The evaporator coil, which cools the air in your home, is a critical component of your air conditioner. When it gets dirty, you can run into a number of issues that will keep your air conditioner from operating efficiently. That said, knowing whether or not your coil needs cleaning is beneficial.
Since the evaporator coil is hidden inside your AC unit, you won’t immediately know when it has accumulated a lot of dirt and dust. Fortunately, there are certain telltale signs of a dirty coil that you can look out for.
In this post, HVAC repair expert Albert Air discusses the most common signs of a dirty evaporator coil.
Locating Your AC Evaporator Coil
The first challenge to cleaning an evaporator coil is locating the component. The evaporator coil can be found inside your AC unit near the air handler. The condenser coil, on the other hand, is located in your outdoor unit. Be sure not to mix up these two components.
If you have your owner’s manual, it should have detailed instructions on where to find the coil and how to access it safely. You can also have an AC expert show you where the evaporator coil is the next time they visit to work on your HVAC system.
Make certain the power to your AC unit is completely turned off before you open it up and look for the evaporator coil. Once you’ve gained access to the coil, remove any debris or sediment with a brush or vacuum attachment.
Signs of a Dirty AC Coil
Dirt on the coil. A thick layer of dirt, dust and other gunk on your evaporator coil is the most obvious sign of a filthy coil. Dirt can cause your coil to freeze, so check for ice on the coil as well. Locating the coil can be difficult because it’s usually placed inside the AC unit, so you should ask your trusted air conditioning service professional to show you how to find the coil during your next service appointment. Even better, leave the task of cleaning your evaporator coil and AC unit to them since they’re trained and equipped to do the job correctly.
Ineffective cooling. If you notice your home isn’t as cool as it used to be, this could be a sign of a dirty coil. Since a dirty coil prevents your unit from working properly, you might notice that your living space is often warm or that it takes a long time to cool down. Even if you run your air conditioner for an extended period of time, it still may not reach the temperature you set on the thermostat.
Longer operation of the air conditioner. If your air conditioner starts having to run for longer cycles to achieve the same amount of cooling in your home, the culprit could be a dirty evaporator coil. When the air it produces isn’t as cold as desired, it has to work harder to bring the temperature in your house down to the desired level.
Unusually high bills. Some of the subtle signs of a dirty coil are easy to overlook. For instance, your air conditioner may run slightly longer than usual in order to meet your cooling demands. If you’re diligent at tracking your utility bills, you might be able to spot this problem. Because your HVAC system is running more frequently than it used to, your utility bills will surely increase. It would be a good idea to look up “air conditioning repair near me” online, but make sure to only hire a reliable professional to check your AC unit.
Loss of air pressure. To check if a dirty evaporator coil is causing a loss of performance in your AC, check the air pressure at the entry to the air vents that take in room temperature air and the pressure at the output of the air conditioning unit. Compare the pressure difference between the two values and the recommended pressure difference in the instruction manual. If the values are off by a lot, then it’s likely that the evaporator coil needs cleaning.
Frost on the coils. A dirty evaporator coil can cause your air conditioner to stop working entirely. This occurs when condensation forms on the dirt and then freezes while the air conditioner is running. The accumulation of frost prevents heat transfer with the air in your home, causing the air conditioner to stop cooling the air at all.
Why Is a Dirty Evaporator Coil a Problem?
Dirt or grime on the evaporator coil and fins can cause multiple issues that require professional air conditioning services. Some of these problems include:
- Reduced cooling efficiency. Dirt on a coil forms an insulating layer between the air and the refrigerant in the coil. This makes it much more difficult for the refrigerant to absorb heat from the air, causing temperatures to rise. With a dirty coil, an air conditioner won’t be able to provide the cooling that’s expected of it.
- Ice formation on the coil. If heat absorption along the coil is restricted, the refrigerant in it won’t warm up past freezing. The moisture along the coil will then freeze and obstruct the evaporator coil’s ability to function. The ice will continue to accumulate until heat absorption is completely impeded. Ice can also warp the fins and coil, causing damage.
- Condensate drain clog. As the evaporator coil absorbs heat, moisture condenses along with it. This excess water drips down from the coil into a pan, where it drains out into the wastewater system. However, if the dripping water from the coil contains dirt, it would get stuck in the drain and eventually create a clog. Water from the condensate drain will overflow, causing water damage, high humidity, unpleasant moldy odors and even health risks from toxic mold spores. Avoid extreme clogging by calling an HVAC repair specialist immediately.
The Importance of AC Maintenance
Cleaning your evaporator coil is only one component of the ongoing maintenance required to keep your air conditioning system in good condition. And while there are many things you can do on your own, having a professional come out once a year to check your entire HVAC system and perform necessary repairs is still highly recommended. With their tools, equipment, knowledge and skills, qualified technicians can properly assess, clean and repair your air conditioner to ensure it continues operating at peak efficiency.
You don’t need to search for “air conditioning repair near me” when you sign a service contract with Albert Air. Our high-quality heating and air conditioning services will ensure that all your HVAC needs are met in a timely manner. Our crew will relieve you of the stress and inconvenience of HVAC repair work by providing not only quick and efficient service, but also an accurate diagnosis. This means you’re paying to have the problem fixed correctly the first time and avoiding the possibility of callbacks and additional costs. Call us at (714) 526-6368 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment with us.