How to Clean AC Coils

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Do you have an air conditioner unit that is not performing as well as it used to? It’s likely that the coils in your AC unit are dirty and need to be cleaned. Here we will cover why cleaning AC coils is important, what types of coils can be found in your AC unit, how to clean them properly, and common FAQs about cleaning condenser coils.

Types of Coils in AC Units

Air conditioners are complex pieces of machinery, and one of their main components is the coils. There are two types of AC coils: 

Condenser Coils

The condenser coil is located outside of the unit and its main job is to release heat from the evaporator’s cold refrigerant. This type of coil is usually exposed to outdoor elements, including grime, grease, lint, pollen, mold, mildew, viruses, dirt, dust, and debris, making it more prone to build-up.

clean condenser coils

Evaporator Coils

The evaporator coil is located inside the unit and its main job is to absorb heat from the air in your home. This type of coil can get dirty due to smoke, sand, dust, pet hair, and debris that accumulates over time.

dirty Evaporator Coils

How to Clean AC Coils

Cleaning your air conditioning coils is very important for keeping your air conditioner unit running efficiently and reliably. If left uncleaned, the build-up of dirt and debris can cause the air conditioner coils to become clogged, limiting the amount of heat that can be transferred from the outdoor environment to your home. This will reduce the efficiency of your AC system, leading to higher energy bills and more repair costs.

To properly clean your AC coils, follow these steps: 

STEP 1: Locate the AC coils on your unit

The first and most important step in properly cleaning your AC coils is to locate them on your unit which is usually made of copper or aluminum fins. This will help ensure that you are able to spot any dirt or debris buildup and take the necessary measures to clean it correctly. Additionally, if the dirt build-up is extensive, it may be necessary to remove the coils from the unit for a thorough cleaning.

STEP 2: Inspect the dirty coils

Once you have located the AC coils, to access the coils open the HVAC system’s access panel to inspect them for any dirt build-up. Pay special attention to areas where dirt may be harder to see, such as between the aluminum fins, crevices, or around the edges. 

STEP 3: Correct bent fins with a fin brush

If you notice that the condenser coils have any bent or broken fins, use a fin brush to carefully straighten them. This is important as it allows for air to flow freely between the coils and helps increase efficiency. 

STEP 4: Rinse the AC coils with water (optional)

If you want to ensure thorough cleaning of your AC coils, consider rinsing them with water. This will help remove any stubborn dirt and debris that may be caked on the coils. Power washing may also be used to clean the coils, but it can potentially damage the delicate aluminum fins.

STEP 5: Apply the AC coil cleaner

Once the coils are free from visible dirt and debris, you can proceed to apply an AC coil cleaner. This is a specialized chemical cleaning solution that will help strip away any remaining dirt and oils from your unit. 

STEP 6: Rinse the A/C coil cleaner (if specified)

If the instructions for the A/C coil cleaner suggest rinsing it off after use, make sure to thoroughly rinse the coils with water. 

STEP 7: Allow the AC coils to dry

Finally, allow your AC coils to dry before replacing them in the unit or turning on the air conditioner. This will help ensure that any remaining residue is removed, and allows for a clean start for your newly cleaned AC unit. 

DIY vs Professional AC Coil Cleaning

By understanding the advantages and disadvantages of cleaning AC coils as a DIY project versus hiring professionals to do it, you can make an informed decision on which route to take to keep your AC unit running smoothly.

Clean AC Coils DIYProfessionals
Quality of CleaningVariableHigh
SafetyModerate to HighHigh
Tools and EquipmentBasicProfessional
Risk of DamageHighLow
Difficulty LevelModerateLow
WarrantyVoidedMay be maintained
Additional ServicesNoneInspection, Repairs, etc.
  • Cost: DIY cleaning will generally be less expensive than hiring a professional service.
  • Time: Cleaning AC coils can be a time-consuming task for a DIYer. Professionals are trained and experienced and can clean the coils quickly and efficiently.
  • Quality of Cleaning: While professionals have more experience and access to better equipment, a DIYer can achieve a satisfactory level of cleaning with basic tools and cleaning solutions.
  • Safety: Cleaning AC coils involves working with electrical components and chemicals, so it can be hazardous. Professionals are trained to work safely and use personal protective equipment.
  • Tools and Equipment: Professionals have access to specialized tools and equipment that make the job easier and more effective.
  • Risk of Damage: Cleaning AC coils can be tricky, and DIYers run the risk of damaging the coils or other components. Professionals are less likely to cause damage.
  • Difficulty Level: Cleaning AC coils can be challenging for a DIYer, especially if they don’t have much experience with HVAC systems.
  • Warranty: DIY cleaning may void the warranty on your AC unit, while professional cleaning can help maintain your warranty.
  • Additional Services: Professionals can inspect your AC unit for any issues or potential problems, and can make repairs if necessary. DIY cleaning does not include any additional services.

FAQs about Cleaning Evaporator Coils

To help better understand the process of cleaning AC coils, here are some commonly asked questions about this maintenance task: