How To Access Evaporator Coils

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Homeowners don’t usually need to access their AC’s evaporator coils. However, there are times you’ll have to open your AC and clear the coils from dust and dirt build-up that’s causing cooling and airflow issues. To learn how to access your evaporator coils, continue reading this detailed guide. 

a person using a screwdriver to access the evaporator coils

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Accessing Your Evaporator Coils

If you have a split-system AC unit, gaining access to your evaporator coils isn’t tricky. All you have to do is simply remove the access panel on the air handler (indoor unit) to access your evaporator coils.

But, before you remove the panel, ensure that you shut off the AC at the thermostat and circuit panel before removing the access panel. 

How you remove the panel varies depending on your make and model. Sometimes, there are just a few thumbscrews you have to loosen. Other times, you’ll need to use a Phillips head screwdriver to undo the screws to remove it. Behind the panel, you’ll easily spot the coils.

Why You Should Access Your Evaporator Coils

a disassembled ac unit

For the most part, you will only need to access the evaporator coils in your air conditioning unit to clean and inspect them. Considering the evaporator coils play a critical role in the day-to-day function of your unit, ensuring that the coils are clean will help your AC unit run smoothly.

Dirty coils make your air conditioner work harder to do its job, leading to higher energy usage and overworked and worn parts. Additionally, it’s a good habit to inspect the coils while cleaning. Check for corrosion, bends, damage, as these can all cause refrigerant leaks.

If your coils are covered in ice, you likely have a refrigerant leak already, which will require a visit from an HVAC technician to fix.

How To Clean Your Evaporator Coils

a person using a brush to clean the evaporator coils

Evaporator coils are typically composed of copper tubing with closely spaced fins. When dust, dirt, and debris build-up, it restricts airflow, reducing cooling efficiency and increasing energy consumption.

To clean your evaporator coils, you’ll need a few items, including:

Start by gently using a soft brush to sweep away debris between the fins. Follow up with a soft cloth: use it to wipe away residual debris carefully. If you have an air compressor, use it to blow away debris you can’t reach with the brush or cloth. Otherwise, use a can of compressed air or a vacuum cleaner– be careful not to hit the fins and bend them.

If you’d like, you can use a self-cleaning spray foam from your local home improvement store. Ensure that the foam explicitly states it is safe to use with plastic drainage parts.

How Often Should Your Evaporator Coils?

You should deep clean the evaporator coils no less than once per year. Ideally, you should clean them a few more times throughout the year, particularly in peak usage months.

If you schedule routine maintenance and AC service with an HVAC contractor, they will typically clean your coils then.

How An HVAC Technician Can Help

While routine cleanings are great for your AC unit’s evaporator coils, they perform best with a heavy-duty cleaning every once in a while. Your coils’ condition depends on factors such as the environment, maintenance, the number of pets in your home, and usage.

If the unit hasn’t been cleaned or serviced in several years, it’s a good idea to have an HVAC technician perform a heavy-duty cleaning on the coils. Professional HVAC technicians have the tools and necessary cleaners to safely deep clean your unit, which may help boost the unit’s performance.

Additionally, the technician can complete system diagnostics, preventative maintenance, and troubleshooting, all in the same visit. Professional preventative AC maintenance is a win-win!

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Jonathon is a mechanical engineer with over ten years of experience in the HVAC industry. He has hands-on experience with all types of HVAC systems.

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