Commercial HVACR Coil Cleaning Guide

coil cleaning

HVACR Coil Cleaning: A How-to Guide

Coil Cleaning in commercial facilities is essential to the operation of the equipment. Here, we provide information about why it is so important to perform preventative maintenance to keep these coils clean.

Dirty Coils Waste Energy and Cost Money

A coil fouled with dirt and grime cannot supply proper heat transfer and results in greater energy consumption. Equipment operating with dirty coils can use up to 37% more energy than those with clean coils. Additionally, a dirty system’s cooling capacity can be reduced by as much as 30%. Dirty coils increase operating pressure and temperatures that break down the compressor’s lubricant and result in equipment failure. A failed compressor means no cooling and costly repair.

Commercial Coil Cleaning Frequency

A coil cleaning program should be instituted when the coils are new, clean and should be performed with a frequency to prevent deterioration of the coils. This can be as often as four times a year (monthly cleaning is reported in some areas). If they do not already exist, install easy-to-open panels to gain access to the coils. This will make the job much easier and, consequently, more likely to be done when coil cleaning is necessary.

How to Clean Commercial HVAC Coils

If the coil is contaminated with light dust or dirt not adhered to the fins, blowing low-pressure compressed air across the fins or using a soft bristle brush may be sufficient. Applying plain water or mild detergent solution to the surface, allowing it to sit for a short time, then rinsing is employed in some cases. More aggressive deposits call for the use of stronger cleaning solutions or solvents as required.

Coils can be steam cleaned but require extra care. Steam must be applied at low pressure, and the stream kept parallel to the fins to prevent folding the fins over.

Another popular coil cleaning method employs a garden-type pump sprayer to apply foaming chemicals to the coil surfaces. The foam is allowed to dwell on the surface to saturate the fins. The foam is then vacuumed up, and the process is repeated. Finally, the coil is rinsed with clean water from a hose.

Perhaps the most popular cleaning method used in recent years is using pressure washers to clean coils. Pressure cleaning coils may increase airborne Macromolecular Organic Dust (MOD), which must be contained in the area being cleaned. Pressure cleaning should be done in the opposite direction of airflow through the coil. A cleaning solution can be applied before the pressure rinse using the built-in chemical injection system on the pressure washer or a hand sprayer. Care must be taken when using a pressure washer to avoid damaging the fins on the tubes. Water leaving the coil should be free of particulate.

If it is not, repeat the process. Goodway offers a complete line of CoilPro® coil cleaning machines. The CoilPro® CC-140 is a self-contained two-wheeled cart with its own built-in water and chemical tanks that can operate on building power or an integrated rechargeable battery. It can carry 5 gallons of water or can be connected to the building water supply for continuous operation. It supplies a water stream at up to 140 PSI at 1 GPM using one of four available spray nozzles. The onboard battery and water/chemical tanks allow for use anywhere. Additional models include the CC-600 AC-powered unit, which delivers up to 600 PSI at 1.6 GPM for thicker coils, and the CC-100 backpack coil cleaner unit for extreme portability. Maintenance professionals have enthusiastically received these products, and they represent the first true real breakthrough developments in coil cleaning in a long time.

Don’t Forget the Condensate Pan

The air drawn across a cooling coil contains water vapor that condenses and collects in a pan under the coil called a condensate pan. The pan is connected to a drain line to keep the pan from overflowing and causing damage to the air handler or other building structures. As it is generally wet, microorganisms can form colonies in the condensate pan. Cleaning the condensate pan and checking for proper drainage is an important part of the coil cleaning process.

To help prevent the growth of these organisms, the pan should be treated between cleanings with a biocide. Goodway’s PanCare is one example. PanCare is formulated to prevent the build-up of slime and harmful bacteria in condensate pans. It kills 99% of Legionella Pheumophilia and Salmonella Typhi Bacteria. It also contains a rust inhibitor and an acid rain neutralizer and will work for up to 3 months on a 3 to 5-ton system.

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