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Is DIY AC Coil Cleaning Worth It?

Is DIY AC Coil Cleaning Worth It?

Many homeowners wonder if it’s worth attempting DIY AC coil cleaning. After all, proper AC maintenance involves annual tune-ups and caring for your system between routine service visits. But what about expenses? A professional AC coil cleaning averages about $125 per coil (an evaporator coil can cost between $100 and $700 to clean and cleaning a condenser coil can cost $75 to $200). In this article, we’ll look at how to clean the coils yourself and if doing so can save you money.

Why Is AC Coil Cleaning Important?

The coils in your AC system enable heat transfer to occur. A layer of dirt insulates them, preventing heat from moving in or out of the refrigerant lines. This reduces system efficiency so your energy bills go up each month. When heat can’t be released, your air conditioner won’t cool your home as effectively and the compressor can overheat and shut down. The system can be seriously damaged and require costly repairs.

What Are the Best Methods of Cleaning AC Coils?

An AC coil cleaning is certainly worth the cost compared to spending on major repairs. There are a few ways to approach this task yourself, but first, you want to take care of other things. Otherwise, cleaning the coils won’t have long-term benefits. Before starting on coil cleaning for the outdoor unit:

  • Remove leaves, bushes, debris, and objects within three feet of the unit.
  • Inspect the metal fins; if any are bent or crushed, the issue must be corrected (whether with a fin comb or by a professional).
  • Ensure the outdoor unit sits level on a raised concrete or composite pad that isn’t damaged or sunken.

Proceed with Cleaning the Coils

Turn the system off at the disconnect switch or circuit breaker. Then, remove the outer covering of the outdoor or indoor unit. You can then proceed with AC coil cleaning in the following ways:

  • Compressed Air: A light buildup of dirt can be blown off the evaporator coil using compressed air. Be sure to direct the air in the opposite direction of airflow. Use equal amounts of compressed air across the coil. Also, remember to clean up loose dirt and wear eye protection to avoid irritation by flying debris.
  • Vacuum Cleaner: You can use a home vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment to clean an AC coil. It is effective at removing loose dirt, hair, and other debris. For more stubborn dirt and residue, you’ll need to employ other AC coil cleaning methods.
  • Soft Brush: A soft-bristled coil comb or other brush helps sweep away light amounts of dirt. The brush must be used directly on the coils. Hard bristles or wire brushes can damage the fins. If the dirt is difficult to remove, you’ll need to scrub coated surfaces, so the brush shouldn’t be too abrasive.
  • Mild Detergent/Water: Mix a mild dish detergent and water and place the mixture in a spray bottle or garden sprayer. After spraying the solution onto the evaporator coils, let it soak for a few minutes. This should loosen any dirt or debris, so you can more easily wipe it away with a soft cloth or brush.
  • Commercial Coil Cleaners: Various commercial products for AC coil cleaning are available, including foams, liquids, and powders. Before using the cleaner, read the instructions for preparation and application. Depending on the coil cleaner, reapply it to remove any remaining buildup. Wear gloves and eye protection and avoid being downwind of the spray, as many coil cleaners are very acidic or alkaline.
  • Cleaning Chemicals: If the AC coils are extremely dirty, heavy-duty cleaning chemicals may be required. These can be hazardous and require disassembling parts of your AC unit to remove the coils. Steam cleaning and pressure washing equipment may also be needed. To be safe, hire a trained HVAC contractor equipped to clean the coils properly and avoid damage.

Once the coils are clean and dry, reinstall the cover and turn the power back on. But don’t turn the AC on right away; wait 30 to 60 minutes to let it dry out. This avoids operational issues and short circuits.

When Should I Hire a Professional for AC Coil Cleaning?

You can usually clean your air conditioner coils with a few household tools. But that’s only if you can safely access them and remove the dirt present. If the coils are extremely dirty or appear corroded, it’s time to call a professional. Don’t proceed with DIY coil cleaning if it requires removing any major components. This can cause serious damage or void the warranty.

How Do I Know My AC Coils Are Dirty?

Other than observing the dirt directly, there are signs of buildup on AC coils to be aware of. Inspect the evaporator and condenser coils or call an HVAC contractor if you notice the following symptoms:

  • Your AC has diminished cooling power
  • Warm air is blowing from the vents
  • The system runs for longer than usual
  • Strange noises come from the AC unit
  • Increased energy consumption and higher utility bills
  • The coils are covered with heavy condensation, frost, or ice

Can I Stop AC Coils from Becoming Dirty?

Buildup on AC coils is inevitable. However, you can slow down the process. Changing the air filters as recommended reduces the amount of dirt in the system. Also, look for common problems such as decreased airflow or leaks and call a repair professional as soon as you notice anything wrong.

Will DIY AC Coil Cleaning Save Me Money?

It can, but only if you remove all the dirt and the coil isn’t damaged. Using the proper technique is also important. Attempting to clean a coil with high-pressure water, using the wrong equipment or cleaning solution, and other AC coil cleaning mistakes will do more harm than good.

How Often Should an AC Coil Cleaning Be Done?

You should clean your AC coils at least twice a year. The best time to do so is after the heating or cooling seasons. Occasionally removing dust from coils is easier than a more intensive cleaning. It should be enough if your local AC contractor performs a coil cleaning during an annual AC tune-up.

Don’t Skip Annual AC Maintenance

While DIY AC coil cleaning can be worth it, professional maintenance is still needed. It can help your AC system run more smoothly.  A technician can spot and address signs of damage, wear, and corrosion. They can also check for mechanical or electrical issues, lubricate moving parts, and perform small repairs to avoid various problems.

During routine maintenance, an AC professional should inspect and clean the condenser and evaporator coils. They can also seal or repair them if necessary. A professional AC coil cleaning can save you time (although the process generally takes under a half hour).

Call Waldrop to Schedule AC Coil Cleaning

At Waldrop, we’re trusted throughout Upstate South Carolina for AC coil cleaning, air conditioner maintenance, and other cooling system services. Our NATE-certified technicians use the latest guidelines to inspect your system, calibrate components, and address minor issues. They can also perform any type of AC repair. To schedule maintenance that can improve the performance, efficiency, and longevity of your air conditioning system, call (864) 536-0887 today.

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