Air conditioner coils are an essential part of your system, and your AC will be less effective if they aren’t maintained and cleaned regularly.

Photo by Max Vakhtbovych from Pexels

If the coils are clogged by debris, cooling will decrease and the system will use more electricity to work properly. 

It’s advisable to clean your AC coils or have them cleaned at least once a year to prevent more expensive AC Repair issues down the road. Here are some tips on maintaining your AC coils for improved longevity and cost savings.   

It’s important to maintain your AC’s coils. Source

How Does an Air Conditioner Work?

If you want to understand what your AC’s coils do, and why they must be maintained, you need a basic knowledge of how your system actually works. 

Your AC system removes heat from rooms by circulating refrigerant or coolant between the indoor and outdoor units of the air conditioner. The refrigerant changes from liquid to gas, and then back again, during this process. The evaporator and condenser coils are essential to the cooling process. 

  1. The indoor part of your system pulls in the room’s warm air. The refrigerant absorbs this heat and cools down the air. It then flows through the evaporator coils into the outdoor unit. 
  2. The coolant enters the AC compressor in the outdoor unit. The gaseous refrigerant is compressed into hot liquid before it’s passed onto the condenser coils. 
  3. The condenser coils dissipate the heat from the refrigerant and push it into the air outdoors. The refrigerant flows back to the evaporator, returns to a gaseous state, and the process starts again. 

The condenser coil and the evaporator coil both dissipate heat, but from different areas in the system. The evaporator coil, which is inside the indoor unit, extracts heat from the air in your home. This coil lowers the humidity in your home and speeds up the cooling process. The condenser coil in the outdoor unit transfers the absorbed heat outside your house. 

Photo by Max Vakhtbovych from Pexels

Cleaning of the AC Coils

Get an HVAC technician to check the coils at least once a year, for defects. This will also save you repair costs in the long run, as small issues can be fixed before they escalate. 

If you live in a harsh environment, or you tend to use your AC a lot, you would need to clean the coils more frequently. On the other hand, you still need to clean the unit if it’s not used for some time, as dirt can accumulate and form clumps. 

You should try to follow a schedule when it comes to cleaning your AC and its coils. For example: 

  • Cleaning and maintenance should be done at least once a year to keep your system functioning well. Even if you’re not using the AC, have it cleaned once a year. This should be done as part of an overall tune-up of the AC. 
  • If you live in an area with extreme heat, have it cleaned every six months. 
  • Clean every three months or earlier, if needed, especially if you suspect the unit may have mold or has grown bacteria. You may notice a bad smell emanating from the unit. 

The Cleaning Process

The safest method to get your coils clean is to contact an HVAC technician, as they are trained to do it, and they can also test your system to make sure it’s operating efficiently. 

Even if you’re not going to do it yourself, it’s good to understand the coil cleaning process, as you can communicate any concerns to your technician. 

Photo by Max Vakhtbovych from Pexels

Once the technician has managed to expose the coils, they will decide on the proper way to clean them, while following the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

  • The HVAC technician can use a combination of compressed air and coil-cleaning chemicals to clean the outdoor condensing coil. 
  • The coils can also be cleaned with a solution of water and household detergent. A low-pressure sprayer can be used to apply this mixture to the coil. The coil can be allowed to drain naturally, or it can be rinsed with a garden hose. Make sure the technician uses a low-pressure sprayer, as the high-powered spray can damage the metal fins of the coil. 
  • The technician may also use a coil cleaning solution to clean your AC coils. Several types are available and they usually come in aerosol cans. 
  • The technician will clean debris on the surface of the outdoor coil by hand, or by using a special fin brush. They will then apply the commercial cleaner and rinse the coil with water. 
  • The HVAC specialist will clean large debris by hand from the indoor evaporator coil and will then apply a self-rinsing evaporator oil. This will help clean the oil and will be rinsed off when the system is on. 
Photo by Max Vakhtbovych from Pexels

Final Thoughts

While you may be tempted to clean the air conditioner coils yourself, it’s safer to get an experienced HVAC technician to perform this process. There is no set schedule for air conditioner maintenance, but it’s best to have it done at least once a year. If you use your AC often, or you live in a harsh environment, you should have your air conditioner, and coils, cleaned every few months.