Like most people, you likely overlook components out of sight when performing annual maintenance service on your air conditioning system comes.
One essential part that is often forgotten is the air conditioning unit’s evaporator coils.
It might not be common knowledge, but when the air conditioner coils get very dirty, the system can get less efficient, resulting in eventual damage to the system.
In similar cases, you’ll need the help of licensed heating professionals, so you’ll be guided on what to do.
According to energy.gov, having a clean evaporator coil is integral to maintaining your HVAC system.
For you to appreciate the importance of cleaning evaporator coils, it is ideal that you have a basic idea of how your air conditioner works and the critical role evaporator coils play.
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The Importance of Evaporator Coils
The air conditioner’s evaporator coil’s primary function is to capture the heat from the air inside your home and transfer it outside via the condenser coil.
Typically central air conditioners consist of an evaporator coil located inside and the condenser coil located within the outdoor unit.
Condenser coils (also known as fan coils) work by releasing the trapped heat into the air.
A Heat Pump also works the same in summer.
Typically, both the evaporator and the condenser coils are made of copper.
Several aluminum fins also encase them to ensure there is a transfer of heat.
Both coils can be found in different areas of the air conditioner system.
The importance of clean ac evaporator coils cannot be overstated, aside from providing the cooling needed to generate cold air.
The evaporator coils also help in the HVAC system’s dehumidification process.
As the coils become cooler, water condenses onto them and is removed from your home’s air.
The water is collected in the drain pan while safely flowing away from the AC system through the unit’s drainage system.
Where is the Evaporator Coil Located?
The evaporator coil is situated inside the home, in the indoor air handler unit or air handler enclosure. The condenser coil is located in the system’s outdoor unit.
To get to it, you will have to remove the access panel.
The image below shows its location within the indoor air handling unit for the majority of climate control setups in residential homes.
❄️ Performance and Effectiveness
Unfortunately, your air conditioner’s system performance and effectiveness dramatically reduce when you have dirty evaporator coils.
Usually, the coils are damp from the dehumidification process, so pollen, dust, and other particles will stick to the coils.
However, if you have dirty air filters or there’s no air filter, the amount of contaminants that come in contact with the coil also increases significantly.
With all the factors mentioned earlier coming into play, dust and dirt can accumulate on the coils in just a short amount of time.
So, don’t forget to replace your filter regularly.
Other potential problems that can occur when the evaporator and condenser coils get dirty include:
- Increased system wear (might lead to malfunctions and damage)
- Possible ice buildup on the coil resulting in a frozen evaporator coil
- Possible frozen refrigerant lines
- Reduced cooling capacity
- Lowered heat transfer
- Higher operating pressure
- Higher energy consumption
- Higher temperature
When the coils are dirty, they can also use up as much as 40% more energy than AC units with clean coils.
Not only that, but dirty coils can also reduce the AC unit’s cooling action by as much as 30%.
Left unattended, the AC unit will eventually become less and less efficient while the monthly utility bills continue to skyrocket.
That said, you must regularly check your evaporator coils and clean them as needed.
At times, evaporator coils can collect debris and dirt quickly, so monthly cleaning may be needed.
Typically, however, evaporator coils need to be cleaned every three months.
Without proper care and upkeep, you can end up spending money on air conditioner repair as opposed to maintenance.
Cleaning Your Air Conditioners Coil.
Top Tips on How to Clean Your Evaporator Coil
✅ Use a Brush
A brush can be very effective at removing light amounts of dirt from a dirty evaporator coil.
Using a brush is also a great option since you are more in control of the pressure you will apply and the areas you are cleaning.
Using a brush also makes it very easy to sweep the dirt away. Brushing also allows you to scrub harder when needed.
When using a brush to clean the evaporator coils, opt for a soft one so you won’t damage the fins.
✅ Use Compressed Air
If the buildup of dirt on the evaporator coil is not that heavy, using compressed air will often suffice.
It is also recommended that the compressed air is directed opposite the normal airflow across the evaporator coil.
It is also vital that you wear eye protection and use a shop vac when cleaning up the dirt and debris from an evaporator coil.
✅ Use Commercial Cleaners
When it comes to cleaners, you’d be delighted to know you have plenty of options available at your disposal.
Once you have chosen a brand, follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
Also, allow the cleaner to sit and foam until the debris, and the foam is drained away.
Reapply as needed or according to instructions or until the coils are clean.
✅ Use Water and a Mild Detergent
If you don’t like using a commercial cleaner, water and a mild detergent are other options you can look into.
Just mix detergent with warm water and put the mixture in a garden sprayer or spray bottle.
Spray the solution onto the evaporator coils and give it a few minutes to soak in so it loosens the debris and dirt.
Use a soft cloth to wipe away any loosened debris. Reapply as many times as you deem fit.
✅ Heavy Duty Cleaning
If your evaporator coils are so dirty, using heavy-duty cleaning chemicals might be your best option.
You will also need a pressure washer or steam cleaner for heavy-duty cleaning.
Heavy-duty cleaning may also require more than a typical cleaning.
In other words, it can involve coil removal, cutting refrigerant lines, and reassembling everything afterward.
So, heavy-duty cleaning is best left in the hands of a seasoned HVAC contractor.
✋ PRO TIP: Use low pressure if you must use a pressure washer.
It’s very easy to damage a condenser coil when using a high-pressure washer.
The fins work as heat sinks during the heat transfer process and are easily bendable.
A licensed HVAC contractor will know how to clean it correctly without causing further damage.
If you do accidentally bend a few fins, you can use a fin comb to straighten them out.
Do more damage, and you are looking at a replacement coil which can be expensive!
- The different supplies needed vary by the method used.
- The tools required differ based on the technique used.
Final Thoughts on Maintaining your Evaporator Coil
The importance of regularly cleaning your air conditioner’s or heat pump evaporator coils cannot be overemphasized.
With routine upkeep and cleaning, you can keep your air conditioning systems functioning efficiently while keeping your utility bills low.
Now you know how to clean your evaporator coil to keep your AC running in tip-top shape, but if you still have AC problems, it’s time to call out the experts.
Call the experts at Phyxter Home Services and find out how to keep your evaporator coils clean during cooling season.
Our air conditioning services are the best in the industry!
Check us out and see if there’s a Phyxter HVAC services technician in your area.
Looking for a new replacement filter? Check out our next article and choose the right filter for your home: Air Filter Guide. MERV Filter Ratings and What They Mean For Homeowners.
Dealing with other common AC problems? Check out: Top 18 Common AC Problems and Solutions