Pest Control And Home Security

Pest Control and Home Security

Crawling insects and creeping rodents are a sure sign you need some sort of pest control. Nobody likes it when pests appear. Aside from being startled and outright scared, the presence of these annoyances poses an actual threat to the…

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Air Conditioning Cleaning: How To Clean Central A/C Evaporator Coils

Air Conditioning Cleaning: How To Clean Central A/C Evaporator Coils

This article is a compliment to “How To Clean Central A/C  Condenser Unit Coils”. For the purpose of this article, we’ll be discussing air conditioner evaporator coil cleaning inside of the air handler of a split central air system, typical of air conditioning systems in the Dallas area. My central air conditioning system happens to contain a natural gas furnace for heating.

Your air handler is composed of a blower motor, the furnace, and the evaporator coils. You can easily see which compartment your evaporator coils are located inside of by looking for the refrigerant lines and where they come out of the air handler. There are 2 refrigerant lines. One is larger and one is smaller. The larger one is low pressure and contains freon in it’s gas form. It will feel cold when your air conditioner is running. The smaller one is a high pressure, high temperature line that contains refrigerant in it’s liquid form.

air conditioner evaporator coil cleaning attic diagram

Here is the air handler in my attic. You can see that it is hung from the ceiling and happens to be missing a secondary drain pan. Something I need to address. Because of the low overhead I had to shoot this picture from one side.

As air is blown across the evaporator coils, the air around it cools and blows that cooled air into your home through the duct work. When the evaporator coils begin to become coated with dirt, dust and grime, they don’t cool the air flowing over them efficiently, causing your system to work more to cool your home.

attic air handler image with descriptives

The above photo is from the other side, which clearly shows the evaporator coil compartment. There was a lot of foil tape around it from the last person who did a maintenance.

Air Conditioner Evaporator Coil Cleaning Tools You’ll Need:

1. No-rinse spray on foaming cleaner for coils
2. A few basic tools
3. Roll of foil tape
4. Bleach/water mixture in a garden sprayer
5. Portable vacuum or shop vac

Here’s what to do:

First, turn the thermostat to the off position. You can also flip the switch located near your furnace to shut off power to your unit.You’ll need to locate the evaporator coils within your air handler. This will be the section where the freon lines enter. There is a sheet metal panel attached to the air handler which will need to be removed. It’s attached by sheet metal screws, and the edges are usually taped with foil tape to prevent too much cold air from escaping. Be careful not to damage your freon lines as you remove the panel.

air conditioner evaporator coil cleaning remove the aluminum panel

There were 13 screws all together to remove the side panel as well as open the top panel of the evaporator compartment of this unit. I had to open the top to access all of the coils. The side panel on this unit had to be rotated after removing the screws to clear the freon lines.

Your evaporator coils should be visible and you should have enough room to clean the coils. If your unit does not allow enough room to comfortably work, I recommend hiring a pro. At the least, you can visually inspect your coils once the panel is removed.

evaporator coils in compartment

This photo was taken after spraying and rinsing the coils, but shows how your evaporator coils look within the compartment. You can see foam from the foaming spray cleaner floating in the bottom drain pan. This evaporator is original equipment in this house, which was built in 1994. Not too bad considering that it is highly unlikely that anyone has cleaned the coils in several years.

Begin by spray a foaming cleaner on both sides of the coils to loosen the dirt and grime. You can get a no-rinse foaming coil cleaner which will do the job just fine. I used WEB WCOIL Coil Cleaner on this unit. An evaporator can remove many gallons of water from the air inside your home in a day! The condensation will more than rinse the coils. I always spray the coils with a mixture of bleach and water using a garden sprayer to help inhibit mold growth. About 1 cup of bleach to a gallon of water works very well. Never use acid based chemicals to clean your coils!

(Even though vinegar is acidic, you could use it as an alternative, but the smell isn’t very pleasant. Either way, clean your coils on a warm day so the condensate will help rinse everything.)

air conditioner evaporator coil cleaning spray

You can see the dust and dirt build-up on the inside of the coils (above). After spraying and carefully brushing the coils, I sprayed everything with a bleach/water mixture.

evaporator-coil-cleaning-supplies

I used this garden sprayer filled with water and 1 cup of beach to spray the coils after the foaming cleaner. I very carefully brushed all 4 sides of the evaporator coils with the brush shown, although a toilet bowl brush works very well too. Remember to be very, very careful when brushing the delicate fins of your evaporator coil.

Then, I pour the remaining bleach/water mixture I have left in my garden sprayer into the drain lines to keep them free of algae buildup. A clogged drain line can cause your drain pan to overflow and cause extensive ceiling water damage. I used the remaining bleach/water mixture from my garden sprayer and poured it directly into the drain pan. The house will have a very mild bleach aroma for about a day. Unless you are sensitive to it, there is no real concern, it is a very mild smell that dissipates quickly.

When you are done, replace the panel, screws and use foil tape to seal the edges of the panel.

Panel replaced, edges taped and I felt along all sides to be sure I did not feel any cold drafts!

Your Dallas Handyman Top 5 Tips:
1. When your air handler is open you can look inside and do a visual inspection of the amount of rust, grime and mold accumulated on the evaporator coils. Also check the pan for rust and holes. Perhaps the best pan to have is a plastic drain pan, which are available. Hire a pro to replace the pan or coils when needed. There should also be a secondary pan under the air handler equipped with a cutoff switch in case the evaporator drain pan fails.

2. Air conditioner evaporator coil cleaning should be performed twice yearly. Once in the spring before the cooling season and once in the fall before the heating season. Good maintenance will save you money every month on your utility bill and keep you from replacing major parts on your system prematurely. Heating and cooling your home is the single highest expense most homeowners have on a month-to-month basis.

3. Air conditioner evaporator coil cleaning is not a difficult job! Take your time and do a good job and expect to spend an hour or more your first time through. As you gain confidence and experience you’ll get faster. And you’ll always know how the internal parts of your air conditioner are doing.

4. Hire an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) contractor to inspect your entire system before buying your next house; you will know what to expect out of your heating and cooling system going into your new home. They can usually tell you how old your heating and cooling systems are, and how much life is left in them.

Most home inspectors check the operation of your heating and air conditioning system but many do not open air handlers or report their true condition. The cost of an HVAC specific inspection could save you thousands of dollars alone. Air conditioner problems are rarely inexpensive to fix.

5. Clean and inspect: While your panel is off to the evaporator, use a Good Quality Shop Vac for some of the areas to vacuum out dust. Extensions can help you get pretty far into the duct work, and it can make a huge difference.

Look for rust and leaks on the drain pan. A failed drain pan can possibly cause your system to shut down and may cause extensive ceiling damage. Be sure you change your system filter every thirty days. It’s located in your air handler in front of your blower or behind the return vent inside your home. You can hire a handyman to clean your coils for you for less than a full service call from an A/C pro, but a handyman cannot check freon levels or add freon.

So there you go. Feel free to send in your comments, click a social button at the top of this post so your friends can check it out too, and good luck!

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Air Conditioning Cleaning: How To Clean Central A/C Condenser Unit Coils

Air Conditioning Cleaning: How To Clean Central A/C Condenser Unit Coils




Possibly the single most important factor to maintaining your air conditioning unit is keeping it clean and well maintained. Not only will good maintenance reduce your energy consumption and save on your monthly bills, but clean condenser coils will make your A/C unit last longer and keep it running efficiently. You can also read “How To Clean Central A/C Evaporator Coils” Here.

There are different types of air conditioning units but for the purpose of this article, we’ll be talking about a central air split unit system.They are most common in the Dallas area and can be found all around the country. A split system comprises the inside unit, which contains the evaporator, located inside a central duct attached to your furnace/blower within the house and the compressor/condenser unit that sits alongside the exterior of the house.

You can click on any of the images on this page for a larger one if you want as well.

Shown above are the primary components of the outside condenser unit of a split unit central air conditioning system.

How Often And How Long Does It Take To Clean Your Unit?

Cleaning the compressor coils and cooling fins of your outdoor unit once per year is recommended under normal conditions, but more often if there is a lot of growth around the unit or cottonwood trees or dandelions nearby. These are clogging culprits. For comfort and cost savings, this ranks as the top regular chore you can perform yourself on your air conditioning unit. For this project you will need a garden hose, a good *spray-on foaming cleaner and a *cooling fin comb if the fins are badly bent. Basic tools like a wrench or screwdriver will be required to remove the A/C unit cover. You will also want a shop-vac and a medium stiff brush (but be very careful when cleaning cooling fins, they are very fragile and can bend easily.

This unit has not been cleaned in at least 2 years. You can see a lot of dead grass clogging the fins.

Cleaning just the outdoor unit will probably take an hour or more if it’s your first time, so allow yourself enough time to do a good job. If you aren’t up for the task, you can hire an HVAC professional to do it for you.

They will clean your outdoor and indoor units, check your freon level and make recommendations for you anywhere from about $69 (“special” or promotional) to around $150 for a general upkeep cleaning.

Most companies run spring and summer “specials” because they know most units will need charging with freon or other work. This is still a good route to go if you want to watch a pro do it first, if you suspect that you are low on freon or have a specific problem or questions you need answered.

You can also purchase a bi-yearly maintenance contract, which can save you money and make maintenance automatic. Or, you can easily learn to do-it-yourself.

DIY Condenser Coil Cleaning

Before I do anything, I always make sure the thermostat is set to “off”. Then I remove the main power switch located inside the master switch panel. The master switch is almost always attached to the house at the same location as the unit itself; simply open the panel and pull out the large plug. Once the power has been shut off, you should remove as much debris, growth and lawn clippings from the outside of the unit that might inhibit the flow of air as possible.

There are hex head screws all the way around the top of this unit holding the top of the unit and the fin

Remove the top of the unit. There are typically hex-head bolts or screws that you can see on the top of the unit or on the side at the top. Be careful! The fan motor is usually attached to the top of the unit and you don’t want to bend the blades or damage it. Have someone hold the top of the unit or lean it carefully aside, making sure not to rest it on the fan blades or stretch the wiring.

You can easily clean out the bottom of the inside of the unit with a shop vac. You never know what you’ll find inside! You may need to evict a rodent or snake, but most of the time you just need to clean out the dirt, leaves and dead grass. Then, use a brush attachment on your portable vacuum and carefully vacuum the fins.

Carefully vacuum the crud off of the fins. Use an up and down motion. Don’t vacuum acroos the fins, you’ll probably bend them.

After vacuuming the fins, spray the outside of the fins with a good coil cleaner and wait 5 minutes. A mild detergent/water mixture works well too. Then simply use a garden hose to spray, from the inside to the outside of the unit until the water comes through nice and clean all the way around. If your unit does not come apart, spray to avoid the fan motor as much as possible.

Either way, avoid directly spraying the compressor. If you just can’t resist it, and you spray the outside of the unit, be careful not to bend the fins that surround the coil with pressurized water!

Spraying the outside of the unit isn’t recommended, since you will either get excessive water inside the unit or lodge dirt and particles deeper into the fins, or both.

You can rest the cover (the part that you removed earlier with the fan motor attached) on top of the unit for the next step: Using a cooling fin comb, work the fins carefully to clean and straighten them if they are badly bent. If there are a lot of bent fins, this could take some time.

Cooling fin combs are not easy to work with but the ability of your cooling fins to dissipate heat is very important to the performance of your unit, so it’s definitely worth spending the energy it takes to straighten any bent fins you have as much as you can.

You can easily figure out how many teeth you need on your fin comb by simply using a tape measure and counting the number of fins there are to an inch. That is the “tooth-count” you should buy for your fin straightening comb. Most fin combs have 4 different tooth count combs.

Finally, reverse the dis-assembly steps by re-attaching the top of the unit in the same way it came off. Then, plug your main cutoff back in, then go inside and turn your thermostat to the “cool” position and lower the temperature setting enough to make the unit come on. Many units have a timing mechanism that delays the unit from coming on for a few minutes. Go back outside and listen for any odd noises (once the unit is back on) to double check everything and that you re-assembled everything correctly. If you hear something out of the ordinary and don’t know what it is right away, then I recommend calling a professional to come and check out your system for you.

(above): This is about how the unit should look after your done.

 

Tips: Clean your air conditioner condenser early in the spring. Most A/C companies are busy all summer repairing and replacing units and you may have to wait before someone comes out or have to pay a premium. While the unit is open, look closely at the bottom of the unit for dark oil spots near the compressor. If they are present, you may have an oil leak from the compressor and your system may need to be repaired and charged with freon. Have a professional come out and take a look.

Visually inspect the large flexible conduit that comes from the unit to the main cutoff for breaks. This is known as the whip. If it’s broken or damaged, it should be replaced. Inspect the insulation around the pipe that goes to your indoor unit. Although it is arguable that this piece of pipe insulation has little true function, it is good for aesthetics and it helps protect the pipe. Replace it if it’s worn.

Do not attempt to replace the “pad” that the unit sits on. There are so many fragile parts that you will probably only be asking for trouble. If your pad is broken or sinking, consult a pro. They will usually tell you to wait until the compressor needs replacement before changing it out for a new one.

A good cleaning brush for cooling fins is a toilet bowl brush. Just remember to be very careful when brushing the very fragile cooling fins. Now is also a good time to replace the filter at your blower or return duct, indoors. They cost a couple of bucks or less. A note about filters…there is no such thing as a 60-day or 90-day filter. Change your filter every thirty days.

You can probably find a handyman to do this sort of air conditioning maintenance as well, for probably less than an A/C specialist will charge. A handyman without an HVAC license cannot charge a system with freon or attach a pressure guage, so be aware of that.

So that’s it! I hope these instructions were enough to get you out there. It’s not difficult to do and it will save you a lot of cash in the long run.

Click an image to purchase online or for more information:

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Controlling Insects Around The House

Controlling Insects Around The House

There are lots of products available for controlling insects around the house. Using chemicals is only part of the solution. In this article, I'll address the most common pest problems around the house and how to get rid of household…

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