Summer Heat Got You Down?

Dirty A/C Coils

If you have air conditioning equipment that you rely on, chances are you probably understand the importance of regular maintenance. But the trouble is, not all preventative maintenance includes coil cleaning. If a service vendor has been recommending this procedure, you may be wondering why you need to clean A/C coils.

Here’s a quick explanation followed by more information for those of you who want the details.

Why clean A/C coils? The short answer

Dirt and grime on the A/C coils makes it harder for your equipment to transfer heat. That means it has to run longer and work harder to do an efficient job, using more energy and causing parts to wear and break down quicker. Dirty coils can also get corroded which can lead to refrigerant leaks.

Need to know more? Keep reading to learn more about why the AC coils need to be clean and what happens when you neglect cleaning the A/C coils for too long.

What do the A/C coils do?

You’re A/C coils are some of the most important parts of the air conditioning system. There are two types of coils: EVAPORATOR coils (part of the indoor unit) that absorb the heat and humidity from the air in your space; and CONDENSER coils (typically located outside) that expel that heat outside of your property.

When the outside of the coils collect a layer of dirt and contaminants, the transfer of heat (into the evaporator coil and out of the condenser coil) becomes much less efficient. That causes a number of problems that you’ll start to notice as the problem gets worse (details below).

Comparison of Clean and Dirty Coils

Comparison of Clean and Dirty Coils

If you ignore the symptoms for too long, your system can overheat and ultimately fail completely. That’s why you should not delay cleaning of your A/C coils.

The consequences of not cleaning A/C coils

Not convinced yet about why to clean AC coils? Here’s what happens when dirt and debris build up on your air conditioner’s evaporator and condenser coils.

  • Your system runs longer without cooling as effectively. When the evaporator coil is dirty, it can’t absorb as much heat. Therefore, you may notice that your system keeps running almost constantly while having trouble reaching set temperature.
  • Your system uses more energyand drives up your electric bill. The more it runs, the more your utility expenses go up! Have you noticed a spike lately? It may be a good reason why you should clean the A/C coils.
  • Parts wear more quickly. Excess heat, pressure, and increased run times cause parts to wear out sooner. You’ll have more problems with fans, belts and other components.
  • Refrigerant leaks can occur. Grimy A/C coils can develop corrosion on the outside, especially the outdoor condenser coils that are exposed to smog, exhaust fumes and other outdoor pollutants. Over time, corrosion causes cracks and holes in the coils, which allows refrigerant to leak. As the refrigerant charge is reduced, your system’s ability to cool is gradually reduced. If your system was installed prior to 2010 and uses the old refrigerant R22 (also known as Freon), you have an even bigger problem on your hands. That’s because Freon is being phased out and therefore repair costs are skyrocketing.
  • Your system fails before its time. Without getting too technical, when the A/C coils are dirty, the refrigerant flowing through the coils can not change from liquid to gas (and back) as it’s supposed to. That causes increased strain on the compressor, which is the heart of your air conditioning system. When the compressor goes, it’s an expensive fix at best, you might be need a complete replacement system.

Obviously that’s going to cost you… and we don’t only mean the cost of buying and installing a new air conditioning system. What about the cost of going without A/C for weeks or longer, while you sort through estimates and wait for an install date? If you’re a business owner, consider the cost in lost productivity from overheated employees, and even the cost of lost business.

Don’t let things get to this point! Now that you know WHY to clean your A/C coils, take care of the problem right away. Next, find out how often you’ll need to do it in the future to protect your system.

How often you need to clean A/C coils

How much dirt is too much? Why to clean the A/C coils is only half of the question. The rest is how often to do it.

Ideally, your vendor will clean you’re A/C coils as part of your regular preventative maintenance contract, which you need at least once or twice per year. The frequency depends on a few factors:

THE AGE AND CONDITION OF YOUR EQUIPMENT. If your equipment has not been well maintained, it may have corrosion that collects more debris.

YOUR USAGE. If yours is a commercial system that runs 24/7 all year long, you’ll need to clean you’re a/C coils more frequently.

LOCATION. Is it close to street level where pollution levels are higher? Is there construction or demolition going on nearby that’s spewing debris into the air? Is the unit exposed to exhaust from nearby kitchens or factories? If so, you’ll need to have the coils cleaned more often.

Hopefully that explains everything you need to know about cleaning the A/C coils.


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