Does Cleaning AC Coils Really Help?

Learn about HVAC & Home Performance in Houston.

Photo of Air Conditioner Cleaning

June 26, 2023

AC Maintenance Air Conditioning

When it’s hot outside, it’s never a good thing when your air conditioner stops working. One crucial step in preventing air conditioner breakdowns is keeping up with a particular home maintenance ritual known as cleaning the AC coils. 

Clogged coils can prevent your HVAC system from working efficiently. They can also cause it to break down. Here’s how air conditioning coil cleaning can save you from surprise AC repair or early AC replacement.

Why Is It Important to Clean AC Coils?

In your air conditioning system, there are two types of coils. These air conditioner coils are the evaporator coils and condenser coils. If either one of them are not at their peak, they may be the reason why your AC isn’t properly cooling down your home. Air conditioning coil cleaning can help revive your system and get it up and running again.

Each of these air conditioner coils has its own function. The evaporator coil absorbs the heat and humidity from your home. It is located in the indoor air conditioning unit, often called the air handler unit.

Your condenser coil is located in the outdoor unit and is in charge of releasing the excess heat from your home into the great outdoors. This vital part of your air conditioner is subject to weather, accumulated dirt and grime, grass clippings, and other pollutants.  

Dirt and grime that builds up on the condenser coil can seriously impact the efficiency of your system. This means that it will provide less cooling power while giving you a higher electric bill.

The way your air conditioner functions to cool your home requires a pump known as the compressor. This pump transfers refrigerant between the evaporator and the condenser coils, forcing it through a network of tubing and fins in these coils. The refrigerant evaporates in the evaporator coil and pulls the heat out of the air in your home, resulting in cool and comfortable temperatures. Meanwhile, the hot refrigerant gas gets pumped back outdoors into the condenser where it is converted back into a liquid as it flows over the condenser’s tubing and fins.

The image below provides a visual representation of how air conditioners work.

Will Dirty Coils Affect Cooling?

No matter how clean your home is, there will always be dust. Real world dust problems can cause problems for your air conditioning because it accumulates on aluminum coils, clogs your ducts, and reduces the effectiveness of your HVAC system. It also creates problems for your indoor air quality.

How can dirty coils impact your AC system? Looking at how air conditioning coils work provides the answer.

You have cold refrigerant that travels through the evaporator coil. The blower transports warm air from the interior of your home, moving it across the evaporator coil surface area. The refrigerant in the evaporator coil then absorbs the heat from your air. Once that air is treated and cool, it is blown through your air ducts into your home’s living space.

The refrigerant moves to the outdoor condenser coils where the heat is removed from it. Your outdoor condenser unit blows this air over the coil surface to release the heat. This won’t go very well when you have dirty coils because the layer of dirt and grime serves as an insulating blanket, making it less effective to transfer heat. When it doesn’t transfer heat well, the efficiency of cooling cycles is diminished. You may notice your unit runs longer to cool your home. It will also require more pressure to create an adequate level of cooling.

Is an HVAC Coil Cleaning Worth It?

If you are concerned about your comfort, you should be concerned about AC coil cleaning. With clean coils, your condenser coil, evaporator, and all the other integral parts of your air conditioning system will work unhindered.

Covered in dirt, heat gets trapped in your condenser coil, making it hard for the evaporator coil to absorb this heat. Your system will work longer and harder to cool every square foot of your space.

As it does so, you will see a drop in air quality while it feels stickier and more humid in your home. While humidity may remind you of a tropical vacation, too much of it inside your home can lead to mold, mildew, and bacteria growth. This is something no one wants inside their central air conditioning systems.

Problems That Occur with Dirty Air Conditioners

A lot of things can go wrong with your air conditioner if you neglect to clean AC coils. You’ll have diminished airflow throughout your entire system. The levels of your refrigerant will decrease, evaporator coils could form ice, the compressor could overheat, and you’ll have higher utility bills.

Clean coils will prevent many headaches and result in a shorter system life. HVAC companies envision ways to promote understanding about how dirt and debris can impact the system’s ability to function. This is exactly why an air conditioning company will promote its services. 

HVAC repair is almost always an urgent matter. But with air conditioner maintenance, it keeps things running harmoniously in your air conditioning system. With clean coils, your system won’t need to have a new AC installed before the 10-year lifespan of your unit. Dirty equipment causes more wear and tear on the parts. Your air conditioner will have fewer breakdowns when you have a professional come and clean things up. Additionally, you’ll save money on your energy bills because your air conditioning system will be more efficient.  

How Often Should You Clean Your AC Coils?

Dirty air conditioner condensers can severely hinder the best operation of your HVAC system. But since this piece of machinery has so many important parts, it is wise to let the professionals handle this task. 

Ideally, you should have your air conditioner cleaned at least once or twice each year. Coil cleaning should be part of a full maintenance service. With a commercial coil cleaning fluid in the hands of an HVAC technician, all should go smoothly. AC professionals will also inspect and clean other parts of your system such as the air conditioner condenser, the air handler unit, and the entire outdoor unit.

It might be tempting to save yourself money by cleaning your AC coils yourself. However, this may wind up costing you much more than calling an air conditioning company out for maintenance. The metal fins that make up coil designs are easy to damage if you don’t know what you’re doing. Bent fins can impact the lifespan of your system and result in costly repairs.

How to Know When to Schedule Coil Cleaning

At the very least, every homeowner should schedule coil cleaning once per year. Don’t try to do this task yourself or you may end up causing major damage to your air conditioning. Air conditioning systems are made up of many parts, and only an expert HVAC technician knows how to handle them properly without damaging them.

Some homeowners may want to have their air conditioning cleaned more often. Here’s when you will want to consider this service twice per year. 

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The Location of Your Home

In Houston, it certainly gets hot enough to keep your air conditioner busy. But it may be even busier if your outdoor unit is located near a street. This exposes it to more vehicle exhaust. Your landscaping may also cause it to take in more dirt and debris. If you take care of your own lawn, you will want to be mindful of blowing grass and dirt at your unit.

Beware of new construction in your area as well. Whether they’re adding a plaza in front of your neighborhood or someone is building a home on the vacant lot across the street, these things can temporarily cause more buildup in your unit.

Your AC Is Older

Older AC units can show their age with corrosion on the coils. This attracts even more dirt and debris. If someone else owned your home before you bought it, they may not have properly maintained the air conditioning system. If this unit is hitting that 10-year mark, you may want to replace it and start fresh with a New AC unit for that complete peace of mind. 

You Run Your AC All the Time

An air conditioner that runs 24/7 collects more dirt and debris. In this case, you may even want to have it cleaned more than twice per year.

Preventative maintenance is the key for the best efficiency. You can count on House Pro to help keep your AC coils clean and your system thriving throughout the year. When you need cooling system experts serving Houston residents, reach out to House Pros team of expert HVAC Contractors who help get your home cool and comfortable again.