Evaporator coils are an important part of commercial HVAC units, such as air conditioners and heat pumps. You can find the evaporator coil inside of the air handler or attached to the furnace. The evaporator coil is what holds the chilled refrigerant. As the blower fan moves air across the coil, the refrigerant expels heat from the air in your building. With a heat pump, the reverse occurs in the winter as the evaporator coil releases heat from the refrigerant in your building. While this process is usually seamless, leaks can sometimes occur. So how exactly do you handle an evaporator coil leak?
Drain the Clog
One of the most common causes of an evaporator coil leak is a clog in the drain line. Over time, algae and fungi can accumulate in an air conditioner’s condensate drain line. When this occurs, water can overflow causing the drain pan to flood.
Many modern AC units contain water overflow cut-off switches that cause the AC unit to automatically shut off when a clogged condensate line is sensed. However, having the AC in your building shut off unexpectedly can be an inconvenience.
To avoid an unexpected loss of use, it is important to have your drain line cleaned on a regular basis. In the summer months when your AC unit is working at peak performance, your drain line may need to be cleaned as frequently as every couple of months.
Remove Mold or Dust
Mold thrives in dark, wet environments, such as around evaporator coils. Dust can also collect on evaporator coils which can directly impact the efficiency of the system.
A professional HVAC technician can safely remove mold and dust from your commercial AC unit by removing the outer housing or evaporator coil access panel, vacuuming out dust and debris and removing the filter from the grill. The coils are then sprayed with a no-rinse air conditioner evaporator coil foaming cleaner and allowed to dry before reassembly.
This process can help eliminate common contaminants that may affect the efficiency of the equipment and the air quality in your building.
Check for Rust on Condensation Pan
The condensation or drain pan can also experience several problems that could affect the way it operates. The pan is designed to collect the condensation from your outdoor AC unit. However, over time this pan can overflow, crack or rust.
One way to determine if there is a problem with your drain pan is to shine a flashlight along each edge and corner just above the wettest spot. If there are any small holes or cracks, they may be able to be patched. However, replacing the drip pan is often a better solution.
Corrosion of the evaporator coils can result in small pin-holes that lead to leaks. Rusting usually occurs due to a mixture of condensation and chemicals found in the air. This is often apparent by the presence of oily residue around the drain pan or evaporator.
Replace Refrigerant or Sealant
A temporary fix to an evaporator coil leak that will help keep your AC unit running is to replace the refrigerant that has been lost from the leak. It is important to note that while this method may have the smallest upfront cost, lubricant lost within the system may cause internal damage to the unit over time. In addition, the release of R22 from a leak can contribute to ozone depletion.
Another option involves adding a sealant to repair the leak. Sealants can be used on condensers, copper lines, soldered joints and evaporators. Sealants work by making their way through the refrigerant, searching for leaks and ultimately sealing them. While this is also a cost-effective method, it tends to be effective only 50 percent of the time.
While it may be necessary to provide a temporary fix, the safest and most cost effective solution may be to buy a new evaporator coil. It may cost more initially, you can avoid the hassle of temporary fixes and their possible repercussions, and enjoy the savings on your energy bill. You may find that this component is also covered under your warranty.
Get a Solid Repair by Cool Works
Ideally, your evaporator coil should last for the lifetime of your HVAC system. On average, this is about 15 to 20 years for a high-quality AC unit that has been properly maintained. However, if your AC unit has not been maintained or operates under unconventional circumstances, the evaporator coil may need to be repaired or replaced sooner. At Cool Works Co., our HVAC technicians have the skill, experience and equipment needed to inspect, clean and maintain evaporator coils. If you are experiencing a leak, contact Cool Works Co. today.