The evaporator coil is an essential component of your air conditioner (AC) or heat pump. No matter whether it is warm or cold outside, the evaporator coil serves a key role in keeping your home livable and comfortable. Without an evaporator coil, your unit would be unable to remove heat and moisture from the surrounding air. A defective evaporator coil can cause your unit to start blowing unwanted hot air or to cease working completely.
In locations with distinct seasons like humid summers and cold winters, non-working evaporator coils can have a negative impact on indoor comfort. Regular HVAC maintenance is the best way to keep evaporator coils clean and to ensure that your unit performs at its maximum potential.
What Is an Evaporator Coil?
The evaporator coil of an air conditioner or heat pump holds the refrigerant and absorbs heat from the surrounding air in your home. Within the unit, the evaporator coil sits inside the air handler or near the blower compartment. This section is typically located near the apex of the unit. Alternatively, the evaporator coil can also be attached to the furnace. A unit’s evaporator coil connects to the condenser coil, and the two elements work in tandem to complete the heat exchange process.
How Does an Evaporator Coil Work Within an HVAC System?
The evaporator coil is a critical part of your HVAC system. It works in conjunction with the condenser coil to exchange refrigerant between the indoor and outdoor components of your HVAC unit. If an evaporator coil malfunctions, the HVAC unit will no longer have the ability to heat or cool your home. Understanding how the evaporator coil works in either scenario will provide insight into just how important it is to keep this element clean.
Evaporator Coil Role in the Air Conditioner
In the air conditioner, the evaporator coil holds the liquid refrigerant. It is also responsible for absorbing heat and humidity from the air. Upon absorbing this warm air, the refrigerant inside the evaporator coil then cools this air down. The AC’s blower then pushes this cooled air into ducts to supply your household with now-conditioned air. Since the refrigerant is now warm, it flows through the compressor and converts into vaporized air. The condenser coil then releases this hot air outside. Finally, the remaining refrigerant condenses back into liquid and flows back to your evaporator coil to start the cycle all over again.
Evaporator Coil Role in the Heat Pump
Within the heat pump, the evaporator coil also holds refrigerant. It absorbs heat so that the unit’s blower can push hot air into ducts that warm up your household. If temperatures drop too low, additional heating elements may also turn on to provide your rooms with more warmth.
Why Is It Important To Keep the Evaporator Coil Clean?
As you can see, the evaporator coil plays a crucial role in any heat exchange cycle. A clean evaporator coil helps this process run efficiently. On the other hand, dirty coils can create blockages that disrupt this cycle. This disruption can cause your system to work harder to complete cycles, thereby increasing energy usage. This overuse of energy can also cause higher utility bills. In addition, the extra strain on your system can cause the unit to break down and prevent it from heating or cooling your household at all.
What Causes a Dirty Evaporator Coil?
There are several factors that can lead to a dirty evaporator coil. A trained technician can inspect the interior of your unit and provide a diagnosis. It’s important to never attempt to inspect or maintain the evaporator coil yourself. Although it might appear simple to turn off the unit and attempt some maintenance, many components within HVAC units still contain electricity even after the unit is powered down.
Improper handling of these units without the right training can result in electrocution or serious injury. It’s much safer to let an expert conduct the examination to identify the precise cause and formulate a comprehensive plan for solutions.
Dirty Air Filter
It is essential to change your air filter on a regular basis. The air filter keeps particles and contaminants from infiltrating your system. When the air filter becomes clogged, excess dust and debris can begin to accumulate on the evaporator coil. This layer of dirt acts as an insulator and prevents the evaporator coil from doing its job of absorbing warm air. This can cause your unit to work harder, use more energy, and eventually stop performing.
Frost issues can also cause a dirty evaporator coil. If the refrigerant fails to warm up as required, the absorbed water vapor can freeze on the coil instead of turning into a liquid. Grime can then accumulate on the frozen evaporator coil and prevent it from functioning correctly. This prevents your unit from completing its cycle and can cause the entire system to shut down.
Leaks can also cause a dirty evaporator coil. These tiny leaks mix with dust and chemicals found in household air during the condensation process. The mixture then forms an oily residue around the coil that can compromise its performance. An HVAC professional can locate and fix the leak before it escalates into a bigger problem for your system.
What Are the Signs of a Dirty Evaporator Coil?
While experts do not recommend dissembling HVAC units yourself, there are often plenty of outward signs that you may have a dirty evaporator coil. Once you notice these signs, you can contact an HVAC technician to clean the coil or conduct repairs. Some of the most common signs of dirty evaporator coils include the following:
- Increased energy consumption
- Damage from refrigerant leaks
- Excessive moisture or condensation buildup near unit
- Constant sound of cycle stopping and restarting
- Unpleasant odor due to possible mold growth
How Do I Get Help Cleaning an Evaporator Coil?
Reaching out to an HVAC professional is the best way to ensure that your evaporator coils undergo proper cleaning. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, hiring a professional technician to perform an HVAC audit before the start of each season provides a way to find and fix problems prior to increased usage. For example, a technician has the equipment and expertise to examine the evaporator coil and complete tasks such as checking for the correct amount of refrigerant or testing for leaks using a leak detector.
In addition, a technician can also measure the amount of airflow through the evaporator coil and remove any potential obstructions. You can also request that the technician change the air filter or install a higher-efficiency filter if you notice an increased amount of dust buildup. Finally, any full tune-up of your HVAC system should include cleansing of your evaporator coil to increase the performance of your unit during any extreme weather.
Contact Us Today
Dirty evaporator coils can have a devastating impact on your HVAC system. Fortunately, professionals have the tools and experience to help. Conway Comfort Heating & Cooling provides HVAC maintenance and HVAC repair services to homes in Mercer County, NJ. We offer evaporator coil cleaning, replacement, or repair. Our team can also check for refrigerant leaks and any potential heating or cooling issues. Contact Conway Comfort Heating & Cooling today for all of your home service needs.