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cleaning air conditioner coils

How to Clean Air Conditioner Coils Properly | Cool And Portable

Nothing can be as refreshing as stepping into a cold, comfortable house on a hot, humid summer. It is a feeling we had enjoyed since 1902 when air conditioning was invented by Willis Carrier. 

For most people, it is tough to imagine life without it. Like any mechanical device, it's an air conditioner, and elements need maintenance and some cleaning.

It is kind of like when you get a car, you know to keep it running its best, the trick would be to keep the engine the oil changed, and the wheels rotated and balanced.

Cleaning your AC coils is essential to the system's long-term health. Cleaning an air conditioner coil can help you maintain efficiency, save money, and expand the system's life expectancy.

Kinds of Coils in AC Units

In a split-system central AC, there is an indoor unit, usually a furnace and fan coil or evaporator coil, and an outdoor unit generally referred to as the air conditioning unit.

Evaporator coils

Evaporator coils

Each of these units contains a coil that is important to the air conditioning process.

The evaporator coil often referred to, is placed on the outlet side of the furnace or the air intake side of the fan coil. Its job is to eliminate heat from the indoor air, so the blower fan can return cool, fresh air to the home.

Condensing coils

Condensing coils

The condenser coil, placed in the outer unit, releases caught heat outside. Most condenser and evaporator coils are made of copper tubing, which works through a series of thin, aluminum strips known as fins.

When there are additional coil designs and compositions, like all-aluminum coils or backbone fin coils, which look kind of like a massive pipe-cleaner, airflow throughout the coil aids the transfer of heat energy into and out of the house.

Since the coils play such a role in the process, keeping them clean helps ensure your ac system's well-being. While it may seem like a good DIY project, the best and easiest way to clean your coils is to have a technician do it.

Your regional Carrier® HVAC dealer will understand what's required to take care of your system and is well trained in maintaining your AC coils for optimum efficiency and longevity.

Why Is It Important to Wash AC Coils?

Because of the surface moisture from the cooling process, close distance between the coil fins, and the amount of air that passes across them, dust, dirt, debris, and other pollutants can form on the coil surfaces. 

With time, this buildup decreases the system's ability to transfer heat into and out of the house, thus lowering your system's capability to provide cooling. 

In the circumstances, dirty coils may hinder or block the airflow that's so important to the entire process. This can lead to having a less pleasant home and increasing electricity bills due to reduced energy efficiency.

Dirty coils make the machine work harder than intended and can result in shorter system life and possibly expensive repair bills. The cleaner the coils, the more efficient the air conditioning system will work.

Dirty coils can cause:

Risen operating temperatures

Excess formation of debris and dirt may cause strain causing compressors and fans to work harder and at increased operating temperatures to get the desired indoor comfort.

Reduced comfort

Your ac system helps eliminate uncomfortable and unwanted humidity as a part of the cooling procedure. Dirty coils can degrade overall system effectiveness, causing higher moisture inside and less overall comfort.

Decreased cooling efficiency

The buildup accumulates on the surface of the coils forces them to work harder to absorb or release heat, leading to less efficient operation.

Increased cooling costs

Less efficient service means higher running costs. Dirty coils involve spending more money, maintaining your space cool.

Increased System Wear

A blocked evaporator coil usually causes the compressor to operate at increased temperatures, placing stress on the entire system. Since the compressor is one of those most highest-cost replacement items inside the ac system, protecting it can help you avoid costly repair bills.

System repairs or replacement

System break downs caused by over-stressed components may cause service calls, replacing system components, and in more extreme cases, replacing an entire system.

How Frequently Should AC Coils Be Cleaned?

Clean AC Coils

AC coils must be cleaned when they got dirty.

However, how fast they get dirty is dependent on how frequently you use your air conditioner, whether you have a filter, how many times you change your filter, the quantity of debris or dust in the air both indoors and outside your house and the number of individuals who reside in that space! 

As a guideline, we would say that you need to get an HVAC professional to perform a maintenance check on your system once a year before the summer when your air conditioner is going to be used most often. They can properly perform an AC coil cleaning, change filters, and test the machine to ensure everything is working smoothly when you want it most.

How to Clean AC Coils

cleaning air conditioner coils

Because air conditioner coils are vital to your relaxation and efficient system operation, getting the job done correctly is critical.

Because of the delicate nature of the coil fins that help the heat transfer process, ensuring they do not get damaged during cleaning is also very significant.

That is why we recommend hiring a professional. Using a trained Carrier® specialist service, your air conditioner is the most reliable way to ensure its efficiency and durability. They are not only adequately trained on how to clean AC coils, but they are also able to test your system before the cooling season to make sure your system is performing at its peak. 

However, knowing the methods and processes involved with air conditioner coil cleaning can allow you to understand what to expect and better communicate your concerns with your local HVAC dealer.

Getting to the Air Conditioning Coils

AC systems have an outdoor condensing coil and an inner evaporator coil.

The inner evaporator coil is usually attached to your furnace and has its individual cabinet or is housed within an air handler or fan coil unit. 

Each model is somewhat different, but your Carrier dealer can usually get into the evaporator coil via an access panel that's often removed with a nut driver or screwdriver. 

The condenser coil at the outside unit usually wraps around the inside components and mainly functions as the outdoor unit's sidewalls. It's either well-exposed and protected by a sturdy wire coil guard, or less observable and protected by a more protective louvered metal outside panel.

Sometimes, the top and outer casing might need to be eliminated. Once the coils are accessible and exposed, your dealer will inspect them and determine the correct cleaning method following the manufacturer's recommendations. This might include straightening bent fins with a particular fin-straightening device.

Methods Of Air Cleaning Conditioner Coil 

Compressed Air

Your dealer may use a mix of using a shop-vac, compressed air, and strong coil-cleaning chemicals that match your air conditioner model specifications.

This method is usually recommended for the outer condensing coil. Cleaning the inner evaporator coil with compressed air will blow debris and dust within the home. 

Using compressed air can be a fast, clean, and reasonably effective method to remove surface dust, debris, and dirt from the coil. When cleaning an outside coil with compressed air, an HVAC dealer will blow the air through the coils opposite to the direction that air flows through the coil through normal use.

This will lead to pushing air through the cleaner side back through the backside side. Your dealer will be careful to blow the air straight through the fins, not at an angle. This is because the fins are extremely thin metal and bend easily.

The service technician may clean the dirt and debris using the shop vac. These activities will eliminate loose surface materials from the coil. To remove stubborn buildup, your dealer can follow up with a commercially available coil or a household detergent cleaning solution.

Household Detergent

While there are several coil cleaning solutions, air conditioner coils on the marketplace can also be cleaned using water and mild household detergent solution.

The water and detergent mixture is applied to the coil with a sprayer. The coil is lightly rinsed utilizing a garden hose or gently is allowed to drain naturally. This process could be repeated as required. 

If a contractor selects this method, make sure they are using a low-pressure sprayer and not using a pressure washer. They should never use a pressure washer since the high-pressure spray will damage the coil's thin metal fins.

Bent or damaged fins may result in reduced heat transfer capacities and may restrict airflow. Also, be sure they're not using a highly acidic detergent. The aluminum and alloy metals used in the coil are damaged by cleaners and lead to corrosion that will shorten the life span of the coil.

Commercial Cleaners

Your Carrier dealer may opt to clean your AC coils with commercial coil cleaning solutions. There are lots of types available, including cleansers for evaporator coils and cleaners for condenser coils. 

These may be found in aerosol cans or available in bulk for use. When cleaning your outer coil, the contractor will clear any surface debris away by hand or using a fin brush. They will proceed by applying the commercial cleaner and rinsing the coil with water-based upon the instructions and manufacturer's recommendations.

To clean your inside evaporator coil, the builder will probably clear larger debris by hand or using a particular brush, then follow up by applying a self-rinsing evaporator oil solution. This product will clean the coil and rinse off through the cooling process once it is switched on.

A/C Coil Cleaning Methods

There are many ways to cleaning your AC coils, and each one will be effective. The evaporator and condenser coils are going to have precisely the methodology of cleaning a different approach.

Cleaning Condenser Coils

When cleaning the condenser, the first step is a visual inspection. You'll want to check for vegetation growth around the pad, remove any weeds or growth that can block the coils. On the condenser itself, you may wish to eliminate any debris from the fins and louvers such as grass clippings, leaves, etc.

If the device is running, you will want to turn it off to help eliminate the debris, as the suction made by the fan will pull things into the coils. Using a broom or brush, you can sweep and knock off the larger debris. You don't need to brush too hard or use force inwards towards the coils since the fins may bend.

After the bigger debris items are gone, use a fin comb to straighten any bent fins and also to scratch any wet or dirt debris from between the coils. After that, You will have to access the inside of the condenser. Get the power block disconnect to remove power from the device. Take out the fan shroud and lift out of the way, stay careful not to pull too hard on the attached wiring.

Spray the coils from the inside outward using a hose with a high-pressure nozzle attachment. You don't even need to spray to the coils outside since this is only going to push into the coils deeper or cover the compressor, which can then overheat.

The coils will be rinsed when you can see the water without being dispersed coming. Remove any debris from the surface in the condenser unit and restore the fan shroud in place. Restore power to the device by placing the power disconnect block back in place.

Cleaning Evaporator Coils

Cleaning your coils evaporator is a similar procedure. The first thing would be to remove power to the evaporator. You can turn the thermostat off position, but it is also recommended to turn off the breakers that control the AC in the home's breaker panel. Find and open the evaporator access panel.

When you gain access, the difficult part will be working over your head (usually). The coils can be seen on the backside of the unit and will be in the place that was toughest to reach as possible. Care must be taken when standing on a ladder to avoid injury.

You can use a gloved hand to take out the debris buildup, which is moist and, most likely, the feel of mud. With a fin comb, rub the coils from the top-down, being careful not to tear the fins, and get snagged. This may help adjust any fins that may have got bent.

You will require to use a chemical coil cleaning solution. Most will foam and set into eliminating dirt and buildup gunk. Follow the guidelines for application and set time. It's suggested to wear eye protection when spraying the coil cleaner.

While the cleaner works, clean out the drip tray where the condensation accumulates. You may use a scraper to dig up the muddy debris from the bottom of the pan. However, you want to locate the drain line before beginning to scrape.

The drain line is a PVC joint that comes out at the side or bottom of the drain pan's low end. You may wish to scrape away from this field. If you scrub towards it, you have the risk of forcing debris into the drain line, leading to a clog.

Rinsing the Evaporator Coils is Important

cleaning air conditioner coils

When the drip is cleaned, use water to wash the coils. Since you'll spray to the coils, you don't need to use a high-pressure spray. Such as the condenser coils using force to spray from outside can cause deeper clogs.

Rinse the coils cleaner, and the debris it has accumulated into the drip tray and down the drainpipe. Flush the drain line by moving hot water through the drip tray for around 10 minutes.

If your evaporator is placed above your bathtub, the drain will attach to the tub drain arrangement. Before flushing, you need to remove the drain stopper weight and bracket. This will make the drain line to empty into the tub. You'll see when the drain is clean as the rinse water will be free of debris.

Replace all the items you removed in the tub drain and the evaporator access panel and reconnect power to the AC. Asses that there are no leaks, strange noises, and that the air blows hard and cold from the vents.

Heavy Duty Coil Cleaning

If you find the fin combs or coil cleaner are not penetrating the buildup, you may want to call in a licensed HVAC specialist. They will have the tools, methods, and ability to run a deep clean on your coils.

This may also be a privilege if you find it hard to access the evaporator unit or, for any other reason, cannot perform the job yourself.

According to our research, you should expect to pay between $100 and $400 for professional cleaning of both condenser and evaporator coils.

About the Author Tom Hanson

I’ve worked as an HVAC tech in Phoenix, AZ for the past 10 years. I created to help home owners select the right portable air conditioner, cooler or air purifier for their needs & budget in just a few minutes.

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