Why Air Conditioning Coils Matter

Dirty Coils Cause Unexpected Problems During Summer

Air conditioners are complex systems that run when all components work together. In addition to the mechanical parts required, cleaning is a key factor in maintenance. Dirty coils inside the system can cause profound problems during the hottest months.

What Are AC Coils?

Air conditioners are unique in the way they produce cool air. Unlike furnaces, they do not generate indoor air. Instead, an air conditioning system uses refrigerants to absorb heat in the air. This air is then released outdoors.

Since air conditioners work to remove hot air, different coils are necessary to keep an entire indoor area cool. Two types of coils are used and are considered one of the most important parts of an HVAC system. 

The Evaporator Coil

coils An evaporator coil is located indoors. It can be tricky to locate because it is in line with the ductwork. An evaporator core is where the refrigerant absorbs heat. Typically an evaporator coil can be found near the blower fan. They can be identified by the type of material used. Most evaporator coils are made from copper, aluminum, or steel. These tubes are typically bent into semicircles for residential air conditioners before being placed into panels. 

Evaporator coils will collect dust, pet dander, and pollen. Once this dirt has built up over time, it is no longer energy efficient and may increase homeowners' electric bills. Even a thin layer of dust can reduce the evaporator coil’s efficiency. This dust essentially keeps the coil from absorbing hot air during the summer. Dirty evaporators can create higher pressure and raise indoor temperatures causing the system to work harder.  

The Condenser Coil

coil The condenser coil is located outside the home and is made up of tubes and fins. This part of the system works by transporting the indoor heat outside through a system of copper tubing. Warm refrigerant gas will enter the compressor so it can be pressurized. Once the fan blows air over these coils, the refrigerant loses heat.

A condenser coil can also become dirty in a relatively short period. This is usually due to debris such as tree limbs, plants, dirt, and inclement weather conditions. If yard debris interferes with the compressor’s fins, this can damage part of the system. Mowing the lawn, fallen leaves, and even animal hair can ultimately cause indoor temperatures to rise. 

Cleaning the fins of a compressor must be done carefully. If there is damage to this area, it can decrease the whole system's efficiency. A stiff brush or vacuum is recommended so fins do not bend or snap.

Without routine maintenance, the air condenser may develop a casing of ice. This is usually due to an airflow issue. Dirty air filters and vents may be to blame. If the ice is caused due to low refrigerant, a trained technician can help. 

How To Clean and Maintain Compressor Coils

Compressor coil cleaning will prolong the life of an air conditioner and reduce electric bills. Routine cleaning is recommended to make the most out of an HVAC unit.

Cleaning the coils can be difficult, depending on where it’s located. One way to prevent dust and pollen from ruining the coils is to change the air filters regularly. There are several air filters, and some may need to be changed more often than others. It depends on their material. Washable filters can save money.

Turning off the air conditioner first before accessing the coils is important. This can be done at the thermostat. Once the access panel is removed, compressed air will allow a touchless cleaning. Technicians can use a nozzle attachment for hard-to-reach places close to the bottom. High pressured air should be directed at a 90-degree angle to prevent fin damage.

A brush can work for those who do not wish to use this AC coil cleaning method. The brush must be swept gently but firmly across the fins. Cleaning solutions are unnecessary when using this method, but all material must be scrubbed. Hard bristles are not recommended during this process.

Evaporator Coils vs. Condenser Coils

Cleaning condenser coils are slightly different than cleaning evaporator coils because of where they are located. Since condenser coils are found outside the home, other debris may be found on the fins.

Most Do-It-Yourselfers usually use a garden hose and cleaning solution to clean condenser coils. An all-purpose cleaner will work for outdoor coils. Like cleaning the evaporator coils, the air conditioner must be turned off before cleaning. After the system is shut off, the outer casing can be gently removed not to damage any wires. Once the caging has been lifted, the fan will be easy to access.

A small hand brush can be used to remove debris. Leaves, insects, and dirt are frequently found. During this process, homeowners can check for any potentially broken aluminum fins. Since the coils are located outdoors, the fins are more likely to be damaged by heavier debris. A fin comb can be purchased online or at a local hardware store to straighten bent fins. 

Cleaning both evaporator coils and condenser coils will help the system run smoothly. When an air conditioner does not have to work at a high energy capacity, it will reduce the overall utility cost during the summer. This is particularly important for residential homes in hot climates.

About Morrow Mechanical

Morrow Mechanical has served its Spring, TX, and The Greater Houston Area community for over 20 years. They provide same-day, upfront pricing and after-hours service at no additional charge. Call them today for an air conditioning tune-up and maintenance in Spring, TX.