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Bob Knows: The Hidden Value of Cleaning Coils

Bob Plotner Service Operations Manager
By: Robert Plotner,
Cooper Oates Air Conditioning,
Service Operations Manager

Clean Coils Make Great Sense — and Save Cents

The coils in your air conditioning units are where heat is either removed or added to the space. Both the condenser and the evaporator coils are engineered or “sized” to provide optimum heat transfer as required by the space being conditioned. Optimum heat transfer and system efficiency, however, is determined by how clean the coil surfaces are where the heat transfer takes place.

The air moving across these coils, in almost all cases, contain dust, dirt, pollen, grease, and moisture. These contaminants settle on the coil surfaces, adversely affecting the coils’ ability to transfer heat. The cost of operating dirty air conditioning is greater than you might suspect. When the coil becomes fouled with dirt and grime, it cannot provide its designed — or, in some cases, even adequate — heat transfer, and that costs you
in many ways.
Dirty Clogged Condensate Pan 2LRThe Costs of Dirty Coils Add Up

Dirt and grime insulate the coils, increasing discharge pressures that increase the amperage draw and run time of the compressor and other components, while simultaneously reducing heat transfer capacity. Equipment operating with dirty coils can use more than 30% more energy than equipment with clean coils. You end up paying for more power on equipment that is working harder and harder to get the same or less cooling.
The cost of dirty coils goes beyond just energy use. As dirt and grime collect on the coils, they restrict heat transfer and cause the compressor to work harder. This adds more heat to the system and causes pressure to rise. Rising pressure results in a loss of cooling capacity of up to 30%. A 10-ton system with a 30% loss provides only 7 tons of cooling. This loss of capacity is most noticeable on the hot days when cooling is needed the most.

The bad news does not stop there. Higher operating pressures and temperatures caused by a dirty coil reduce the equipment’s life expectancy. The elevated system temperature and pressure leads to the premature breakdown of the compressor’s lubricant, just like running your car to hot and the oil breaks down. In addition, acid formation can occur, leading to an acid burnout. Lubricant breakdown and acid formation will seriously compromise the compressor and ultimately will lead to premature catastrophic equipment failure. Compressor failure means no cooling and no cooling means unhappy tenants. Compressor replacement means considerable downtime and cost to the building owner. Clean coils can reduce the risk of these “expensive” consequences.

Coils Also Affect Indoor Air Quality

A fouled and dirty evaporator coil creates an excellent breeding ground for bacteria and mold that can impact a building’s indoor air quality. Cleaning, sanitizing, and protecting the evaporator coil and surrounding areas is critical. In addition to the coils, the condensate pan is prone to the build-up of bacterial slime. As condensate collects in the pan, and doesn’t drain properly, it can become a breeding place for harmful bacteria. This build-up can cause odor as well as plugged drains and overflows, which in turn can cause significant water damage.

Cooper Oates Air Conditioning

The benefits of regular HVAC coil cleaning and preventive maintenance:

•  Significant energy savings every month (why pay for more power than you have to)
•  Peak equipment efficiencies (run the equipment for the least amount of time)
•  Enhanced reliability & reduced breakdowns (prevent downtime, damage and unhappy tenants)
•  Longer service life (protect this asset and avoid replacement for as long as possible)
•  Improved indoor air quality. (protect your tenants comfort and health)
•  Energy conservation (realize savings without sacrificing comfort)

Summing up

If your car got 30% less gas mileage or your refrigerator lost 30% of its cooling you would probably see that as a problem that needed immediate attention. Dirty and fouled coils create the same urgency with potentially much more expense at risk.
© Cooper Oates Air Conditioning 2013