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March 13, 2023

How to Clean AC Evaporator Coils Inside Your House

As a homeowner you may be aware of the importance of maintenance for your HVAC system. However, the internal components of your air conditioning unit, such as the evaporator coils, can often be neglected. Dirty evaporator coils can reduce the efficiency and performance of your HVAC system and even cause damage or a breakdown.


Why Are Evaporator Coils Important?

The primary function of the evaporator coil in your HVAC system is to capture the heat from the indoor air of your home or business. The condenser coils, on the other hand, release the trapped heat into the air around the outdoor unit. The coils are typically made of copper and are encased by multiple aluminum fins that help improve the transfer of heat.

Evaporator coils are located in the indoor air handling unit, while the condenser coils are in the outdoor cabinet of your system. The effectiveness and performance of the cooling function of your AC system is greatly reduced when the evaporator coils get dirty. They play a vital role in providing the cooling necessary to generate the cold air that keeps the indoor air of your home or business comfortable, even during the hottest of temperatures. They also play a role in the dehumidification that your HVAC system provides. Water condenses onto the coils as they become cooler, which is then removed from your indoor air. This water is then collected in the drain pan, safely flowing away from the system.

When the evaporator coils get dirty, they become damp due to the dehumidification process. As a result, dust, pollen, and other particulates in the air will stick to the coils as the air passes by them. If the air filter is dirty or no air filter is used at all, this can increase the amount of contaminants that come in contact with the coil. Enough dirt and dust can collect on the coils to affect their performance in a relatively short amount of time, leading to ice buildup on the coil, increased wear on the system, lowered cooling capacity, lowered heat transfer, higher energy consumption, and higher temperatures and operating pressures.

Why Cleaning AC Evaporator Coils is Important

Dirty coils use up to 40% more energy than air conditioning units with clean coils, as well as reducing the cooling function by an estimated 30% or more. Not only will your AC unit continue to lose performance and efficiency, but your monthly utility bills will continue to skyrocket if dirty coils are left uncleaned. That’s why it’s essential to have a basic understanding of how your air conditioner functions and the importance of the evaporator coils.

How to Clean Your AC Evaporator Coils Inside Your House

Cleaning your AC evaporator coils is a simple and straightforward task that can be done in just a few steps. The first step is to turn off your air conditioner at the thermostat and shut off the circuit breaker for added safety. You will then need to access the evaporator coils, which are located inside your indoor handling unit behind the removable access panel. Follow these steps to clean your AC evaporator coils:

Remove the Access Panel

  • To access the evaporator coils, you will need to remove the access panel. The panel is usually located near the bottom of the air handler, and you can remove the panel by unscrewing it or lifting it up and out of its clips.
  • It’s generally recommended to change air filters every 1-3 months, depending on factors such as the number of occupants in your home, the presence of pets, and the level of indoor air pollution. Regularly changing your air filter can help improve indoor air quality, reduce energy costs, and prolong the life of your HVAC system.
  • Once you have access to the air filter, inspect it to see if it’s dirty or clogged with debris. If it looks dirty, replace it with a new filter of the same size and type. Most air filters have a MERV rating that indicates their filtration efficiency, so make sure you choose a filter with a MERV rating that’s appropriate for your HVAC system and your indoor air quality needs.

Inspect the evaporator coils

  • The evaporator coils are responsible for removing heat and humidity from the air passing over them. Over time, the coils can accumulate dirt and debris, reducing their efficiency. To inspect the coils, use a flashlight and look through the access panel. If you see any buildup on the coils, use a soft brush or cloth to gently remove it. Be careful not to damage the coils.

The evaporator coil is a critical component in an air conditioning system, and its proper maintenance is essential for the system’s efficient operation. The coil is typically made up of a series of metal fins and tubes that contain refrigerant, which extracts heat from the air passing over the coils.

One potential safety concern when it comes to evaporator coils is the danger of electrical shock. The coil is connected to the AC power supply, and there is a risk of coming into contact with live wires if the unit is turned on while working on the coils. Therefore, it is crucial to turn off the AC system and wait for it to cool down before attempting any maintenance on the coils.

Another safety consideration is the use of chemicals for cleaning the coils. Some cleaning agents can be hazardous if inhaled or come into contact with the skin. It’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using any cleaning chemicals and wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves and goggles.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that neglecting the maintenance of the evaporator coils can lead to more severe problems down the line, such as reduced airflow, decreased cooling capacity, and even system breakdowns. Therefore, regular maintenance of the coils is crucial for ensuring the optimal performance and longevity of the air conditioning system.

Clean the condensate drain

  • As the air conditioner removes moisture from the air, it creates condensate that needs to be drained away. Over time, the condensate drain line can become clogged with dirt and debris, causing water to back up into the air handler or even leak into your home. To clean the drain, locate the drain line and use a wet/dry vacuum to suck out any clogs. You can also pour a mixture of bleach and water down the drain to kill any algae or mold that may be growing.

ac drain line

Replace the air filter

  • The air filter is responsible for trapping dirt and other particles in the air, preventing them from clogging the air handler or getting into your home. Over time, the filter can become clogged, reducing the airflow and efficiency of your air conditioner. Most filters need to be replaced every 1-3 months, depending on usage. To replace the filter, simply remove the old one and slide in the new one according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

furnace filter

Test the system

  • Once you’ve completed all the steps above, turn on the air conditioner and let it run for a few minutes. Check to make sure the airflow is strong and the air coming out of the vents is cool. If you notice any problems, such as weak airflow or warm air, you may need to call in a professional for further inspection and repair.

Contact the Professionals

By following these steps, you can help keep your air conditioner running smoothly and efficiently, saving you money on your energy bills and reducing the risk of breakdowns and costly repairs. Cleaning the air handler is an important maintenance task that can help improve the efficiency and lifespan of your HVAC system. However, it can be a challenging task, and if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, it’s best to seek the help of a professional HVAC technician. Companies like Paschal Air, Plumbing & Electric have trained technicians who can clean your air handler quickly and efficiently, helping ensure that your system runs smoothly and efficiently all year long. Schedule your next appointment online to have a Paschal Professional handle this for you.