If your home feels hot and uncomfortable, clean the fins on your cooling system's outdoor condenser coil. Fins allow the condenser coil to remove heat from the system so that it operates at top efficiency. Dirty fins allows heat to build up inside the coil, which causes the compressor to overheat. If the compressor does overheat, it can affect the entire cooling system. Here's why and how you should clean the condenser coil's fins.
Why Do You Need to Clean Coil Fins?
A condenser coil relies on clean, clear fins to reject heat from the refrigerant it receives from the compressor. The compressor looks similar to a small, black cylinder and sits inside the condenser unit's housing. The compressor turns the cool gas it receives from the indoor unit into an extremely hot gas. The gas then blows over the condenser coil until it cools down. The heat removed from the coil passes through thin, serrated pieces called fins.
Because fins cover the outside of the coil, they can bend or fill up with dirt. Sometimes, tiny insects, grass, and leaves pile up inside the fins and block airflow. Any of these problems can cause the coil to clog and the compressor to overheat.
When the compressor overheats, your evaporator coil won't receive enough cool refrigerant to work properly. An evaporator coil absorbs heat as hot air travels across and over it. If heat builds up in the evaporator coil, it eventually backs up into the house. This is one of the reasons your home feels uncomfortable.
You can make your home feel comfortable again with the right tips.
How Do You Clean Up the Fins?
If you feel comfortable enough to do so, you can clean the outdoor fins yourself. You'll need to cut complete electrical power to your cooling system before you begin. You can find a power box near the unit, as well as a labeled breaker inside your home's fuse box. After you secure the work area, follow the steps below:
- Use a Philips screwdriver or electrical screwdriver to remove the cage from the condenser coil. You may need to remove the fan connected to the condenser unit to access the cage properly. Read over your owner's manual before you attempt to remove the fan.
- Examine the coil carefully once you uncover it. If the fins appear damaged, such as badly warped or bent, use a small toothbrush to straighten them out. If at any time you feel uncomfortable about straightening out the fins, stop and call an HVAC contractor for assistance.
- Turn your water hose to a low setting, then gently wash down the fins. Water will run out of the fins as they become clear.
- Clean both sides of the coil to ensure that it's free of debris.
- Allow the coil and fins to dry completely, then replace the cage. The drying time for the parts can vary, so check them regularly.
Return power to your cooling system and monitor your home. If your home feels comfortable and cool, you did the job right. If your home still feels uncomfortable, turn off the cooling system's power supply and clean the evaporator coil.
Place a thick covering beneath the air handler. Fill a spray bottle with 2-3 cups of white household vinegar, then saturate the coil and fins completely. Wait about 45 minutes, then replace the paneling. If the coil doesn't seem dry enough, place a fan in front of it to help it dry.
Return power to the system and monitor the home's indoor environment to see if anything's changed. Give the system time to reach the temperature set on your thermostat. If the house feels good, you completed the job. If your home still feels warm, contact an HVAC company for help.