A residential air conditioning system relies on several different components to ensure even, efficient cooling. Many of these components help refrigerant flow through the system. The actual cooling of your home’s air takes place inside your home by the component known as the evaporator coil.
Cool liquid refrigerant flows through the evaporator coil, while warm air from your home moves across its small refrigerant lines. Modern day air conditioning takes cooling your home farther than the olden days of an ice block in front of a fan though. The coil’s refrigerant absorbs the heat from your home’s air, causing the refrigerant to warm up. Then, having turned from a liquid to a gas from the increase in temp, it goes back to the condensing unit (outdoors) where the heat from your home is released. Unfortunately refrigerant can escape if there are leaks in the system, and often times they can be found in the evaporator coil.
As you can probably guess, evaporator coil leaks can create serious problems for your system as time goes on. As the refrigerant level grows progressively lower, your air conditioner will have a harder and harder time cooling your home. This article will take a closer look at evaporator coil leaks, as well as one of their most common causes.
Evaporator Coil Leaks
Refrigerant leaks can occur lots of places in an air conditioning system. Components inside of your outdoor condenser unit can develop holes as the result of vibration. Likewise, mechanical joints may work loose as time goes on. Yet a surprising number of leaks occur on the evaporator coil inside of your home.
These leaks tend to be incredibly small — at least to begin with. Very little refrigerant may be lost during every cooling cycle, nonetheless, as time goes on, your refrigerant supply will gradually dwindle. As a result, your system will struggle to provide its usual cooling results.
As efficiency drops, your system will attempt to compensate by running for longer and longer periods of time. Increased inefficient run times drive up energy consumption, meaning you’ll find your monthly bills skyrocketing. Not only that, but a system that runs for long periods of time with incorrect refrigerant levels can cause abnormal wear and tear on other major components, increasing the likelihood of expensive breakdowns.
Corrosion tends to be the culprit behind the overwhelming majority of evaporator coil leaks. Yet the corrosion in question isn’t your garden-variety rust. Evaporator coils are made out of a combination of metals, small tubing of either copper or aluminum, fins like you see on a condenser, along with other metal structural plates. The copper and aluminum is invulnerable to the sorts of oxidation caused by exposure to water and oxygen, but can become susceptible if other metals within the coil structure begin to rust and the acidic rust comes in contact with the coil tubing.
Another common source of evaporator coil corrosion stems from the buildup of certain contaminants on the outside of an evaporator coil. Two contaminants in particular cause the bulk of evaporator coil corrosion: formaldehyde and acetate. These substances can be found in small quantities in a surprising array of household goods.
For instance, trace amounts of formaldehyde and closely related substances can be found in everything from plywood to cosmetics and from deodorizers to carpet adhesives. Many of these exact same substances contain acetates. By themselves, these contaminants don’t pose a huge problem.
Yet when formaldehyde and acetate mix together with the moisture that naturally forms on the outside of an evaporator coil, serious problems can ensue. These substances quickly turn into organic acids that weaken the thin copper or aluminum tubing of the coil. Soon the exterior of the coil will exhibit networks of faint etchings.
As time goes on, these etchings will become deeper and deeper until they eventually become a hole in the copper. Such corrosion can eat through an evaporator coil in a matter of months — even weeks. Once that happens, refrigerant starts to escape. Soon, the system will become undercharged, leading to increasingly noticeable performance declines.
The best way to control evaporator coil corrosion is to limit the use of problematic substances and keeping it clean by changing your furnace filter regularly. You can also keep your yourself aware of potentially issues from corrosion by having the coil checked regularly during seasonal maintenance by a trusted heating and air contractor.
Evaporator coil leaks can quickly undermine the effectiveness of an otherwise healthy air conditioning system no matter the age of the system. If you feel as though your cooling system isn’t cooling as efficiently as it once did, contact the pros at Bryant to pin point the cause and provide a resolution.