When it comes to air conditioning failures, it's easy to focus on problems that originate with mechanical parts. Fans or compressors can stop working as bearings or other mechanical components wear out, but the failure points for static items such as your condenser coils can be more subtle. Despite this, the impacts of a bad condenser coil on your whole system can be just as severe as any other failure.
Since the role of your condenser coils is to release heat from the system, condenser failures often result in poor air conditioning performance. You may notice warm air from your vents, short-cycling as the compressor overheats, or reduced energy efficiency. When the condenser coils are the cause of these problems, it's often due to one of these three issues.
Since condenser coils do not use iron, they will not rust. All-aluminum designs or condensers with copper tubing may corrode, however. For aluminum, corrosion is not a significant concern since the aluminum oxide that forms will protect the material from further wear. Unfortunately, corrosion on copper tubing can be a problem and can lead to pitting or other severe issues.
Condenser coil corrosion will not be visible with just a surface examination. Corrosion severe enough to impact the operation of the coils or create leaks is rare, but it may be the cause of your issues if your condenser is especially old or located near saltwater. When the damage becomes severe enough, the coil will likely begin to leak refrigerant.
2. Physical Damage
Your condenser coil consists of two significant parts: the fins and the tubing. Refrigerant runs through the tubing, which snakes through the coil fins. The extra surface area provided by the fins helps the refrigerant to release its heat into the surrounding atmosphere before traveling back to the evaporator coils in your home.
Debris that is blown about by high winds or falling from trees can sometimes physically damage your condenser coils, resulting in reduced efficiency. In most cases, this damage manifests as bent fins. The coil fins will be visible on the outside of your condenser, so you can typically check for signs of trouble. A professional can usually repair fin damage using a radiator fin comb, although minor damage may be harmless.
3. Dirt and Debris
If your condenser coils are reducing your system's efficiency or cooling ability, they may not be damaged. A large enough build-up of dirt and debris on the fins can insulate them and reduce airflow, ultimately making it more difficult for the refrigerant to release heat. This condition can lead to similar symptoms as failing coils would show.
Coil cleaning should be a part of your annual HVAC service, but you can perform this work yourself if your condenser unit is particularly dirty. Water and dish soap can safely clean condenser coils, although specialty coil cleaning solutions will usually be more effective.
To learn more, contact an air conditioning repair contractor.