When Do I Need To Clean My AC Coils?

How Does the Phoenix Monsoon Season Impact Your AC Unit?

I’ve been maintaining & repairing ac units in Phoenix for almost a quarter century, and started Magic Touch Mechanical, Mesa, AZ, one of the highest rated Air Conditioning Company’s in Arizona, back in 1997. It’s fair to say myself, and the service technicians at my company, have repaired and replaced tens of thousands of air conditioning systems.

I became an HVAC Contractor for one simple reason: There will always be a need for air conditioning & refrigeration in Arizona! 

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand why AC Companies in general get a bad rap. Just like auto mechanics, there are bad apples that spoil the bunch, as the saying goes. There are many that train their technicians (I use that word lightly) to be salesmen instead of HVAC Service Technicians, to cover their large advertising budgets. But on the flip side, there are a lot of us that have perfected our craft, have well trained and certified technicians, that only desire to offer fair, ethical, honest advice & services to our customers.

The point I’m trying to make is “we”, are not all out to get you! For me, as an owner who can directly attribute my success as an air conditioning and heating contractor to providing high quality service to our clients – there is NOTHING more important than to know our service technicians are out there recommending only what’s in the best interest of our clients. As Phoenix is the 5th largest city in the country – there are plenty of ac units out there that need help, so there is no reason to recommend repairs, services, or enhancements that aren’t needed!

Why do my AC coils need to be cleaned?

I wanted to get that out of the way first and foremost for the following reason: If your HVAC service technician from a trustworthy company like Magic Touch Mechanical recommends something like condenser coil cleaning or evaporator coil cleaning – do it – and here’s why:

I’m not going to get into the air quality issues associated with a dirty evap. coil in this article – this article is strictly about the negative impact dirty coils (indoor coils and/or outdoor coils) have on the performance and longevity of your cooling & heating system and its components – especially after monsoon season.

By the time monsoon arrives in Phoenix in mid-July, our AC units have already been running practically nonstop 24/7 for about five months contending with temperatures that can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Both your indoor and outdoor units are sucking massive amounts of air through the coils like giant vacuum cleaners to exchange heat from one place to another (in the case of air conditioning the hot air is being absorbed from your home and expelled outdoors). A typical 5-ton ac unit is sucking 2,000 cubic feet of air across the coil every minute and the outdoor condenser usually over 1,000 cfm.

What does that have to do with monsoon? Well, you now those mile-high walls of dirt and debris we see coming at us before they hit our neighborhood when the skies turn a beautiful shade of brown? Do you shut off your AC during the storm?

Of course you don’t, it’s over 100 degrees outside still! So…your two “vacuum cleaners” (condenser and air handler/furnace) are pulling all that fine dust, dirt, and debris right into your coils.

When those coils get plugged up with dirt, leaves, pet hair, and other debris they can’t move enough air across them, causing components like your compressor, indoor and outdoor fan motor, and other critical (and expensive to replace) components to work too hard and pull more amperage than they were designed to. This leads to overheating of their internal components.

Sometimes this leads to immediate failure, but often it takes its toll over time, shortening the life of all the components and leaving you in the position of having to purchase a new HVAC system or expensive replacement components many years before you should’ve. Ironically, many times I’ve heard people blame “that piece of junk (insert brand)” when really their own negligence is really to blame. “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” does not apply to maintenance no matter what you’re talking about. Your cars motor isn’t broke until you fail to change the oil!

How Does an Indoor Evaporator Coil Get Dirty from Monsoon Dust?

It’s easy to understand how the outdoor coils of a split air conditioner or rooftop package heat pump get dirty after monsoon storms, but most people have trouble understanding how the indoor coils in the air handler or furnace get dirty after monsoon dust storms.

If your air handler and/or ductwork are located in the attic, as most are in the Phoenix area – they are for all intents and purposes located outside the “envelope” of your home. Your ceiling is insulated at the “floor” of your attic, meaning anything above that insulation is outside.

Have your ever noticed those “vents” on the side of your home near the attic? Those are called gable vents and allow your attic to “breathe” by letting outdoor air to be pulled through one side of your house and exhausted out the other. If you don’t have gable vents, you probably have ridge vents located on your roof, and/or rafter vents aka “bird-block”. These are all to make sure air can flow through your attic and allow moisture to escape.

Go move a box in your attic or move the insulation a little bit and watch how much settled dust becomes a cloud of fine dust in the air instantaneously. That fine dust is easily sucked into every duct leak and the air handler cabinet itself, most of which gets trapped in your coil.

Even on well-sealed ducts and air handlers, dust enters through the home, and what doesn’t get trapped by your air filter, makes its way to the indoor coil. The dust then gets stuck to that “wet” coil.

If money is a non-issue for you, or you enjoy buying new air conditioning systems and repairs – don’t worry about it, this article wasn’t meant for you! For the rest of us less fortunate, working-stiffs, this can be avoided with semi-annual (manufacturer recommended) cleaning, maintenance, and tune-ups.

If you’re reading this article at the right time, and live in, or within 35-miles of Mesa, AZ you will find a coupon for a FREE Condenser & Outdoor Coil Cleaning on the promotions page of our website AirConditioningArizona.com

If you don’t live in the Phoenix, Arizona area or are reading this article after this promotion has ended – it’s still worth investing in cleaning your coils when recommended by an AC Service Technician you trust. Spend a little to save a lot!

How Much Does an AC Compressor Cost?

Need more convincing? The average ac compressor replacement can well exceed $2,500 today, the average fan motor can exceed over $750, and a new AC unit replacement starts at over $4,000 for a basic model, and can exceed $10,000 for high-efficiency ac units ( check out our article about how much a new ac unit costs ). Personally, I clean my coils like clockwork twice a year, because when I have a spare 10k I usually buy another motorcycle!