How To Clean AC Evaporator Coils

How To Clean AC Evaporator Coils: Definitive Guide

Did you know the efficiency of your air conditioning unit might drop by 5% when a dirt particle even as small as .01 inch squeezes its way into its coil compartment? ( Reference: energy.gov )

When it comes to the maintenance of a cooling unit, many homeowners think they can get away with a simple change of the air filter.

Turns out, things aren’t always as simple as that!

Dirty evaporator coils are one of the main reasons why the air conditioning unit may have a hard time while transferring heat from the coil to the outside environment.

Sadly, if you continue running your AC in this condition, not only you will end up paying a good amount of money in utility bills, but also, it will start reducing the system’s performance over time or even worse, cause it shut off in the middle of a hot summer night!  

Want to know how to clean evaporator coil and keep your AC working at its finest condition?

Stay with us till the end of this article and you will get all the answers you are looking for!

Why Is Cleaning Evaporator So Important?

As much as we all love the bright, cheerful vibe that summer season brings, the hot and humid weather also makes it incredibly difficult to sleep at night without turning the air conditioning unit on!

Have you wondered what part of the cooling unit is responsible for removing the heat from inside your home and keeping it at an ideal temperature?

Well, the evaporator coil and the condensing coil are the main two soldiers who do this tough job.

And blimey!

You will be shocked to see how much dirt, dust and debris manage to fly into the unit and keep building up onto the surface of the unit’s component over time!

Once the buildup becomes too heavy, it restricts the airflow of the unit and as a result, reduces the system’s performance by a great margin.

A dusty and unclean evaporative coil lead the way to several other problems as well! Let’s take a look at some of them down below:

Unwanted Humidity In The Room

Why do we turn on the AC? To get rid of the heat and humidity from inside our room, right?

Well, this very action becomes extremely difficult for the cooling unit to perform once its airflow is restricted and it can’t transfer the heat properly. As a result, the humidity level in the environment will still be high and you might experience discomfort even though the AC is on!

High Electricity Bill

Although the machine loses its ability to give its 100%, don’t forget that it’s still trying to cool down the room temperature as much as possible!

In order to do that, the device needs to keep running for a longer period of time and as a result, it causes a sudden surge in your utility bill.  

Decrease The Unit’s Efficiency

A clogged evaporator coil causes the device to work extra hard and forces the compressor to operate at a high temperature. This kind of activity puts strain on the machine and decreases the unit’s efficiency.

And if the components are being over-stressed like this for an extended period, then it’s possible for the entire system to collapse and get damaged beyond repair. In that case, you might have to pay for an entire replacement!

Now that you understand the importance of keeping an evaporator clean, it’s time we move on to the next topic, which explains how to access the coil and clean it properly.

How To Access The Evaporator Coil?

Coils are an internal part of the air conditioner and hidden from the plain eyesight.

Usually, it’s found inside the air handler unit. However, if you want to pinpoint its exact location, it’s better to look into the instruction guide that came with the machine.

To gain access to the spiral wires-

First, turn the AC off from the main power source.

Next, look for a metal casing that contains the copper coils inside it. Usually, it’s mounted to a furnace, closet or cabinet that’s out of plain sight.

Finally, locate the access panel and open it! You might need a screwdriver to loosen up all the nuts and bolts.

Keep the accessories in a safe place as you will need them once again when all the components are nice and clean and ready to be put together inside the unit.

How To Clean AC Coils In Different Ways?

Knowing how to clean ac evaporator coils yourself will not only save you a bunch of money but also it will allow you to help your friends and neighbors with your expertise!

Let’s take a look at some of the easiest methods down below:

1. Compressed Air

This method should be applied when the components are slightly dirty and can easily be removed. You will need a can of compressed air or an air compressor device for this purpose.

  • Before starting the cleaning process, wear eye goggles to protect your eyes from all the dirt and debris.
  • Apply the compressed air across the AC coils to blow out the stubborn particles.
  • Make sure to direct the compressed air in the reverse direction of the regular airflow to clean properly.
  • Be careful while cleaning the fins of the coils as they get bent quite easily. It’s best to direct your compressor at a 90-Degre angle to prevent any damage.

2. Brush Cleaning

Sometimes even after blowing compressed air into the coils, the stubborn debris and particles will still be there no matter what!

In that case, you can use the brush cleaning method by following the steps mentioned here:

  • Use a brush with soft bristles and gently sweep the dirt away from the coils.
  • To dislodge any fine particles that refuse to let go, scrub the area with the brush using a stronger force.
  • Don’t use any hard-bristle or wire-brush for this purpose as that might damage the fins beyond repair!
  • After the brushing and scrubbing, use a soft cloth to gently wipe the area.

3. Detergent And Water

This is a DIY solution that you can use to clean ac evaporator coils inside the house. For this purpose, you will need warm water and a mild detergent or a dish-liquid soap.

  • Mix the detergent and warm water in an appropriate quantity.
  • Pour the mixture into a spray bottle or a hand sprayer so that you can apply it easily.
  • Apply the mixed solution directly on to the soiled area.
  • Allow the mixture to sit on it for several minutes. This will help loosen up the dirt and debris and remove them easily.
  • Use a soft cloth or an old rag to clean the dust away.
  • You can also use a brush for this purpose if the dirt seems reluctant to let go.

4. Homemade Coil Cleaner

Homemade solutions are the best, aren’t they?

They are simple, easy to make and work like a charm most of the time!

For this purpose, you only need a common ingredient found in your kitchen cabinet, which is Vinegar!

  • Take a bowl and mix pour ½ cup of vinegar and ½ cup of water inside it.
  • Stir the mixture and pour it into a spray bottle for your convenience.
  • Apply the mixture directly on to the AC coils.
  • Let it sit there for a couple of minutes. The solution will help loosen up even the toughest particles!
  • Take a piece of soft cloth and start wiping off the remaining solution.

5. Commercial Cleaner

If you want an easy and quick solution that requires minimal effort, then using a commercial cleaner might be your best bet!

And the steps are quite easy to follow which are given below:

  • First, read the instruction of the brand that you purchased as each Evaporator Coil Cleaner comes with a set of guidelines on how to use it in the right way.
  • Apply the solution on the coils as per the instruction.
  • Usually, these types of cleaning agents tend up to form bubbles of foam. So, wait till the foaming action takes place!
  • Some foams are self-cleansing and will drain away completely along with all the dirt and dust.
  • Otherwise, use a clean towel to wipe away the foams and enjoy a clean set of AC coils!

6. Heavy-Duty Cleaning

We don’t recommend this step until you have run out of all other options.

However, in extreme cases where the coils are heavily soiled and none other above-mentioned methods are working, then you can try this solution before calling the HVAC team to clean your AC components.

You will need a pump sprayer of 1-gallon size and a commercial coil cleaning solution for this purpose.

  • Apply the cleaning solution as per instruction. It’s better to add some warm water into the mix.
  • Let the solution soak into the coils properly and wait for several minutes.
  • Adjust the pump sprayer and start spraying down the affected area.
  • Make sure the jet sprayer doesn’t damage the fins of the coils. It’s better to start at the lowest speed of the device.
  • After all the dirt is washed away with the water, take a clean rag and wipe off the excess moisture.

How Often Should AC Evaporator Be Cleaned?

Typically, it’s a good idea to check on the AC coils twice or at least once per year. However, the ideal maintenance time depends on several factors as well.

Let’s take a look at the three conditions and then decide how often you should check on your air conditioner coils!

Is It Old?

“Old is gold!”

Apparently, it’s not always true.

With time, electric components start showing the symptoms of aging through corrosion. And once the coils start corroding, it becomes an unlucky charm that attracts all kinds of dirt, dust and debris from its surrounding environment.

In this case, it’s better to check in more often, preferably once every 4 months and see if it needs a quick wash at that time.

How Often Do You Use Your Air Conditioner?

Do you live in a hot climate?

Is your AC running 24/7?

The longer you run your air conditioning unit, the more it will accumulate dust from the environment. Depending on how much downtime your AC gets, you might need to clean it more than 2 times annually.

Where Is The Unit Located?

Where is the inside part of your cooling unit located?

If it’s in a place that’s clean and doesn’t get too much dirty over time, then it’s totally fine if you schedule your maintenance just once a year!

However, if it’s located in the basement or places where it might collect dust and debris and isn’t cleaned regularly, then it’s better to schedule the maintenance once every 4 months.

Tips And Caution While Cleaning Evaporator Coils

  • As the coils accumulate a lot of soot, grime and filth over time, it’s better to wear a protective mask, goggles and gloves to protect yourself before starting to clean its components.
  • While choosing from the commercial cleaners, it’s best to avoid the ones that contain acid or alkaline-based ingredients as they pose a potential danger to human health and also damages the outer surface of the coils along the process.
  • To prevent the coil damage, it’s best to rinse the components after any kind of foam application.
  • Do NOT try to pressure wash the coils as it might damage the fins beyond repair.
  • Once you are done with the cleaning process, make sure to straighten all the fins so that the air can flow easily without being restricted.

Final Words

Has the last month’s electricity bill left you puzzled?

Before you start cursing the existing system and upgrading all of your appliances to energy-efficient ones, you might want to take a look at the air conditioning unit in your home that’s been struggling to cool off the room for a while now!

Now that you have learned how to clean AC evaporator coils, you can easily apply one of these techniques and fix the problem in an instant!

Hopefully, our article has helped you lower your utility bills, sustain energy and most importantly, improve your air conditioning unit’s efficiency by a good margin.

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