How To Clean Evaporator Coil Without Removing

AC owners should clean their evaporator coils regularly to avoid any unexpected malfunctions.

A dirty evaporator coil can cause significant inconveniences. Maintenance is always better than paying for repairs or replacements.

You can clean your evaporator coil without removing the whole unit using coil cleaning sprays and rinsing with water.

Air conditioning units are reliable devices that give comfort during the summer months. It’s a necessity in areas where the summer air can become unbearable.

But like other devices, an AC is only reliable if it is maintained and cleaned regularly. Regular cleaning is essential for AC components like the evaporator coil. 

Why Is Cleaning Evaporator Coil Important?

Did you know that maintenance neglect causes a huge chunk of possible AC problems? According to the US Department of Energy, inadequate maintenance for filters and coils can make the AC unit not work correctly. Dirt layers, molds, and algae growths can block the airflow, causing a plethora of problems. 

Regular cleaning does not only prevent you from getting unnecessary headaches. It all also helps you save money in the long run. If you need more convincing, check out why cleaning the evaporator coil is an essential habit of getting used to. 

Efficient Cooling

A clean evaporator coil is more efficient in cooling warm air. The chilled refrigerant around the coil can cool the air’s temperature with only the minimum power requirement consumed. And since the air gets colder a little bit quicker, you don’t have to switch your AC frequently. 

Longer Evaporator Coil Life

A dirty evaporator coil can facilitate algae growth and accumulate dirt layers. These dirt layers can cause corrosion in the coil’s surface which can lead to refrigerant leaks. If left unchecked, these dirt layers can cause significant equipment problems. 

Cleaning your evaporator coil will make it less likely to corrode and early replacement. It would let you use your AC unit for a bit longer, with the best performance that it can have.

Avoid Malfunctions

Most AC malfunctions are due to either a faulty fan motor or a dirty evaporator coil. Is your AC blowing warm air or making unusual noises? What about freezing and AC leaks? You can get all of these problems just by leaving your evaporator unchecked. Evaporator coil malfunctions won’t let you use your AC for a period. 

Avoiding Overheating Compressor

When the evaporator coil is clogged, the air compressor makes an extra effort to pump enough air. This extra pump boost will require more power and additional movement for your compressor. Your air compressor might overheat, causing more complications in the unit. Overheating of the air compressor is easily avoidable by keeping your evaporator coil clean. 

Keeps A Good AC Airflow

Airflow is crucial in the whole air conditioning unit’s performance. Almost all the inefficiencies in operation are usually caused by clogged airways, especially in the evaporator coil. Since the evaporator coil is responsible for cooling, a clog in its area will prevent the component from doing its job. Hence, keeping the airway clean is needed for a smooth AC operation. 

Saves Money In The Long Run

And last but not least, the essential consideration for cleaning your evaporator coil is its money savings. Maintaining your evaporator coil’s good condition will prevent a costly emergency purchase and avoid the need to pay for repairs. 

How Long Do Evaporator Coils Last?

A good AC unit usually comes with a hardy evaporator coil that can last for a decent period. Most air conditioning units don’t even need a coil change even after a long time. But to achieve this, the evaporator coil should be maintained and regularly cleaned. Evaporator coils need to be in top condition as long as you’re using them. 

On the other hand, an unmaintained evaporator coil will deteriorate quickly, ending its usefulness earlier. An evaporator coil maintained properly can last for up to 10 years. You can extend this to 15 years or even more if you’re not using the AC as often as possible.

How Do I Know If My Evaporator Coil Needs Cleaning?

Just like any machine, your evaporator coil will show tell-tale signs that it needs a cleanup. Fortunately, these signs are not hard to miss. Once one or more of these warning signs started to appear, it’s time to get your hands dirty and get into a cleaning mood. 

  • AC is overworking – ACs try to accurately match the room’s temperature with the one programmed in the thermostat. If the weather rarely changes, there’s no reason for your AC to give an extra boost in cooling your air. If your AC gradually takes longer to shut down, there might be a clog in the evaporator coil that slows down the airway. 
  • Extended AC operation – As mentioned before, unless there’s a new hole in your indoor area, your AC should always give users the same amount of power to function as before. Before checking any unplugged holes in the wall, it’s better to check for any blockage in your evaporator coil first. 
  • Warm air from the vents- Algae growth, mold, and dirt particles will diminish the refrigerant’s effectiveness in cooling incoming warm air. This problem happens due to a poorer heat transfer from the refrigerant to the air. Clogs will even affect the dehumidifying process, which causes other issues, like freezing coil. 
  • Freezing coil- Understandably, most inexperienced AC owners will ignore this sign. A piece of ice inside the AC might be mistaken as to its cooling mechanism. However, freezing can happen when the dehumidifier fails due to the clog in the system. The dehumidifier removes water vapors to keep the vented air cool and dry. If this component fails, the water vapor in the air freezes when passing through the refrigerant. 
  • AC water leaks – This problem is directly related to the freezing coil. While the AC is running, the ice forming inside the coil stays frozen. But once the machine is turned off, the ice will melt and causes water leaks. 

Take the time to learn about evaporator cleaning. It is an essential skill for all AC owners. The instructions below are for cleaning the evaporator coil with commercial coil cleaning spray.

What to Consider When Doing an AC Evaporator Coil Clean Up

  • You need to turn off your ac for about an hour. In the summer, when cleaning the compressor, begin early; this will ensure that the ac gets back to work before the warmest or hottest parts of the day.
  • Some AC panels use aluminum foil tapes as seals to prevent air leaks. Whether it works or doesn’t work, you may want to use the tapes to seal the furnace panel after cleaning the coil.
  • You might need a screwdriver to discard the screws for you to access the inner part of the coil; this will help you to look for dirt there.
  • Remember to confirm if you can apply the cleaner you bought indoors. That’s because some coil cleaners have brutal chemicals, and you can only use them outdoors. To ensure you are using suitable indoor cleaners, I suggest you go for products like Frost King, Supco ZCA24, or Nu-Calgon.
  • For pet owners having a compressor, blow the air towards the specific direction of the airflow. In other words, blow the air towards the dirtiest side.

Before starting the evaporator coil cleaning process, protect yourself from the dangerous fumes and dust by putting on a mask and protective goggles.

Now, gather the following tools and materials:

  • A screwdriver
  • Pet grooming brush, paintbrush, or nylon brush.
  • Evaporator cleaner spray
  • Preferred spray-control water  
  • Mask and goggles
  • Extra rags

Consider the following steps when calculating if you can successfully do the coil cleaning or you need to hire an HVAC service provider to do it instead.

Most HVAC service providers charge a minimum of $60 for coil cleaning services, inspection, and essential ac system maintenance.

How To Clean Evaporator Coil Without Removing

  1. Switch the thermostat off to cut the power supply to your AC system.
  2. Discard the access panel from the air handler or the furnace to uncover the evaporator coil.
  3. Spray the evaporator coil using a no-rinse cleaner towards the fins. The cleaner can have some instructions.
  4. Where necessary, use a dog grooming brush or paintbrush alongside the cleaner to peel off persistent debris.
  5. Immediately after cleaning the coil, replace the AC’s access panel. After that, turn on your ac.

Step by Step Cleaning Process

You will find the evaporator coil in the ac air handler or furnace while the condenser coil is on the condensing unit outdoors. One can clean the condenser coil the same way as the evaporator coil; this keeps the whole AC system up and running efficiently.

By now, you have decided to go the DIY way; the following steps and tips will help you clean an AC evaporator coil without having to remove it. Notably, the steps are safe and ensure you do the cleaning properly.

1. Switch the thermostat off to cut the power supply to your AC system

I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if the AC turned on while cleaning it. I mean, the chances of it electrocuting you are very high! The cool / off / heat positions are regular in thermostats unless isolated. Please ensure that you switch off the thermostat.

2. Discard the access panel from the air handler or the furnace to uncover the evaporator coil

Do you have a Phillips screwdriver or any other suitable tool you can use to remove the panels? Well, you need them in this specific step. Also, some panels have knobs or twist levers. Loosen the knobs while holding your hand against the access panel to prevent them from falling over.

You will find some tabs on the lowest side of the panel within the furnace cabinet in which they fit into slots. Slowly pull the ac panel in your direction through the top until it loosens. After that, grab the panel sides, and pull them up and outward.

The foil tape traps heat to avoid loss and prevents the whistling sound when the furnace panels suck air. Moreover, the foil tapes have plenty of uses in and around our garages and houses.

If you don’t know what the evaporator coil looks like, it has fins similar to the radiator or the backside of a window aircon. Manufacturers put the aluminum or copper tubing on the inner side of the evaporator coil. The evaporator coils come in two or more shapes, common ones being the A shape coil and N shape (Z shape) coil. 

Cased and uncased evaporator coils; By any chance, you have the cased evaporator coil. You can find the coil on the cabinet. For that reason, unscrew it to access the coil’s fins.

3. Spray the evaporator coil using a no-rinse cleaner towards the fins

Notably, there are several evaporator coil cleaner types, but the most effective one is a foaming cleaner because you won’t have to rinse it.

The Frost AC19 evaporator coil cleaner is very cost-effective, and also most homeowners highly recommend it. Moreover, you can use that specific cleaner on the outdoor coil too.

The product comes with corrosion inhibitors that fight coil degradation. Also, it’s safe when used on furnaces and air handlers.

If you haven’t cleaned the evaporator coils for a while, I suggest you use Nu-Calgon 4171-75 Evaporation Foam cleaner since it’s more potent than the Frost AC19, and also it’s suitable if you have pets. Though homeowners highly rate it, it’s a bit expensive, and the manufacturer can’t guarantee its effectiveness on plastic drain pans. But spray it on some cheap plastics to test its safety. 

Spray a reasonable amount of cleaner on the evaporator coil. After that, the cleaner will produce a foam that will break any grime or grease present. While the breaking down of grease and grime continues, the foam decreases and moves towards the drain pan.

After 15 to 20 minutes or after all the coil cleaner runs off, apply the second coat. At this point, you don’t need to rinse the evaporator coil.

4. Use a dog grooming brush or paintbrush alongside the cleaner to peel off persistent debris

If the debris has stuck on the evaporator coil persistently after your first cleaning attempt,  then a gentle brush may be of help to you.

Manufacturers make coil brushes of suitable sizes and soft bristles to the suitably clean evaporator or condenser coil fins.

The PLXparts HVAC coil fin brush has the right size, and you rest assured that your ac fins are safe. 

NOTE: Gently brush away the debris buildup but avoid scrubbing the fins.

After that, use a good amount of coil cleaner. There need to be more than two sufficient cleaner coats in each can.

5. Replace the AC’s access panel and turn on your ac

Immediately after you clean the evaporator coil of any debris or dirt, put back the inner cover, if you removed any, and put back the access panel to the cabinet.

I guarantee you will put aside some extra bucks each month on utility bills using the foil tape as a cabinet seal. No lie!