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AC Coil Cleaning: Why It’s So Important

Air Quality

If your AC coils are grimy or dirty, this means your air conditioning system will have to work harder than usual to transfer heat. What this means is it will be running longer and working harder, meaning more energy is used and wear and tear to parts is more likely. If a dirty coil gets corroded, you might also have a leaking refrigerant issue.

Keeping the AC coils free from grime and dirt is an important part of air conditioner maintenance. Clean coils mean the heat will be efficiently exchanged via the coils without debris and dirt causing a blockage.

Not having the coils regularly checked and maintained means your energy bills will be more expensive because of the system having to work harder. It can also result in the AC unit overheating. Let’s have a closer look at some HVAC coil basics and find out why it’s so vital to have the coils regularly cleaned out.

What are HVAC Coils and What Do They Do?

An air conditioner has two kinds of coils – a condenser coil and an evaporator coil. The condenser coil is inside your outdoor AC unit and this coil is there to release the heat outside which is carried out of the house via the refrigerant. If the condenser coil is dirty, it’s going to trap the hot air and blow it back into your home.

The evaporator coil is inside the indoor AC unit by the air handler. When the indoor unit absorbs warm air, it is blown over the evaporator coil which holds chilled refrigerant to soak up the heat from the air and send it outside to be dispersed. A dirty evaporator coil won’t be able to absorb much of the heat which means it continues to circulate around the home.

When contaminants, dust and debris coat the outside of the coils, heat transfer is less efficient, and this will cause problems that will only get worse over time. If you do ignore the signs, the entire AC system might overheat and break down, so make sure you keep on top of routine AC maintenance including coil cleaning.

How Often Do You Need to Clean the Coils?

This depends on several factors:

  • Usage: A home where the HVAC is running all the time will need coil cleaning more frequently than somewhere it only runs for a few hours a day.
  • Age of the equipment: If your system is old or poorly maintained there might be corrosion which means even more debris will be collected.
  • Location: If you’re at street level or near to it where there are higher pollution levels or if there is construction going on nearby, you are going to need more frequent coil cleaning.

Risks of Not Cleaning Air Conditioning Coils Regularly

All AC coils are going to accumulate dust and debris. While some might take longer than others to become dirty and eventually blocked, the coils are not self-cleaning. Not having them cleaned means you are risking the following:

Higher Energy Bills

An air conditioner with dirty coils is going to have to work harder to do its job. Its function is to absorb heat and then dump it outdoors and having to struggle with dirty coils means it will not be working efficiently and it might begin to feel like the AC is working constantly.

This of course means it’s using more energy and that translates into higher-than-normal energy bills, especially in the warmer months when the air conditioning unit has to work even harder.

Breakdown Risks

When dirt builds up on the coils, this forces the AC system to run for longer periods to cool your house, and this extra pressure on the system means it’s more likely to break down at some point, needing to be repaired.

Frozen Evaporator Coil

A dirty indoor evaporator coil won’t be able to absorb the hot air blowing over it. If there is no warm air to counteract the effect of the refrigerant inside, the coil might freeze.

A frozen coil will put a lot of extra pressure on the AC system, and this can result in extensive damage. The part most vulnerable to damage is the compressor which might overheat and then burn out if the coils are frozen.

If you think the evaporator coil might be frozen, you should switch off the air conditioning right away. Possible signs of a coil that is frozen include:

  • Water puddles by the blower unit
  • Ice around the refrigerant line outdoors.
  • The air conditioner sends out warm air.
  • An uncomfortable air temperature
  • The AC runs nonstop.

If the coils are dirty, your air conditioner is going to have difficulties cooling your home efficiently and effectively. An air conditioner doesn’t produce cold air. Instead, it removes the humidity and heat from the air indoors.

With dirt or debris in the coils insulating the AC system, it can’t release the heat it collects and will deliver warm air rather than cool air.

It’s not difficult to tell if the AC isn’t working right, as your home will become more humid and hotter than it should be, so it’s important to clean the AC coils on a regular basis, to extend the life of your air conditioner and stop your energy bills from skyrocketing.

Does a Professional Need to Clean the AC System Coils?

Because the coil fines are delicate, it’s important to know ensure they aren’t damaged, so getting them cleaned properly is critical. It’s best to hire a professional for regular AC maintenance including regular coil cleaning.

Although you might wonder whether you can clean them out yourself to save money, it’s not recommended. Using the wrong technique or the incorrect type of cleaner might result in damaged coil fins and that is going to cost even more to fix.

So, for the best result and for your own peace of mind, hire an experienced HVAC technician to perform this important AC maintenance for you. This will minimize the likelihood of your air conditioner breaking down during the hottest months of the year when you rely on it the most.

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