A clean evaporator coil ensures your air conditioning system is working efficiently and effectively. Evaporator coils can collect dust, debris, and oils over time. It is crucial to maintain this element of your air conditioning system regularly.
According to the experienced Action AC technicians, The maintenance of the AC unit is the lifeblood and source for a lasting unit. Over time, it will save money through the electric bill and keep you from repairs. So, how do you clean an evaporator coil?
To clean an evaporator coil, you can use a soft cloth with a specialized cleaning agent or a mild detergent. You may use a soft bristle brush only, but you must take heed not to damage any of the coils or other components. Begin with opening the access panel to get a good view of the next steps. You may want to begin with a vacuum cleaner hose to suck up all the loose dirt and debris. Follow up with the soft cloth and cleaning agents and rinse off with a spray bottle of water and the cloth to take off the remaining residue.
Table of Contents
- What is an Evaporator Coil?
- How Does the Evaporator Coil Get Dirty?
- Why does the Evaporator Coil Need to be Cleaned?
- Materials Needed to Clean the Evaporator Coil
- Cleaning the Evaporator Coil
- How Often Should the Evaporator Coil Be Cleaned?
- Related Questions
What is an Evaporator Coil?
An evaporator coil is an element in the air handling portion of your air conditioning system. Its purpose is to suck in the heat from the air taken into the machine.
The evaporator coil contains the refrigerant needed to cool the air. It is made of metal and is covered by fins. The fins help to protect the coil and allow air to move through it.
How Does the Evaporator Coil Get Dirty?
The evaporator coil may seem well protected behind the access panel of your air handling unit. However, it is not the area around your air conditioning unit which gets the coil dirty.
Air in your home is sucked into the air conditioning system through intake vents. Unfortunately, the air isn’t the only thing that gets sucked in. Dirt, debris, dust, hair, and other particles get sucked in through the intake vents.
When air goes through the air conditioning system to cool, it passes over the evaporator coil. The evaporator coil absorbs the heat. From there, everything else that gets brought in through the intake vents gets trapped on it and around it.
Why does the Evaporator Coil Need to be Cleaned?
The dirt, dust, and debris that build up around your evaporator coil make it difficult for it to do its job. When all that stuff gets in the way, the coil cannot properly absorb heat from the air.
When the evaporator coil struggles to absorb heat, the whole system is affected. Your air conditioning system will not be producing as much cool air as it would if everything were working properly.
When elements such as the evaporator coil are not adequately maintained, the machine must work harder to cool the air. The extra work puts it at a greater risk of getting damaged. Paying for maintenance is much cheaper than paying the cost of a repair bill or electric bill for wasted energy.
Materials Needed to Clean the Evaporator Coil
The exact materials needed will depend on how dirty your evaporator coil is. Listed are a few ideas on what would be helpful to have available when you go to clean your evaporator coil.
1. Use a Can of Compressed Air
In some cases, it is enough to blow off the dust and debris.
2. A Soft and Clean cloth is Suffice
If your evaporator coil is dusty and dry, you may be able to wipe away the dust and debris gently with a soft cloth. If you need to clean with detergent or specialized cleaners, a cloth will help absorb leftover liquids and reside.
3. Mild detergent Helps with the Cleaning Process
A mild detergent will help clear away build-up and gunk without introducing unwanted chemicals to the air conditioning system or your home.
4. Water Is Needed for Diluting and Rinsing
You’ll want this to remove any cleaning agents.
5. A Specialized Cleaner Will Enhance the Cleaning Process
There are several cleaning agents specially designed to wipe away the common types of build-up around evaporator coils. These often also come with specialized sprayers to apply the cleaning agent.
6. Use Bleach
If you find any evidence of bacterial growth or mold, a bleach solution will kill the development. You and your family can rest easy from breathing in all of that trash.
Cleaning the Evaporator Coil
Listed below are the steps you will need to follow in cleaning the evaporator coil.
Step 1: Turn the System Off
Turn off the air conditioning system. Most models have a switch on them, which looks like a light switch. If you can’t find the switch or if your system doesn’t have one accessible, remove power by shutting off the breaker.
For safety purposes, the breaker should always be turned off. Be sure to let the system cool down before doing any maintenance. The air handling portion of the machine is designed to absorb heat, so it will be too warm to handle.
Step 2: Remove the Access Panel
Consult your user manual for gaining access to the air handling portion of your air conditioning system. Most have screws, but some simply clamp in place. Be sure to set them aside safely, so no screws or other elements get lost.
Step 3: Clean the Evaporator Coil
The exact process at this step will depend on how dirty your evaporator coil is. In some cases, a few quick bursts of compressed air will remove dust and debris. Alternatively, you could gently wipe away dust and debris with a clean, soft cloth for minor cases.
For evaporator coils with more build-up, you will have to work a little harder to clean them. Use a mild detergent or a cleaning agent designed especially for cleaning evaporator coils.
You might choose to wipe them down with a cloth or sponge. Another option is a specialized sprayer to apply cleaner to the evaporator coil.
Be sure to be cautious when cleaning the coils. The fins around your evaporator coil are thin metal. Do not brush or wipe across the fins.
Bending them will reduce or block airflow, and your air conditioning system will not be able to do its job.
Step 4: Check for Bacteria Growth and Mold
The air brought in by the intake vent often brings along with it many other unwanted elements. Along with dust and debris, your intake vent might pick up bacteria or mold spores.
If there is a lot of build-up on or around your evaporator coil, this could be a prime opportunity for bacteria and mold to grow. Should this gets out of hand, it could spread through your air conditioning system.
If you see signs of mold or bacteria growth, clean the area with a bleach solution. Wear gloves and a mask to protect yourself should you see any sign of them.
Step 5: Replace the Access Panel
When you are confident that the evaporator coil is clean and dry, replace the access panel. If there was metal foil tape there when you removed it, be sure to replace it. Be careful not to cover any labels on the access panel.
Step 6: Turn the Air Conditioning System Back On
When everything is clean, and back in place, it is safe to turn your air conditioning system back on.
How Often Should the Evaporator Coil Be Cleaned?
Most experts will recommend cleaning the evaporator coil at least once per year. However, it is best to clean it twice per year.
An excellent way to determine the frequency of needing to clean the evaporator coil is to monitor it. Checking your coil regularly will help you determine how dirty it gets and how quickly. You can use this information to determine the best frequency for your air conditioning system.
A regularly maintained system will work more effectively and more efficiently than one that is not regularly maintained. A clean evaporator coil will have an easier time absorbing heat and doing its part in the air conditioning system. When your AC system works efficiently, it will help you stay cooler, and it won’t drive up energy costs.
Do I Need to go Outside to Clean My Evaporator Coil?
Your air conditioning system is made up of an air handling unit and a cooling unit. The cooling unit is located outside. The cooling unit contains the compressor coil, which is different than the evaporator coil.
The evaporator coil and the compressor coil work together to keep your home cool. They remove heat from the air with refrigerants, which are introduced in the evaporator coil. The refrigerant moves to the outside unit, where it goes through the compressor coil to cool down.
Is it Safe to Clean My Evaporator Coil?
Be sure to remove power from your air conditioning system. Let the air handling unit cool down fully before removing the panel and doing any maintenance.
Should I Call a Technician to Clean the Evaporator Coil?
Professionals have the experience, expertise, and proper tools to take care of the job. They charge around $65 to $150 per hour.
If you are uncomfortable with doing the job yourself, you risk damaging the air conditioning system. A damaged system will likely cost more to have repaired or replaced.