Properly ventilated homes are the most comfortable ones, which is why through time, air conditioners have become essential in every household. It does not only cool off your place but also improves the overall air quality.
However, an air conditioner and its components also require occasional cleaning and maintenance for it to stay functional. It consists of many parts, but the coils should be kept in their optimal condition to ensure that the cooling process remains effective.
Contrary to popular belief, air conditioners do not directly give off cool air, but rather, it just eliminates heat from the air. The coils are the ones mainly responsible for this. An AC unit usually has two types of coils – the evaporator and the condenser.
The evaporator coil, which is in the indoor unit, gets the heat from the air inside a room, then the condenser coil, located in the outdoor unit, releases the heat outdoors through the help of a fan motor. This shows how important these components are for the whole conditioning process.
What Causes AC Coils to Get Dirty?
With air going in and out of them, AC coils are prone to dust, dirt, debris, bugs, and all the other particles that can build up between the coil fins’ tight spaces. Pollutants from the air are taken by the unit and gradually begin to accumulate on the coils.
That said, it is natural for dirt buildups to happen, but the amount can increase more quickly depending on your location, how frequently, and for how long you use your air conditioner.
What Happens if AC Coils are Dirty?
Dirty coils can cause the following:
- Lower system efficiency – With excess dirt buildup, the evaporator coil gets bad and would try to work harder than it should at longer cooling cycles.
- Reduced cooling capacity – Layers of accumulated dirt hinder the coils’ job, so the heat gets trapped and would not be removed adequately from your room.
- Higher energy bills – The system would consume more energy as it tries to compensate for the difficulty, leading to an increase in operating costs.
- System breakdown – Clogged coils induce stress to the air conditioner unit, which could cause performance issues.
- Repairs or replacements – When the system is stressed, components may start to fail, which could require repairs or complete replacement.
What happens if you don’t Clean your AC Coils?
Running an air conditioner with a dirty coil is a common mistake of homeowners. If left unattended, dirty coils would restrict the unit’s heat transferring ability. Therefore it would fail to serve its purpose effectively. If buildups are severe, it can even block the airflow that would affect the entire process.
Your air conditioner might still run, but it would stop producing the cool air that you want. This can lead to additional damages to your unit over time. Other components, mainly the compressor, might overheat and also cause the whole unit to fail.
What are the Symptoms of a Dirty Condenser Coil?
- Your AC unit does not cool the room as fast as it could before: When pollutants have accumulated in the condenser, it becomes less able to dissipate heat from the air passing through the unit. The cooling efficiency of an AC unit can drop by 30 percent.
- The vent releases warm air: Due to restricted airflow, the unit’s fan blows the heat back into the room.
- Frost starts to develop in your evaporator coil: When the AC unit fails to absorb heat due to the barrier of dirt and debris, the buildups undergo condensation and freeze during operation. This could lead to breakdowns that require repair.
- Leakage: If the pollutant buildups cause even slight damage, leaks may occur. This would also affect the entire unit’s cooling performance.
- Sudden spikes in your energy bill: If your energy usage did not significantly change and you notice an increase in your bill, your air conditioner might be the cause. This is due to the extra effort it exerts to perform its job.
- Your air conditioner produces unusual noises: Obstruction caused by dirty condenser coils can cause buzzing sounds. Similarly, you may hear rattling sounds if debris and dirt from outdoors get in your condenser unit.
How Often should you Clean AC Coils?
It is recommended to clean your AC coils at least once a year. However, this may vary depending on several factors, such as where you are situated and how much you use your unit. The state of the AC’s filter is also important, and you should also check it every month and replace it if necessary.
For example, if you live in a city where air pollution tends to be heavier, it’s only natural for your air conditioner to suck up more dust and debris. This would require you to clean your coils more than once a year.
It would be better to check your coils every couple of months. This way, if you see dirt buildups, you can gently brush them. It’s a simple form of maintenance that would save you lots of trouble and repair costs in the long run.
5 Ways to Make a Homemade AC Coil Cleaner
With sufficient care, you can do the yearly cleaning of the AC coils yourself! You have to be cautious of bending or breaking delicate parts such as coil fins or tubes. Deformed or damaged fins can also limit airflow.
More importantly, make sure to turn off your air conditioner first to avoid electrical hazards.
Coil cleaning solutions are commercially available, but you could easily make one at home. Here are some coil cleaner recipes using everyday household items:
1. Vinegar + Water
What you need:
Equal parts vinegar and water
Vinegar is known to have cleansing and disinfecting properties that could prevent dirt and bacterial growth and stop them from growing back. It is also versatile and can be mixed with other cleaning agents for a more effective solution.
You can put the mixture in a spray bottle, soak the coils for a few minutes, and then rinse or wipe off the remaining buildups.
For more information, you can find our guide on how to clean air conditioner coils with vinegar.
2. Vinegar + Rubbing Alcohol + Baking Soda
What you need:
½ cup vinegar
½ cup alcohol
1-2 tablespoons baking soda
Baking soda is another item that is included in most DIY cleaning procedures. This mixture would work even on stubborn buildups that won’t come off easily unless scrubbed a little. Soaking the coils with it will ease your scrubbing so you would not cause any damage.
Remember to use a light brush when scrubbing and do it gently. You would not want to make any scratches.
3. Water + Soap + Baking Soda
What you need:
You would need a small amount of dishwashing liquid because of its consistency. Baking soda is mildly abrasive, so it would make this capable of loosening up stuck dirt and debris.
4. Water + Bleach
What you need:
3 parts water, 1 part bleach
Just put the mixture in a spray bottle. Bleach, like vinegar, disrupts mold and bacterial growth and prevents them from reoccurring.
This is a slightly less preferred option since bleach is a bit strong, so you have to be extra careful with this one. It also might leave its smell for quite some time.
5. Compressed air + Dust Buster
This is probably the quickest, most convenient option. However, using air compressors that suddenly blow air would cause the buildups to scatter around your unit and your area, so you would have to prepare something that might be able to catch most of it.
You can use vacuums or dust busters with small mouths to get as much dirt as possible. Always keep in mind that the coil fins may deform easily, so be careful not to put pressure on them. Maintain a distance of a few inches away when using your vacuum during cleaning.
Evaporator and condenser coils are vital for an air conditioning unit’s cooling process. Cleaning and maintenance are required for them to always be in optimal condition and for the unit’s overall health in the long run.
Leaving dirty coils unattended would result in layers of dirt and debris buildups, which would become a barrier between the unit and the airflow. This is important for the heat transfer process. The AC unit would not give you the cool air that you want if the coils cannot do their job.
Remember to check your coils and filter regularly, and lightly clean them if you see dirt or anything stuck in it. The recommended frequency of cleaning the whole coils is at least once a year.
AC Coil cleaning can be done at home, and you can effortlessly make cleaners with everyday household items. Just be very careful in handling delicate parts, particularly the coil fins, which could be easily deformed.
Keeping the AC coils clean helps maintain the air conditioner’s efficiency, gives you maximum comfort, and saves you money from repair costs and utility bills.