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What Is an HVAC Evaporator Coil and Why It’s Important

Cassie Pound, owner of Quality Heating, Cooling, Plumbing & Electric
Published by
Cassie Pound
July 30, 2022
What Is an HVAC Evaporator Coil and Why It’s Important

Whether you have a heat pump, furnace, or air conditioner, your unit has one job; to blow the appropriate air temperature on command for maximum indoor comfort. The moment it ceases to do so, your first instinct is probably to toss it out and buy a new one. However, knowing the parts of your system and what each one does will help you better understand how to remedy a breakdown.

The HVAC evaporator coil is crucial in creating optimal temperatures and is usually at fault for inefficiency and system deterioration. That’s why it’s at the top of our checklist. Our HVAC installation experts in Tulsa from Quality Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing handle everything from coil maintenance, repairs, and replacements to financing, so your system makes you comfortable in more ways than one. 

What Is an HVAC Evaporator Coil?

Evaporator coils within the AC’s air handler are the heat absorption mechanisms that pull in warm air and pass it over a cooling refrigerant. It then releases the cooled air back inside. It works with the air conditioner condenser coils, which release excess heat outside your home. 

Similarly, the HVAC evaporator coil on a furnace or within the blower compartment of a heat pump contains a gaseous refrigerant that sucks in humid and moist indoor and outdoor air. The blower then releases the hot air through the ducts and into each household room. 

Why Is an Evaporator Coil Important to the System?

Since the evaporator coil brings in the air that the system heats, cools, or moves between your indoor and outdoor area, part failure leads to inadequate performance. You may notice little to no airflow, limited heating and cooling ability, and hot and cold spots around your home. 

Evaporator coils with limited functioning capabilities due to a lack of regular cleanings or annual professional maintenance will also work harder to create your desired indoor climate. Clogs and buildups block airflow, preventing the refrigerant from transferring heat. Your system will overheat, leading to malfunctions and eventually serious repairs or necessary replacements. 

You’ll receive around a 30% spike in electric bills as your system works harder and longer to adhere to your thermostat settings. If the temperature in your evaporator coil falls below its usual level, you’ll also have a problem with ice crystals that begin to form, freezing and cracking the coils and straining the blower fan. 

How to Tell When the Evaporator Coils Need Cleaning or Repairs 

Your system’s air filter traps dust, dirt, and dander from the air as it passes through. Therefore, change or clean your air filter monthly to maintain optimal airflow. However, the following issues may prompt you to clean or repair the HVAC evaporator coil.

  • Warm air blowing through your vents during the summer may mean poor air output, which you may remedy by brushing debris out of dirty evaporator coils. It may also mean a thermostat misread, requiring an electrician to examine the wiring, or a faulty cooling mechanism, like a refrigerant leak.
  • Short cycling means your system is overheating due to an incorrectly sized unit or dirty filters, causing it to power off before completing a heating or cooling cycle. It may also mean a loose electrical connection, which may also cause your unit not to turn on altogether. Frozen coils also cause the compressor to burn out and limit blower fan operations. 
  • Frozen coils indicate ice formation that produces crystals inside and outside the coil and leaks near your unit since condensation buildup in the coils seeps out. You may clean the ice by turning off your system for up to 24 hours, allowing it to thaw, removing the ice with a cloth, or pouring warm water over it. However, reoccurring freezing requires professional assistance. 
  • A refrigerant leak causes frozen evaporator coils, longer cooling cycles, and strange noises. Low cooling output also shows low refrigerant levels that prevent proper air intake and cooling power. Leaks require professional coil repairs and refrigerant refills. 

What Are the Signs I Need Replacement Coils?

While you or a technician can remedy most HVAC evaporator coil concerns with a cleaning or minor repair, an evaporator leak is not one of them. Evaporator coils typically last up to 15 years like your unit, meaning that by the end of your evaporator coil’s lifespan, you should consider exchanging your AC, heat pump, or furnace rather than the coil alone.

However, air quality rich in moisture, copper, and volatile organic compounds corrode the copper coil tubing, causing premature cracks and leaks. A common sign of an evaporator coil leak is if you’re constantly recharging your refrigerant gas, something you only need to do when there’s a leak. 

Upon suspecting that you may need a replacement, call us, and we’ll conduct an electronic leak check to uncover any issues. If you have a minor leak due to loosened or old fittings, we’ll tighten them and refill your refrigerant. Otherwise, we’ll have to take apart the unit, retrieve the remaining refrigerant, and replace the coil.  

Depending on your leak, warranty, and unit age, you’ll spend anywhere from $600 to $2,000 on a replacement part and refrigerant, which resembles repair prices. Therefore, consult your technician on the best way to handle your evaporator coil leak. For instance, if your system is old or has undergone extreme corrosion, leaks may reoccur in different spots, while a new unit will get by with a repair. 

Quality: Our Promise Is in Our Name

Deciphering whether the HVAC evaporator coil is the culprit of a malfunctioning unit is tricky. Certain symptoms like a nonfunctioning unit may result from a tripped circuit breaker, a faulty component, or a defective system. If you’re unsure of the issue or need professional guidance to remedy it, call for quality inspections and repairs. 

We know about common issues in cooling systems and heating units, and for almost a decade, we’ve provided responsive, honest, and locally-owned expertise. Call Quality Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing at 918-212-0122 for a free consultation in Glenpool and Tulsa, OK, today!

Cassie Pound, owner of Quality Heating, Cooling, Plumbing & Electric
Published by
Cassie Pound

Cassie Pound is the Vice President of Quality Heating, Cooling, Plumbing & Electric with locations in Tulsa, Glenpool, and Bartlesville, Oklahoma.