The steamy Texas summers make it virtually impossible for your business to function properly without adequate air conditioning. If your commercial AC system stops working for any reason or simply can’t effectively cool your building, the temperature inside the building can reach the triple digits within a few hours. On particularly hot days, indoor temperatures can easily reach well above 120 degrees. This not only makes it tough to get any work done or even be in the building, but it can also create a serious health risk for anyone that spends too long inside. One of the more common reasons that air conditioners stop functioning properly is because the condenser coils are dirty. This is why you should always have the coils cleaned regularly.
AC Spring Cleaning and Maintenance
Just like residential air conditioners, commercial AC systems require regular maintenance to prevent them from breaking down or not providing effective cooling. At the very minimum, you should make sure to have your commercial AC system serviced once a year. Early spring is usually the best time so that you can make sure that your AC works properly before the really hot weather sets in. Nonetheless, because temperatures in Texas can regularly be in the 70s or even 80s even in the middle of winter, it’s not a bad idea to schedule AC maintenance twice a year.
During the maintenance appointment, the technician will inspect the AC compressor and all other components to make sure that everything is functioning just as it should. They will also lubricate any moving parts as needed and tighten up any loose wiring. AC maintenance also includes a thorough cleaning of the fans, evaporator coils, condenser coils, and AC compressor.
This cleaning is essential as the various components can collect dirt and debris that will prevent the system from cooling effectively or increase the amount of energy it uses. Having the coils cleaned once a year is usually sufficient. However, if you are in a particularly dusty or windy area, the coils will become dirty more quickly and may need to be cleaned twice a year.
The Importance of Keeping Condenser Coils Clean
The condenser coil works to disperse heat from the building into the air outside. When dirt and dust collect on the condenser coil’s copper tubes and fins, it insulates the coil and prevents it from releasing heat.
As an air conditioner runs, heat is transferred from the air inside the building to the cold refrigerant in the indoor evaporator coil. The heated refrigerant then flows outside to the AC compressor. The compressor compresses the refrigerant, which makes it even hotter and raises the pressure. This is important as the temperature of the refrigerant must be higher than the outdoor air temperature for the heat to be released.
The compressed refrigerant then flows into the condenser coil. The fins and copper tubes in the coil disperse the heat. This lowers the pressure and cools the refrigerant, and the cooled refrigerant then flows back to the evaporator coil so that it can absorb more heat.
If the condenser coil is dirty and can’t properly disperse the heat, it raises the pressure in the entire system. This increases the temperature of the refrigerant in the evaporator coil, which means it won’t be able to absorb as much heat and thus won’t cool as effectively.
An even bigger issue is that the pressure of the refrigerant when it enters the compressor is higher than it should be. As a result, the compressor has to work much harder because of the higher pressure. This often results in the compressor motor overheating and will cause the motor to prematurely wear out. If the condenser coil is never cleaned and constantly stays dirty, it can drastically shorten the lifespan of the compressor.
High refrigerant pressure can also prevent the compressor from turning on or cause it to shut off almost immediately after it starts. This is because some newer AC units have a built-in pressure sensor and shut-off switch. When the sensor detects the pressure is too high or too low, it automatically triggers the shut-off switch and turns the unit off.
Why Evaporator Coil Cleaning Is Also Important
The evaporator coils inside the air handler also need to be cleaned regularly. Dirty evaporator coils are one of the most common reasons that an AC will freeze up. As heat is absorbed by the evaporator coil, condensation builds up on the coil, and this is how air conditioners also dehumidify the air. This happens because of the temperature difference between the cold refrigerant and the hot air similar to how water droplets form on a glass of ice water in hot weather.
As condensation forms, it drips down into the drain pan and then flows out through the condensate drain system. When the coils are dirty, all that dirt and dust can collect the water and make it stick to the copper tubes. The dirt also insulates the coil and prevents it from absorbing as much heat. When the refrigerant isn’t constantly absorbing heat, its cold temperature allows any water on the coil to quickly freeze. This leads to ice building on the coil and the system freezing up.
If your AC freezes because of a dirty evaporator coil or any other reason such as poor airflow, no heat will be absorbed from the air. If you leave it running, the blower fan will circulate hot air throughout the building. The only way to fix this problem is to leave the system shut off until all of the ice has melted. If you attempt to keep running the AC while it is frozen, it will eventually burn out the compressor.
Why You Should Never Clean AC Coils Yourself
Professional AC technicians use special coil cleaning sprays when cleaning evaporator and condenser coils. Although these coil cleaners are readily available at any hardware store, it is never a good idea to try to clean the coils on your own for numerous reasons. If your AC is still under warranty, cleaning the coils or doing any other work on the system will most likely void the warranty.
The copper tubes and fins in the evaporator and condenser coils are also fragile and easy to damage. Bending any of the fins or the tubes will interfere with the heat transfer process and decrease the effectiveness of the system. The copper is also soft, and you can easily put a hole in it and cause refrigerant to leak out, which will also cause the system to freeze up.
Cleaning the condenser coil also involves partially disassembling the compressor as you will need to remove the fan to access it. When doing so, it is very easy to damage the wiring, which is something you’ll need a technician to fix. You could also ruin the motor if you’re not careful.
The final reason that you shouldn’t clean your coils on your own is that it really isn’t necessary. As long as you make sure to have your system professionally maintained on a regular basis, you should never need to worry about the coils getting dirty since the AC technician will clean them for you.
At Beyer Mechanical, we specialize in commercial AC maintenance and can ensure that your coils remain clean and that your system cools effectively. Our certified technicians specialize in commercial air conditioning maintenance as well as installation and repair. We also work on all brands of commercial heating equipment for customers in Austin, Corpus Christi, San Antonio and the surrounding areas. Give us a call today if you need AC maintenance or any other commercial HVAC service.