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Are dirty air condtiioner coils costing you money?

Posted on: July 17, 2011

Post Highlights

  • Dity AC coils can limit your airflow, causing your AC to freeze and possibly leak
  • Cleaning the coils involves little more than spraying the compressor with a hose once a month, with more detailed annual cleaning
  • If you need AC maintenance in MD or DC call James A. Wheat & Sons!

Have you had your spring air conditioner inspection yet? If not, there is still time, but you’d better hurry – we’ve already had a few days in the 90s, which means it’s probably going to be another scorching summer in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC.

Want to do a little compressor coil inspection of your own? It’s simple – go outside and check out the metal fins on your air conditioner compressor. Are they clean or dirty? If they’re dirty, then you have the same problem that thousands of other homeowners in the area have. Every year, people call us to complain that they just upgraded to a high efficiency air conditioner with 18-19 SEER and they can’t figure out why still have high energy bills. And almost every time, we see the same thing – their compressor coil is blocked by dust and debris, which compromises the system’s efficiency and raises energy bills by hundreds of dollars a year.

Why Clean Air Conditioner Coils are Important

So what’s the big deal about having clean air conditioner coils? Contrary to popular belief, air conditioners don’t really “cool” rooms – instead, they operate on the principle of removing heat. Basically, the refrigerant absorbs heat from inside and moves it to the outside where it is blown through the compressor coil and into the outside air. Starting to see the problem? At a minimum, a dirty condenser coil will make it difficult for the air conditioner to remove heat and humidity from the room. As the problem gets worse and worse, more and more hot air can get stuck in the condenser, eventually causing severe damage to the unit – potentially severe enough to require air conditioner replacement.

Another problem that arises from having a dirty compressor coil is that it makes it difficult to tell if your AC’s refrigerant is properly charged. Your air conditioner will always attempt to compensate for the reduced airflow caused by dirty filters by changing the pressure of the refrigerant. This causes it to make the system look low on charge, even when the levels are correct. If refrigerant is added in response, there is a strong possibility of damage to the compressor.

How to Clean Your Air Conditioner Coils

So how do you clean your air conditioner if you have dirty compressor coils? It’s easy! Just take a garden hose to the compressor once a month to knock off all the accumulated dust and debris, and thoroughly clean them once a year with a non-acid, non-alkaline based cleaner (if that sounds complicated, don’t worry – you can find air conditioner coil cleaner at the hardware store).

Note: even if you stay on top of keeping your air conditioner coils clean, it’s still important to have regular air conditioner inspection – in fact, it’s arguably MORE important. Having clean coils will make the other aspects of your air conditioner inspection more efficient and will help your air conditioner inspection technician diagnose your AC problems more accurately.

If you have dirty air conditioning coils, give your compressor a good spray down to knock out all that extra dust and debris. Once you’ve done that, call James A. Wheat & Sons for a full air conditioner inspection in Gaithersburg!