Protect Your AC This Summer

Understanding Your Evaporator and Condenser Coils​

Understanding air conditioner coils

Take Advantage of the Season and Make Sure Your System is in Good Shape

Summer is right around the corner, especially here in South Carolina where the summer weather often comes earlier than the season itself.

We’ve written about how you can prepare your HVAC unit to endure the summer temperatures through a thorough DIY spring inspection. Today we want to talk about two critical components of your equipment, discuss how they operate, and most importantly: show you what you can do to make sure they are ready to beat the heat.

We are writing today about the evaporator coil and condenser coil.

If you want to save dollars and headaches every summer, understanding your HVAC equipment is critical. You can prevent most HVAC repairs by being proactive with routine inspection and maintenance. Whether you do it yourself or call a professional, it’s always less expensive to get in front of your heating and air troubles before they start.

For that reason, we are going to examine your evaporator and condenser coils. We want to equip you with the knowledge you need to inspect, maintain, and fix problems with these components before they become expensive service calls. But before we get to that, we first need to get you familiar with them by explaining what they do for your system, and how they do it. We’ll start with the evaporator coil.

What is an Evaporator Coil and What Does it Do?

The evaporator coil is located in your indoor air handler unit and is responsible for two primary functions. Removing heat from your home’s air and reducing humidity. It accomplishes these by using refrigerant or coolant passing through the metal coil.

Your home’s air is drawn in by the blower fan and interacts with the extremely cold coil. This removes the heat from the air. Simultaneously, the water vapor in your air is condensed into a liquid, which accumulates in the condensate pan where it is drained outdoors. The result is air that is now cool and dry

Air Conditioner Evaporator Coil
Air Conditioning Condenser Coil

What About the Condenser Coil?

The Evaporator coil and condenser coil work together to cool your home’s air and send the extracted heat outside your home. The condenser coil is responsible for this second step. It is located in your condenser unit, which is the outdoor portion of your HVAC system.

With the heat extracted from the air via the refrigerant in the evaporator coil, it is now sent to the outdoor unit through the copper tubing and arrives at the condenser coils. Here, the hot coolant is cooled again by the condenser fins and returned to the home to complete another cycle.

This is a very simple explanation of what these coils are for, and how they get the job done. But it’s enough information to move on to the most important part; what you can do to prepare your coils for the summer.

Evaporator Coil Maintenance

For your evaporator coil to function correctly, it needs to stay clean. A clean coil ensures smooth operation, and even increases your systems energy efficiency. A dirty coil can lead a whole host of issues.

Dust and frost are the number one things to look out for when inspecting and cleaning your coil. When dust is allowed to build up, it insulates the coil, creating a barrier between it and the air it is trying to cool. This means that the refrigerant will absorb less heat which hurts your efficiency and leads to longer cooling times.

Frost buildup will cause the coil to freeze the water vapor in your air rather than condensing it into a liquid. This frost will eventually cause the whole coil to freeze over, leading to system failure. Luckily, cleaning it is a simple DIY task for most homeowners.

After turning off the unit at the thermostat and loosening the access panel, you can use compressed air (such as a keyboard cleaning product) or an evaporator coil spray cleaner. Afterward, remove the debris with a shop vac if necessary. If you used a spray cleaner, it will liquify and rinse itself.

Condenser Coil Maintenance

The most common issues we see with condenser units come from dust and debris. These blockages prevent the system from releasing the heat outside your home, which will reintroduce some of it to the home. Your whole system will have to work harder to keep the house cool. Over time, this adds a significant amount of wear and tear on your system, which could lead to an early replacement.

Just like with the evaporator coil, performing maintenance is quick and easy. The first thing you’ll want to do is ensure that your unit is free of blockages. Trim back any shrubbery or branches and remove any debris from the area that could restrict airflow. A good rule of thumb is to give your unit 3 feet of clearance. While you are at it, make sure the unit’s interior is free of debris as well. Fallen leaves and twigs are the most common offenders here.

Then, you can clean the unit using a hose or a product made for condenser cleaning to thoroughly clean the coils. That’s all there is to it!

When to Call a Professional

If your evaporator coil or condenser coils are exceptionally dirty, we recommend that you get a professional cleaning. A licensed HVAC technician will have the products and equipment to remove more severe buildups without damaging the components.

Of course, you can also join an HVAC maintenance plan and have your coils cleaned bi-annually, among other services, at a low cost. This way you can rest easy knowing that your system is getting the treatment it deserves without having to lift a finger.

Spring is the best time of year to be thinking about the health of your HVAC system. By thoroughly inspecting and performing necessary maintenance on your system, you can give yourself a comfortable (and affordable) summer season. By adding the condenser coils to your list of regular maintenance, we hope you’ll be able to enjoy some fun in the sun while keeping the heat outdoors where it belongs!

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