How The Coils In Your AC Get Dirty And The Options For Cleaning Them

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One of the most important air conditioning services you can have done is cleaning the coils in your AC regularly. Refrigerant flows through the coils, and when the coils are dirty, the refrigerant is blocked from cooling your home as well as it could. Here's a look at how your AC coils get dirty and how a service technician might clean them.

There Are Two Sets Of Coils

A typical air conditioning system has an indoor air handler with an evaporator coil and an outdoor condenser with a condenser coil. The coils are usually copper tubes surrounded by aluminum fins. When your AC runs, refrigerant cycles through the condenser coils and evaporator coils in a continuous loop. The refrigerant picks up heat from your home in the evaporator coils and releases the heat outdoors through the condenser coils as the refrigerant constantly changes from a liquid to gas and back.

Dust Can Build Up On The Coils

One reason it's so important to keep the filter in your AC changed on schedule is to keep dust off the coils. The evaporator coils are always damp due to condensation. Dust gets trapped on the coils due to the moisture, and then the dust creates a blanket that makes the refrigerant operate less efficiently. Even if you change the filter regularly, dust will still accumulate, but it will build up more slowly than if the filter is allowed to get caked with dust.

The outdoor coils get dirty due to exposure to the environment. They might get coated with dust, dirt, leaf debris, or grass clippings. The fins offer some protection for the coils, but the fins can get clogged and dirty too. Both the fins and coils have to be kept clean for optimal performance of your air conditioner.

AC Coils Are Cleaned In Different Ways

If you have an air conditioning service tune-up your AC every spring, dirty coils may not be much of an issue since the technician cleans them when needed. Coils are easier to clean when they only have a light coating of dust and dirt, so it's best to have them cleaned regularly.

Depending on what's coating the coils and how bad the buildup is, the technician might use compressed air, water, coil cleaning solutions, soapy water, or a coil-cleaning brush to get the coils clean. Care has to be taken when using cleaners to make sure they are not acidic, as acids can harm copper tubing. Care also has to be taken with compressed air or a water jet so the fins aren't bent and so dirt and dust aren't driven into the clean parts of the AC.

Contact an air conditioning service for more information.