Cleaning the AC Coils - 6 Things You Should Know

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Last updated: 
April 28, 2018

Cleaning AC coils is one of the most important actions you can take with your air conditioner to keep it from breaking down as fast. If you are attentive to cleaning the AC coils, then it will pay off in the long run because you'll be less likely to have to try and fix the machine during an emergency situation where it's 90 degrees outside. You'll be happy that you did.

Woman checking the AC

Cleaning AC Coils - Things You Should Know

You can tell that cleaning AC coils is important because if you don't, you end up with a number of issues including ice buildup, the transfer rate of heat tanking, the unit's capacity for cooling going down, the cost of energy going up, and other issues. The below tips on cleaning AC coils are all designed to help prevent these issues specifically.

1. Prepare Before Going In

You can't just start cleaning AC coils off the bat without making preparation first. Not only will such an attempt be dangerous, but it will also be inefficient at actually allowing you to clean the coils in a way that will have any kind of significantly positive effects on the overall unit. This means you should start by turning off the air conditioner in general, including at the thermostat level.

You will also want to loosen anything holding the access panel down, such as screws, and then put the screws or fasteners somewhere safe so that you don't lose track of them. If it's not obvious where the access panel or screws are, you should check in the manual for the unit in order to properly locate them.

Tip 2: Use Compressed Air

It's best to use a more professional compressed air machine if you have access to this. But, if not, you may be able to get away with a can of air for smaller jobs. The key is to shoot air across the dirty coil against the normal airflow in the room. This will create enough disturbance to get the dirt and other detritus in the coil to shake loose.

Additionally, you will want to get the top of the compressed air machine close to the parts that aren't coming loose in order to maximize the amount of pressure that you put on them. It's also going to be important to try aiming the air at an angle when blowing through the more sensitive parts of the machine in order to avoid damaging it. This can happen if you use too much pressure.

Tip 3: Be Cautious While Using Air

There are a number of dangers to be wary of during the points that you're blowing air across the coils. For example, there is always the possibility that dirt inside of the coils could ricochet back into your eyes. This is why you should make sure that you wear adequate eye protection, such as heavy goggles. Plus, there's also the danger that while you're using compressed air, that you might accidentally blow dirt or other debris off of what part of the coil and deeper into another. This is why there's a recommendation to use something to clean up after the air compressing part of the cleaning is over, such as vacuuming up everything, for example.

Tip 4: Use No-Rinse Cleaning Fluid

After you've thoroughly cleaned the coils with compressed air, you'll be able to do a more thorough job by using cleaning fluid. This is because the smaller bits of dirt that are loose in the coils will just get in the way of using something more thorough. A common recommendation at this point is to use no-rinse cleaner. You'll want to cover all of the coils with this and then allow the cleaning fluid to drip down into the condensate pan underneath.

Tip 5: Try Detergent

One option that many people are going to be able to turn to fairly easily when looking for a solution for cleaning AC coils is detergent since not everyone is going to have access to cleaning agents that are considerably stronger than that. If you mix mild detergent and warm water, you can spray it on the coils.

Once this is done, you should just let it stay like that for a minute. It should help knock loose anything that didn't come off with the other methods. At this point, it would help to just get a cloth and wipe everything down. This should help make the coils nice and clean so that condensation doesn't form around dirt, causing the usual problems and inefficiencies.

Tip 6: You May Need Extra Help

At some point, you may have to recognize that you can't do it on your own, based on the situation, and you may need to call in a professional to assist. Examples of when this is the case would be if there is a lot of mold on the coils that does not come off easily. It can actually be dangerous to just allow the mold to stay on such coils because it could be distributed into the air and cause medical problems for people in the house.

It can also be the case that there's some problem with the coil that requires equipment that people who aren't HVAC operators would be unlikely to have access to in general.

Summing Up

These tips are all things to keep in mind while you're cleaning the coils in whatever way is easiest for you. It's not absolutely necessary to use every single one of the tips, since some of them may work better or worse for you depending on your situation, and some of them may even be irrelevant for your circumstances.

Be sure to add your ideas on this topic where relevant. It can help to get ideas about experiences with cleaning AC coils from others in order to see how things went with them since this can often lead to making you feel better about your own objectives.

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