Is a Dirty Evaporator Coil Costing You Money?

Air conditioning service repairman checking unit

Air conditioners possess three main components:

  1. The compressor
  2. The condenser
  3. The evaporator

As its name indicates, the compressor compresses the refrigerant into a hot gas under high pressure. Once the refrigerant passes through the condenser, it becomes a liquid under high pressure as its temperature falls. From that point on, the refrigerant enters the evaporator to turn into gas once more. As the pressure on the refrigerant drops, the liquid extracts heat from the surrounding air in order to become a cooler gas.

Since the evaporator coil is one of the most important components in the air conditioner, it should come as no surprise that a hindrance to its smooth operation can lead to breakdown and air conditioning repair. For the most part, the consequences of having a dirty evaporator coil tend to be subtle. Most people fail to take notice until the problem is either caught and corrected during routine maintenance or forces the entire air conditioner to come to a stop.

What Are the Potential Problems that Can Come from a Dirty Evaporator Coil?

Under most circumstances, the most important reason to keep the evaporator coil clean is to ensure optimal air flow. Dirty evaporator coils end up reducing air flow and thus impedes the extraction of undesirable heat in the surrounding air. As a result, air conditioners containing dirty evaporator coils need to be kept running longer to achieve the same cooling effect as their more pristine counterparts. Since electricity is needed to keep air conditioners running, dirty evaporator coils lead to higher bills being paid for utilities. Although the increase in utilities might seem minor, even small increases can add up over time. Not to mention that the negative consequences of having dirty evaporator coils do not end here.

Refrigerant becomes gaseous during its passage through the evaporator. Dirty evaporator coils lead to inefficient extraction of heat from the surrounding air, meaning that the evaporation of the refrigerant is also impeded. In extreme cases, it is possible that the refrigerant fails to evaporate and passes into the compressor as a liquid in a process called liquid slugging. Since the compressor is not designed to handle liquid refrigerant, liquid slugging is going to cause it to break down in little time. Getting the compressor replaced can prove to be expensive, unpleasant, and all too time-consuming.

Although less immediate than the other two problems mentioned here, there is also the issue of air quality. Dirty evaporator coils are excellent breeding grounds for bacteria and other microorganisms due to their high levels of moisture. As a result, released dust can trigger allergies, while released microorganisms being breathed in can cause serious medical problems. Even without these problems, the pollution can make breathing unpleasant.

How Can You Keep Your Evaporator Coil Clean?

Keeping the evaporator coil clean is simple but requires technical skills. Air conditioners must be taken apart before their evaporator coils can be extracted for a thorough cleaning. For most people, this means that the most convenient way to have their evaporator coils cleaned is by arranging for maintenance services from a local Tampa air conditioning contractor.