No cooling system can function properly without an evaporator coil. But what is an AC evaporator exactly? It plays a key part in producing cool airflow within your home and requires routine care and maintenance to keep your unit running efficiently.
This guide will cover the basics of how an evaporator coil works within your HVAC unit, why it’s crucial to check for wear, how to prevent damage, and when professional HVAC repairs may be needed. If you’re experiencing issues with your air conditioner, Richmond Hill’s AC installation and replacement experts at Georgia Air Cooling & Heating can determine if the evaporator coil is damaged and repair the system to restore cool air to your home.
What Is an AC Evaporator?
Your AC has two main parts: the indoor evaporator and the outdoor condenser.
An AC system’s evaporator coil absorbs heat from the air in your home. It works with several other parts in the HVAC system, including the air handler, outdoor condenser coil, compressor, and blower fan. These components each play a crucial part in the cooling process to remove warm air, cool the air using refrigerant, and recirculate cool air throughout your home.
The evaporator’s absorption of heat starts the entire cooling process. By removing heat from the indoor air, the evaporator coil keeps your home cool and comfortable. Don’t ignore the warning signs when your AC stops blowing cold air, as this could indicate that your evaporator needs repair or replacement.
How Does an Evaporator Coil Work?
What is an AC evaporator, and how does it work? You’ll find your evaporator coil attached to your home’s air handler. This mechanism connects where sources of warm air can flow into the coil from a blower fan and begin the cooling process.
The evaporator contains a liquid refrigerant inside the metal coil evaporator coils. As soon as the AC unit kicks on, it signals the refrigerant to flow through the coil. The blower fan sends warm air from the house towards the coil, where the liquid refrigerant absorbs the hot air and evaporates, setting off the initial exchange of heat.
Think of it like placing an ice pack on your skin when your body temperature needs to cool down. The ice pack was once a liquid substance that immediately absorbs some of the heat from your body upon contact. If your body is overheated, you’ll feel relief as the ice pack cools off the high skin temperature. An evaporator coil uses super-chilled refrigerant to remove heat from the air in the same way.
The cooled air then travels through your home’s air ducts and into each room.
Apart from cooling, the evaporator also helps to dehumidify your home. Moisture within the warm air that makes contact with the refrigerant soon condensates into droplets. The liquid collects in a draining pan within the unit and flows outside the home.
What Is a Condenser Coil?
The evaporator coil does not work alone, however. An outdoor condenser coil works alongside the evaporator to complete the heat exchange process. This part is equally important to the cooling of your home. The two connect and work together to move warm air outside.
After the evaporator has absorbed heat and carried the warm refrigerant to the outdoor unit, the condenser releases the hot air outside. Next, the refrigerant flows back into the evaporator to begin the absorption process all over again.
Condenser coils work only as well as the evaporator coil. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep your AC unit’s coils clean and promptly fix any damage to keep the heat transferring process running smoothly each time you power on the air conditioning.
Signs You Have AC Evaporator Damage
When something goes wrong with your air conditioning unit, it’s usually easy to tell. You may see a spike in your energy bill, the unit could simply not blow out cool air, or there could be a strange noise coming from the indoor air handler or outdoor condenser unit. Look out for these indicators that your evaporator coil isn’t operating at peak efficiency, and call an HVAC repair technician as soon as possible. A broken evaporator won’t just fail to cool your home; it could also damage other AC components and end up requiring a total system replacement.
Other distinct warning signs can be the unit:
- Starting and stopping despite your thermostat settings
- Blowing out hot air
- Not turning on at all
You may also notice an oily substance collecting either around the coil or in the drain pan by your outdoor unit. This can mean that your evaporator coil has a hole somewhere and is leaking refrigerant, which is toxic, so turn off the AC and call for repairs right away.
What Causes Damage to an AC Evaporator?
An evaporator coil can become worn out over time and start to malfunction if without proper maintenance. The most common causes of damage to an evaporator include:
Dirt or Debris Buildup
Dirty evaporator coils force the unit to work overtime and increase your overall energy usage by as much as 30%. It’s vital to keep the coil clean in order to avoid performance issues. Changing out your AC air filter every few months can also prevent dirt and dust particles from staying put and settling within the evaporator.
If these particles collect inside the coil rather than the air filter, they will act as an insulator and prevent the refrigerant from effectively absorbing warm air. This problem can get worse over time, causing the unit to consume more energy and even result in a frozen coil.
A frosted-over coil is due to the flowing refrigerant not warming up and evaporating properly. It is a tell-tale indication that professional inspection is needed. Running your AC unit with a frozen evaporator coil can ultimately cause more damage.
To compensate for being frozen, the damaged coil can raise the temperature in the system’s compressor. This is the component in which the refrigerant is transformed into high-pressure gas before entering the condenser coil.
Finding refrigerant leaks within your evaporator are also serious signs of damage. Leaks are likely due to corrosion of the metal coil. The moisture from condensation mixing with household chemicals can result in this corrosion.
How Do You Fix a Damaged AC Evaporator?
If your AC stops producing cool air and your evaporator is the issue, turn the unit off. The good news is that AC repair technicians can fix more evaporator coil issues.
When it comes down to dirt settling within the coil, a thorough cleaning can best alleviate further damage. However, issues such as severe refrigerant leaks require either extensive repair and sometimes replacement of the coil.
Frozen evaporators need prompt repair to reduce potential damage to other parts of the system. An HVAC technician can inspect the overall system damage and determine the level of repair you need.
How Do You Maintain an AC Evaporator?
Your AC evaporator coil requires routine care to keep it running efficiently. Maintaining the evaporator can be as simple as changing out the air filter to prevent dust from infiltrating the coil. You should replace your air filters two to three months, and you can buy new filters online or at most hardware store. This is a simple, low-cost way you can avoid damage to your AC and keep the air in your home clean.
Additionally, you should promote good air ventilation within your home to prevent coil corrosion. Open windows to allow air flow when using household cleaners or air fresheners.
Be mindful that corrosion can also occur from airborne chemicals released from new carpeting, upholstery, or pressed wood furniture. If these factors affect your home’s chemicals, take steps like opening windows and cleaning air vents to reduce damage to the cooling system.
Since the evaporator and condenser work hand in hand, you should also ensure that the entire system is clean and has no broken parts. Remove any physical debris on your outdoor AC unit, such as leaves, grass clippings and pet hair. You should also protect the unit’s condenser with a tarp over the winter when not in use to avoid damage.
For the highest level of maintenance, call a heating and cooling expert to inspect the system. Trained technicians know the exact problems to look for and how to prevent them from happening. Professional inspections are suggested every six to twelve months.
Finding the Right Professional HVAC Team
Now that you know the answer to the question, “what is an AC evaporator?” and the vital role it plays in an air conditioning system, you can be prepared for any issues that present themselves. Perform proper cleaning and maintenance to keep the evaporator coil performing efficiently, and most importantly, keep your home cool and comfortable.
To ensure proper care for your AC evaporator and schedule AC condenser coil maintenance, contact the trusted professionals at Georgia Air Cooling & Heating. Call (912) 513-3756 to schedule a service consultation for your home or business today.