Both the indoor and outdoor units in your home’s central air conditioner have coils that need to be kept clean. Dirty coils make your system work harder, so you have higher electricity bills and your system works harder.
How Your AC System Works
How does your central air conditioning system work? It’s a multi-stage process involving indoor and outdoor components.
We’ll start outside your home. The outside unit at your home is the condenser, compressor, and fan. Much of your AC system involves coolant lines that travel inside and outside your home with the help of the compressor, which is a pump.
Lines come from your home and pass into the condenser where the fan at the top dissipates the heat collected through the coolant within those lines. Once cooled, the compressor pumps it back inside to the evaporator that has cooling coils that absorb heat and humidity, and that heat pushes the cool air from the tubing to a blower that pushes the air through the ducts into your home. As the warm air collects to go back outside, it passes through a filter that collects contaminants like dust, pollen, pet dander, etc.
Coolant is an important part of that process as it’s the conversion of coolant from a liquid to a gas and back again that cools your home. Fans and blowers push the hot or cold air to the correct area. In summary:
- Warm air and humidity blow through your home’s return air ducts to the filter and over the cooling coils/evaporator.
- The evaporator converts the coolant to gas before it’s drawn outside with the condenser’s help.
- The blower draws the cooled air into the ductwork to be released into your living areas.
- This gas form of the coolant passes through the condenser, which releases the heat as it returns to a liquid form.
- Fans blow the heat out of the outdoor unit and into the outside air.
- The compressor pumps the liquid coolant back into the house to repeat the constant cycle that’s determined by your thermostat setting.
- The thermostat tells the AC system when it needs to run and when rooms are at the right temperature.
That’s the basic process that every AC system uses. The copper tubes that your coolant is in must be cleaned to ensure that heat is released properly. If they are dirty, the heat isn’t able to release and it makes it harder for your system to get your home cool enough. It works harder, using more electricity, and causing more wear and tear on the compressor, condenser, blower, fan, and evaporator components.
When your coils are constantly dirty and covered in grime, you shorten the lifespan of your system. That’s why it’s so important to clean them every year.
How Much Savings Can You Expect From Cleaning Dirty Coils?
In 2006, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers performed a study to try to determine exactly how much energy is saved with proper cleaning of air coils.
The study was performed in New York City on a 34-floor Times Square building from July to September. They specifically chose an older building with a central AC system that was 30 years old.
After cleaning one unit’s coils, pressure decreased by 14%. Chilled water supply temperatures dropped by 4º F or approximately 10% in heat transfer ability. Estimates were that performance increased by 10% to 15%, which is a significant savings for a building of that size. Even in a smaller home, it saves money, and those savings quickly add up.
Another study was published in “Energy Engineering” in 1996. Eleven case studies all found the benefits of cleaning coils and ducts. The savings in electricity bills ranged from 3% to 10%. If you have a $200 electricity bill, 10% would be a $20 savings, which is $240 after just one year.
Clean coils are only a small part of the steps to take to make sure your AC system runs efficiently. The lines need to be charged with the right amount of coolant. If you have even the smallest leak, it makes your system less efficient and can lead to a home that’s far too warm and humid.
A clogged air filter makes your system work harder. Dirty ducts are also a big problem as they can block airflow and create unpleasant odors within your home. If you have leaves, cut grass, twigs, or branches blocking the grill on your outdoor unit, hot air cannot disperse, which can make it harder on your AC system.
Questions We Hear Regularly
Miami’s All Year Cooling is an expert in air conditioning installations and repairs. We also clean and maintain systems to keep them working efficiently and correctly. Because we are Miami’s AC specialists, we get a lot of questions.
How do I know if my AC coils are dirty?
Look at them. If they are dirty, you’ll see hair, dust, dirt, and grime buildup on the outside of the coils. As their role is to transport the coolant, they can develop condensation that makes dust and dirt stick to the coils and become harder to remove. As layers of this grime build up, you’ll see them.
Can dirty coils keep my AC from working?
People wonder if dirty coils affect a system. It can be because the point of coolant in an air conditioning system is to draw heat from the home, expel it outside, convert the coolant as it passes the compressor, and release the cool air inside. If dirt and grime are covering your coils, that cannot happen. The heat from inside is trapped in the coils, which means your home isn’t as cool.
How do I clean my AC system’s coils?
AC coils should be cleaned each year, but in areas where there is heavier pollution or very high pollen levels, twice-yearly cleaning is optimal. How do you clean them? Start by turning off the power to your system and removing the outer cover. Use a hose to spray off the coils and fins. Apply a cleaner and let that sit for a bit before spraying it off. Let the coils air dry and put the cover back in place.
What cleaners are recommended?
What cleaners should you use to clean the coils? You do need to use cleaners that don’t harm the environment as you rinse off the coils outside. A mixture of water and an environmentally-friendly household dish detergent and distilled white vinegar work. Your AC installer can also recommend products if you want an AC coil cleaner that’s specially made for AC systems.
What are the benefits of clean AC coils?
Clean AC coils ensure your system works efficiently. You have lower energy bills and it’s less wear and tear on your system, which helps prolong its life.
All Year Cooling’s expert technicians are happy to clean your coils, make sure that your AC system is running correctly, and alert you to anything that may need repair or replacement shortly. Schedule an appointment today and enjoy having the reassurance that your system is in great shape and running efficiently.