Air conditioning systems are complex and contain multiple, interconnected components. However, at the most basic level, air conditioners are simply heat-exchanging machines.
Your home's central air conditioning system removes heat from your home's interior and releases it to the outside. Two major components, the evaporator coil and condenser coil, are necessary to make the exchange happen. The condenser coil is responsible for releasing heat. The evaporator coil absorbs the heat.
Your system's evaporator coil is located adjacent to the air handler, a large sheet-metal enclosure that contains the system's fan and is connected to the air duct network. The evaporator coil contains long lengths of thin tubing mounted inside a smaller sheet-metal box; thin, metal fins line the outside of the evaporator coil and aid in the heat transfer process.
To make the system work, the fan pushes warm air through the evaporator coil, which transfers the heat to cold refrigerant inside the tubing. Next, the newly laden, heat-carrying refrigerant circulates outside to the condenser coil, where its heat content is passed to the atmosphere.
A compressor pump pushes the "cooled" refrigerant back into the home, where it enters the evaporator once again and the cycle is repeated.
How to Clean a Dirty Evaporator Coil
Since the primary job of an evaporator coil is to capture heat from the passing warm air, it performs best whenever there is little to hinder the transfer of heat to the refrigerant. Dirt, pet hair, mold, dust, or any other substance on the evaporator coil will serve as an insulator and lessen the amount of heat extracted from the air.
Because of a dirty evaporator coil, your central air conditioning system will need to run longer to cool down your home. Longer run times equate to higher electric bills and result in additional wear-and-tear on your system.
Fortunately, cleaning a dirty evaporator coil isn't difficult and can be performed with a few minutes of work. Evaporator coils should be cleaned about once per year for peak performance. Below is a step-by-step overview of how to clean your system's evaporator coil.
1. Disconnect the System Power
Before beginning any work, be sure to power down the air conditioning system at the circuit breaker panel to avoid any possible accidents. In addition, change the temperature setting from “cool” on the thermostat to the “off” position.
2. Access the Evaporator Coil
Since the evaporator coil is located in close proximity to the air handler, it shouldn't be difficult to find the evaporator coil. In many cases, the air handler and evaporator coil are installed in a utility closet, or the combo may be found in an attic or basement.
Once you find the evaporator coil, locate and remove the sheet metal screws holding the access panel in place. Carefully pull the cover away from the evaporator coil and set it aside. Next, look inside the evaporator coil at its interior and look for damage or any other unusual signs of potential trouble.
3. Clean the Evaporator Coil
The simplest way to clean an evaporator coil is to use a canned, aerosol spray available from hardware stores and home improvement centers. Evaporator coil cleaner foams up once it is applied, and the foaming action strips away the residue and debris on the coils.
When applying evaporator coil cleaner, be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions for use. Allow the cleaner sufficient time to perform its work, then replace the cover and restore power to the system.
If you have questions about your system's evaporator coil or any other air conditioning-related issue, then don't hesitate to reach out to Climate Heating & Cooling Inc. for assistance. Our friendly team of experts will be more than happy to help you with maintenance concerns, and we can also perform repairs or installation as needed.