This puts additional strain on your HVAC system, resulting in higher energy bills, accelerated wear and tear, and a shortened lifespan of your equipment. With the extreme heat and humidity common to the Chapel Hill and Durham area, your air conditioning needs to be running in tip top shape.
A clean, well-maintained evaporator coil is essential to the proper functioning of your AC system. If you need evaporator coil maintenance or repair, call the licensed professionals at All Weather Heating and Cooling today. Your comfort is our priority!
What is an Evaporator Coil?
The evaporator coil is the part of your cooling system that absorbs heat from the air in your house. It is generally located inside the air handler, and consists of copper or aluminum tubes bent into U-shapes. Evaporator coils are filled with refrigerant, and are part of a closed loop system that also includes the condenser coils. The winding shape of the coils is designed to maximize surface area, and the coils are usually made from copper or aluminum for the heat conducting properties of these metals.
How Does an Evaporator Coil Work?
If you’ve ever sprayed whipped cream out of a can, you’ve probably noticed how the can turns freezing cold as you release the compressed air inside and reduce the internal pressure. If you want to know why a decrease in pressure causes the temperature to plummet, ask your science teacher about the Joule-Thomson Effect! It has something to do with colliding molecules, but anyway, this same principle of thermodynamics is at work in your evaporator coil.
Right before it gets to the evaporator coil, the refrigerant in the tubes passes through an expansion valve. This decreases the pressure, which results in rapid cooling. Air is passed over the cold tubes, which removes heat from the air. This cooled air is then distributed throughout your house through your ducts.
The same thing happens in reverse with your condenser coils. After the refrigerant absorbs heat from the air in your home, it travels through the copper tubes to the condenser unit outside. There, the refrigerant is condensed. Increasing the pressure causes it to heat up. A fan blows air over the hot coils and releases the heat outside.
Evaporator Coil Maintenance
Regular maintenance of your evaporator coil is essential to the proper functioning of your home’s cooling system. With planned service from All Weather Heating and Cooling, you can rest assured all your HVAC components are properly cleaned and tuned up.
The main aspect of caring for your evaporator coils is keeping them clean. Dirt and dust on your evaporator coils effectively act as an insulator, hindering the transfer of heat energy through the surface of the coil. The result is your system must do more work to achieve the same effect. In the heat of a North Carolina summer, it may not be able to keep up.
Evaporator Coil Leaks
Another problem that can affect your evaporator coil is leaks. For your cooling system to work properly, it must be charged with the correct amount of refrigerant. Small pinholes caused by acid from moisture and volatile organic compounds in your home’s air can cause refrigerant to leak. VOC’s can come from many sources including:
- Household cleaners
- Air fresheners
- Dry cleaned clothing
- Automotive products
- Copiers and printers
- Building Materials
Preventing Evaporator Coil Leaks
While it is not possible to completely stop the inevitable process of corrosion, there are some things you can do to significantly extend the life of your evaporator coil and prevent leaks, including:
- Reduce the use of volatile organic compounds. Look for cleaning products and paints with low VOCs.
- Maintain good airflow. Ventilation can protect your health and your evaporator.
- Use UV light to neutralize VOCs by installing a whole-house air purifier.
- Install a whole-house dehumidifier. Water vapor is an essential piece of the corrosion formula.
- Clean your evaporator coils regularly to reduce acid build up.
Fixing a Leaky Evaporator Coil
If it does turn out that you have a leak in your evaporator coil, there are essentially two ways to approach the problem. One way is to add a sealant. It’s like fix-a-flat for your AC! The sealant travels through your system with the refrigerant, and can potentially block small holes that it comes in contact with. It is an easy and cost effective solution, but much like fix-a-flat, it doesn’t always work, nor is it the most reliable long term solution.
The other alternative is to replace the coil. It may be your only option. Obviously there is a larger upfront cost associated with this solution, but newer equipment will usually pay for itself over time due to increased efficiency. Keep in mind, if you have to switch to a coil that is compatible with a different kind of refrigerant, you will have to replace both the indoor and outdoor coils. R-22 refrigerant, which was commonly used prior to 2010, is being phased out in favor of the more environmentally friendly refrigerant R-410A.
If you notice your home’s AC is struggling to keep up with demand, your evaporator coil could be the culprit. If it is working like a charm and you want to keep it that way, we recommend a preventative maintenance plan. Call All Weather Heating and Cooling today at 919-967-9775. We’re available 24/7.