Having your air conditioning system professionally checked for problems every year is essential. But you can also do some maintenance checks yourself to protect your AC system this summer, including cleaning the condensing coil outside the home to prevent problems with the compressor. The condensing coil rejects heat from the outdoor unit and returns cooled liquid refrigerant to the evaporator coil. If dirt builds up on the condensing coil, heat may back up inside the compressor and cause a number of problems, including failure. To understand why you must clean your condensing coil this summer, learn how your air conditioning system works to cool your home.
How Exactly Does Your Cooling System Work?
Your cooling system features two types of coils to operate: the condensing coil and the evaporator coil. The evaporator coil absorbs the heat from the air it receives from the home's return air ducts through metal fins, and then redistributes the cooled air back into the house through the supply air ducts. The heat collected by the evaporator coil mixes with liquid refrigerant, converts to a low-pressured gas and travels to the outdoor unit's compressor through a large refrigerant line. The compressor then squeezes the liquid refrigerant into a superheated and high-pressured gas in order to transfer it to the condensing coil.
Just like the evaporator coil, the condensing coil features specialized metal fins on its surface. However, the condensing coil's fins should allow heat to pass through them to the outdoor environment instead of absorb it. If the fins clog up or bend from dust, dirt and other hazards, the heat may not leave the condensing coil freely. In a number of cases, the heat backs up into the compressor, which may work extra hard to stay operational. You might even hear the compressor make grinding sounds or other types of noises as it struggles to stay on.
The compressor may eventually overheat and fail from the stress placed on it. If compressor failure occurs, you may need to replace the part to repair your air conditioning system. Cleaning the condensing coil and straightening out its fins may help stop or reduce the strain placed on your compressor this summer.
How Do You Clean the Condensing Coil and Straighten Out the Fins?
In order to clean the condensing coil properly, you'll need a few things: a fin comb and water hose with adjustable speed nozzle. The fin comb will help straighten out any metal fins on the coil that appear bent or smashed together. Damaged fins may block of the flow of heat from the condensing coil, so straightening the fins out is critical. The water hose will allow you to clean the fins without causing further damage to them.
Now, follow the steps below:
- Turn off the entire cooling system's power at the circuit breaker inside the home. It's also a good idea that you pull out the power supply fuses connected directly to the outdoor unit. You want to make sure that no electrical power or currents still run through the unit.
- Use a screwdriver to remove the top covering from the outdoor unit, then gently remove the grille that wraps around the condensing coil. You may be able to lift the grille from the unit by grasping the sides of the piece. Place the grille to the side to avoid bending it.
- Turn your water hose on low pressure, then position the nozzle at the very top of the coil. Move the hose from side to side to work loose the debris but avoid touching the fins. The fins can bend very easily.
- Repeat step three until the fins appear a shiny metallic color.
- Use the fin comb to straighten out the coil's fins. If any fins appear broken or too warped to straighten with the comb, skip them. You don't want to crack the fins.
- Replace the grille, then screw the top of the condensing coil back in place.
- Wait 30-45 minutes for the coil to dry before returning power to the unit and cooling system.
The condensing coil is now clean and ready for the summer.
If you run into any problems cleaning the coil, such as badly warped, missing or damaged fins, contact a heating specialist or HVAC services for assistance.