Maintaining your home's air conditioning system is usually a relatively straightforward process. Most homeowners can handle the basics, including cleaning the outdoor condenser coils and replacing the air filter. These two simple tasks can go a long way toward maintaining the system's efficiency and preventing easily avoidable issues.
However, cleaning the indoor evaporator coils can be more challenging. You can't reach these coils without opening up your air handler cabinet, so this job is usually best left to a professional as part of a routine annual maintenance visit. But what happens if you neglect this important service and your coils become too dirty? Keep reading to find out!
Why Do Evaporator Coils Get Dirty?
Your evaporator coils are one-half of the heat transfer system that allows your air conditioner to work. Your air conditioner uses refrigerant to transport heat, but this refrigerant must remain sealed within the system's refrigerant plumbing. Transferring heat energy from the air to the refrigerant (and vice versa) requires two coils: the evaporator and the condenser.
The evaporator coil is the indoor half of the system that picks up heat from your home's air. This coil lives in your air handler box behind a filter that protects it from dust and debris. However, small amounts of dust can sometimes sneak past the filter. Over time, the system can also pull in dirt and debris through small gaps in the cabinet. These sources, though minor, can lead to a dirty evaporator.
What Happens When Your Coil Gets Too Dirty?
To ensure efficient heat transfer, the evaporator and condenser coils must maximize contact with the surrounding air. Rows of tiny fins ensure the coil can absorb enough heat to vaporize the refrigerant and keep the refrigerant cycle moving. Their efficiency will drop as the coils become clogged with dirt and debris. In a worst-case scenario, your system may no longer be capable of cooling your home.
Dirty evaporator coils can also pose a health issue. Water from the air condenses onto the coils as part of your system's normal operation. A clean coil doesn't provide a good surface for mold growth, but a dirty coil is an entirely different issue. If enough dirt builds up on the coils, it can lead to mold growth, creating unpleasant musty odors and even allergic reactions.
How Often Should You Clean Your Coils?
Cleaning an evaporator coil isn't usually a do-it-yourself job since accessing the coils can be tricky. Fortunately, your coils don't require cleaning too often. Instead, you can usually get by cleaning your coils about once a year. This maintenance interval will ensure you remove any dirt, dust, or other debris that builds up during a full cooling season.
The good news is that evaporator cleaning is usually part of any comprehensive annual HVAC maintenance service. By scheduling an annual maintenance service visit each year, you'll ensure your evaporator coils remain clean, and the air in your home stays healthy. For more information, contact a company like Baton Rouge Air Conditioning & Heating.