you money in the long run. As expensive as the work we did was compared to the costs of regular maintenance, it could have been much more costly. Had the system been even a few years older, we’d have been talking whole replacement less than a decade after they’d installed it—not to mention a few hot summer days spent without the relief of a working air conditioner.

Do yourself—and your wallet—a favor. Stay on top of maintenance, give your HVAC guys a call, and change those air filters!