The air conditioning system is complex, regular maintenance is required to keep it working at optimal efficiency. Annual maintenance before the start of each cooling season is the best way to protect your investment. But, some people tend to forget about these needs and they only take action when something goes wrong. This is unfortunate, early detection of potential problems makes them easier and less expensive to fix. Smaller issues have a tendency to become worse over time and they never get better when ignored. A prime example is the evaporator coil, which is a crucial component and when it gets dirty it can lead to a lack of efficiency. In this article, we will provide some useful tips on how you can clean the evaporator coil without removing it.

What is an Evaporator Coil?

The air conditioning process removes warm air from the home and moves it outdoors. The home is not cooled in the strictest sense of the term, it would be more accurate to say that the home feels cooler because the heat has been removed. This may seem like a trivial distinction, but it’s important if you want to understand how air conditioning works. The evaporator coil is the component that captures the heat that’s trapped in your home and this is passed on to the evaporator coil outdoors which releases it. The heat is carried by a refrigerant that is kept under pressure to absorb the heat and move it.

Why Clean the Evaporator Coil?

When the evaporator coil is dirty, it can affect your air conditioner system in a number of negative ways. First, the air blowing process is degraded because loose particulates on the coil simply get in the way.

The airflow is reduced too, this is a problem because the entire HVAC system relies on a steady supply of fresh air. When the airflow is compromised it will make the cooling process less efficient. This may be why the rooms in your home seem to take a long time to feel cooler. In certain cases, the room may never reach the temperature that you want and this is more than a simple delay. At this point, the potential cooling capacity becomes limited until action is taken.

Another major problem is the increase in air conditioning operating pressures and the system will work at elevated temperatures. Higher levels of heat are bad for the components in your AC system and it will lead to unexpected failures and a shorter lifespan. The evaporator coil is a key component in the heat transfer process and when it’s not functioning efficiently there will be extra wear on the system.

How Do I Clean the Evaporator Coil?

There are a few things that you will need before you get started. First,  you need protective goggles because a lot of particulates can accumulate on the evaporator coils. When you clean this material there is a good chance that you may get some in your eyes. This material may include dirt, dust, pollen, and other debris that could harm your eyes. You will need a canister of compressed air and a screwdriver to remove the cover if the access panel on your unit doesn’t use fasteners. Finally, you don’t want to wear clothing that you care about because the cleaning process is dirty and the clothes may be ruined.

Once you have everything that you need there are five cleaning steps to follow in order, they are:

Step 1: Turn Off the AC Power Supply

It’s tempting to cut corners to “save time”, but the risks of electrocution and damage to the AC system should not be taken lightly. Turn off the AC power supply and for good measure remove the plug and flip the breaker if you want to be extra safe. If the unit turns on unexpectedly as you’re cleaning, there could be serious ramifications.

Step 2: Locate the Owner’s Manual

The full instructions on how to remove the access panel safely are detailed in the owner’s manual for your system. If you’ve misplaced the manual, look for a free pdf copy online, it’s worth the effort because it should contain a lot of useful information.

Step 3: Remove the Access Panel

It’s time to remove the access panel, this may be secured with fasteners or screws depending on your specific model. Staying organized is crucial, get a small container and place the fasteners or screws in this receptacle to keep them safe. When every screw or fastener is removed, you can remove the access panel carefully and place it out of the way while you clean.

Step 4: Clean the Evaporator Coil

Now that the access panel is removed you should have easy access to the evaporator coil. Use the canister of compressed air to blow the dirt and debris loose. A 90º angle works best if you’re using high pressure air for cleaning. If you locate a patch of stubborn dirty place, put the air nozzle close to the surface and it should blow the dirty clear.

Step 5: Completion

Replace the access panel, secure it in place with the screws or fasteners and restore the power.

If you’ve followed these five steps and the cleaning process did not work or you lack the confidence to tackle this job safely, contact your local HVAC specialist for help.

The Importance of Ongoing HVAC Maintenance

During a scheduled maintenance visit, the evaporator coil and many other components are checked and cleaned. The HVAC system needs regular maintenance to perform at optimal efficiency.  It may seem prudent to “save money” by ignoring the maintenance requirements of your system but this is a false economy. In the medium to long-term, you will save money on repairs and an earlier than expected replacement. Adopting a proactive approach to maintenance is the smart decision for your home comfort and your bank balance.

If you want to schedule an inspection and tune-up for your HVAC system, contact your local heating and cooling specialist today.