How to Clean AC Condenser Coils: A Step by Step Guide
All commercial HVAC systems demand regular upkeep regardless of quality or price tag. Failing to care for commercial HVAC systems can lead to inefficiencies, costly failures, and reduced lifespan, increasing operating costs and reducing equipment lifespans.
Of course, many components in a commercial HVAC system require care and maintenance, but technicians often overlook the system’s evaporator and condenser coils. This is a big mistake. Neglecting the cleanliness of an HVAC system’s coils will impair functioning and drive-up energy costs.
Here’s something you may not know. Dirty coils can increase energy consumption by 37%!
Neglecting coil maintenance can:
- Drive up energy costs
- Reduce equipment lifespan
- Lead to poor Indoor Air Quality
- Cause system failures
- Lead to unexpected repairs
- Increase emissions
Inspecting and cleaning the entire HVAC system and its evaporator and condenser coils annually, at a minimum, can increase system efficiency and undoubtedly will help the system last longer. The cleaner the coils and other heat transfer surfaces, the more efficiently the system will run.
How Condenser Coils Can Become Dirty
AC condenser coils accumulate dirt as the HVAC system operates.
The HVAC system compressor pulls refrigerant through the evaporator coil to absorb heat and cool incoming air before transferring it throughout the building. The condenser coils release absorbed heat outdoors. AC condenser coils can get very dirty as the system works, and as the evaporator and condenser coils come in contact with grimy outdoor air.
How Often Should I Clean My AC Coils?
A scheduled maintenance plan is the best way to ensure condenser and evaporator coils stay clean. As a rule of thumb, AC coil cleaning should happen annually.
However, there are cases where cleaning should occur more frequently. Clean condenser coils operating in extreme conditions, quarterly; units within a mile of salt water, monthly; and AC evaporator coils operating in corrosive environments, quarterly.
It’s also advisable to see if coils need cleaning between maintenance intervals. Technicians can determine a need for cleaning in two ways:
- Compare air pressure drop across coils to design specifications. A higher air pressure drop than design specs points to a dirty coil that needs cleaning.
- Dirty condenser coils will exhibit high refrigerant head pressure. Dirty coils also will lower suction pressure and reduce airflow.
- Visually inspect coils. If condenser and evaporator coils appear dirty, they need cleaning.
Let’s get started with some tips on how to clean your condenser coils.
Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning AC Condenser Coils
Proper technique, equipment, and correct chemicals can keep AC condenser coils clean and commercial HVAC systems functioning well. The following is a step-by-step guide to cleaning HVAC system coils.
- Disconnect and lock out the electrical power to the air conditioning system to prevent it from turning on during cleaning.
- Protect motors and electrical components from oversaturation that can cause motor and electrical failure.
- Remove large debris from air conditioner coils and straighten fins.
- Clean the coils. Back flush condenser coils with water using a medium (no more than 400 PSI) water pressure and water flow over 2.5 GPM. Specialty cleaning systems designed to clean condenser coils work best. These units minimize the water pressure used to clean thick coils, while maximizing water volume to clean air conditioning coils quickly.
- Employ specialty coil cleaning chemicals. Chemicals may not be needed when coils exhibit minimal soiling. But many condenser coils demand chemical use to help dislodge and flush away built-up materials, or when heavy oils or grease are present. These cleaning products can speed the cleaning process. While degreasers can accomplish the same task, it’s best to choose degreasing chemicals developed specifically to clean commercial HVAC coils.
- Keep all coils clean. Coils exist all over commercial and industrial spaces, both inside and outside. Technicians may find coils on rooftops, inside ceilings, and within the deep recesses of mechanical buildings. Cleaning coils in these locations require HVAC professionals to employ a unique approach because they are in hard-to-reach areas that are barely visible. Here, HVAC experts need a portable unit with controlled flow and perfect water pressure. Outdoor coils are thicker, get dirty quickly, and can lose efficiency faster. These coils demand portable systems with greater power and the right chemicals for the job.
- Check the water source. HVAC professionals may need to supply potable water when coils reside in remote locations. Look for portable machines that allow technicians to clean outdoor units without nearby water sources. For best results, combine this equipment with a coil cleaning chemical.
Tune in for a later post focusing on how to clean your evaporator coils.
A little maintenance goes a long way. Properly maintained and cleaned HVAC coils deliver a longer life span, which, depending on the type, can range from 10 to 20 years. But improperly maintained and cleaned condenser and evaporator coils will corrode and fail prematurely.
Condenser and evaporator coils play a significant role in an HVAC system’s cooling capabilities. Clean AC condenser and evaporator coils regularly to ensure efficient HVAC system operation and prevent unplanned downtime and premature failure. The Goodway Coil Cleaners Buying Guide (add link to buying guide) can help you choose the correct products for your commercial HVAC coil cleaning needs. Goodway Sales Engineers are also available to help guide you in selecting the right coil cleaner tools and chemicals to help keep your HVAC system operating at peak efficiency.
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