Typical residential air conditioning systems have three critical components: the condenser, evaporator, and air handler. If your home uses forced air heating, both HVAC systems likely share the same air handling unit. You probably already know that you need to change your air conditioning filter periodically, but it's not the only part of your system that requires regular maintenance.

The evaporator coils are the magic that allows your air conditioner to deliver cool air. The refrigerant passes through these coils, absorbing heat from your home and transporting it outside. As part of this process, the evaporator coils also condense moisture from the air, reducing humidity. Maintaining your evaporator is essential to ensuring that your air conditioner operates as efficiently as possible.

The Key Parts of the Evaporator

The indoor portion of most air conditioning systems includes a housing unit that stores the evaporator coils, blower, filter, and some critical plumbing. This entire assembly may be known as the air handler or indoor unit. You can usually find this part of your air conditioning system in the basement or a utility closet. Installers typically locate the indoor unit in a convenient location for easy maintenance access.

The evaporator consists of an array of fins for efficient heat transfer, coolant lines for the refrigerant, and a drain pipe for condensation. As the coolant absorbs heat from around the evaporator coils, moisture in the air condenses into liquid water. The drain line serves the critical function of moving this water away from the evaporator, ultimately drying the air around the evaporator coils.

Necessary Evaporator Maintenance

The evaporator coil relies on the large surface area produced by its many fins to move heat from the air to the refrigerant efficiently. Dust or dirt on the evaporator can act as an insulator. Not only will this reduce the efficiency of the system, but it can also overwork other components, such as the compressor. Regularly cleaning the coils can prevent this situation from adversely impacting your system's operation.

The drain pipe is another potential weak point. The drain must remain free of obstructions so condensed water can move away from the coils. If the drain becomes clogged, you may notice damp, humid air blowing from your vents. Even worse, water that cannot drain away may freeze on the coils, further reducing efficiency and potentially causing premature wear to other components.

If you schedule a regular air conditioning maintenance visit with an HVAC contractor, they will take care of all necessary evaporator maintenance. This relatively low-cost service can save you money by keeping your system running at peak efficiency at all times.