How Cleaning Dirty Coils Can Boost AC Performance
Spring is nearly over, so many homeowners are getting ready to knock out the last few items on their spring cleaning checklists. Everyone's list is different, but most usually include a few deep cleaning chores in areas that tend to get neglected. But even though they fit the bill, it's a good bet that most homeowners didn't include their air conditioner's evaporator and condenser coils on this year's list!
These coils are essential components of an air conditioning system, and they tend to get incredibly dirty over a year - even in those months when the AC doesn't get used - so it's crucial to clean and maintain them at least once a year. This is particularly important in the spring since dirty coils can hinder the AC's performance and efficiency – the last thing anyone wants in the hot summer months when air conditioning is needed most! So this article will explain the vital role these coils play, why they get so dirty, and how professionals clean them.
Evaporator Coils - Inside the Home
Most air conditioning systems feature two units – an air handler inside the home and a condenser unit outside the home. The two work in tandem to cool the home. The indoor air handler unit houses the evaporator coils and the air blower.
The evaporator coils are a series of thin metal pipes (usually copper, steel, or aluminum) that zigzag through an array of thin metal fins. Inside the coils is a cold liquid refrigerant, which continuously circulates between the indoor and outdoor units. The air blower pulls warm air inside the house and blows it over the evaporator coil array. The coils conduct heat energy from the air into the refrigerant, which gets warm and evaporates, then flows out to the outdoor unit.
During this process, moisture from the air turns into condensation on the coils, which drips into a condensate drain pan and gets drained away. But when dust, dander, and other tiny particles make their way into the air handler (through a dirty filter, for instance) they can get stuck in the condensation or between the coil fins. Even a thin layer of dust can prevent the coils from properly conducting heat energy, leading to reduced efficiency and poor performance.
Condenser Coils - Outside the Home
After the refrigerant has absorbed the warmth from the indoor air via the evaporator coils, it travels outside to the condenser unit, which houses the condenser coils. Much like the evaporator coils, these are nestled in an array of thin coil fins that assist with the heat transfer process. A fan in the unit's center pulls air through the fins and over the coils, cooling the coils and the refrigerant inside.
As the refrigerant cools, it condenses into liquid form and the compressor pumps it back to the indoor unit to repeat the process. Since the condenser unit is located outside the home, it's even more likely to get dirty, especially in the spring, with high pollen levels and seasonal storms blowing dust and debris. When the condenser coils and fins get dirty, the coils can't properly release heat into the outdoor air. This hinders the AC's ability to cool the home and causes the compressor to overwork and overheat, which can eventually cause it to fail.
What's Involved In AC Coil Cleaning & Maintenance?
Cleaning AC coils is a relatively straightforward process, but the specifics tend to vary slightly between the two types of coils. Evaporator coil cleaning usually involves removing a panel to get to the coil array and carefully cleaning the fins with a special brush and a shop vac. The coils can then be cleaned with water and mild detergent to remove any residual dirt. Because the indoor unit is usually in an attic or crawlspace, extra care must be taken to avoid making a mess.
Condenser coil cleaning leaves a little more room for messiness. Technicians often start by using compressed air and a special brush to remove dust and larger debris. Next, they often use a foaming commercial cleaning solution to remove tough residue, then rinse the coils with water. Coil fins can be bent or damaged by too forceful a stream of water or compressed air, so professionals take great care during this process. After cleaning, they'll also go through with a coil fin straightener and fix any fins bent by debris or other forces.
AC coil cleaning is a vital part of routine air conditioner maintenance. Not only does it help the AC perform better during the hot summer months, but it also helps the system last longer and improves energy efficiency, saving homeowners on both repairs and utility bills!
About Air Comfort Service, Inc.
The experts at Air Comfort Service, Inc. have been proudly serving the St. Louis community for over 50 years. Their unbeatable workmanship, fair and honest business practices, and world-class customer service have earned them 1,000+ positive reviews and numerous awards, including the BBB Torch Award for Ethics and the Angie's List Super Service Award (for 14 years and counting!). They offer 24-hour emergency service and a money-saving membership plan, so call them today for AC coil cleaning in St. Louis, MO!