What You Should Know About Central AC Evaporator Coil Leaks

In many ways, the evaporator coils are the most important part of your central air conditioner. Evaporator coils cool the air directly when you use your AC. They accomplish this by evaporating refrigerant and absorbing heat from the air around them.

When refrigerant leaks out of the evaporator coils, it can create serious problems for your air conditioner. Here's what you should know to identify and resolve central AC evaporator coil leaks.

What Causes Evaporator Coil Leaks?

Most evaporator coil leaks occur when the coils fall prey to corrosion. A simple and unavoidable chemical reaction can lead to evaporator coil corrosion in any home. Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, and condensation on the surface of your coils can react with copper in the coils to create formic acid. This acid will slowly eat away at your evaporator coils over time.

Traces of VOCs are found in virtually every home because they are a byproduct of many home construction materials. Paint, varnish, caulk, and new carpet and upholstery all release minute amounts of VOCs into the air. The same can be said of many products used at home, such as air fresheners, chemical cleaners, and perfumes.

What Are the Signs of Leaking Evaporator Coils?

Poor performance from your air conditioner is a hallmark sign of leaking evaporator coils. As refrigerant is lost, your AC will take longer to remove heat from the air, and its total capacity for removing heat is reduced. You may notice that your vents are blowing the same amount of air, but it simply isn't as cool as it used to be.

More severe evaporator coil leaks may cause noticeable signs around the furnace assembly, which houses the evaporator coils. You might hear a hissing or bubbling noise near the furnace housing as the pressurized refrigerant fluid escapes from the coils. Some types of refrigerant also emit a weak, slightly sweet chemical smell.

Can Evaporator Coil Leaks Be Repaired?

Even a pinhole leak can release enough refrigerant to cause a problem. The problem arises when you realize several of these leaks may be present in the cramped, twisting pipework of your evaporator coils. Instead, professional plumbers opt to replace the evaporator coils when the refrigerant loop is compromised.

Modern central air conditioners usually have modular coils that can be replaced as an individual component. This is a complex job that should be left to a professional, as there is a risk of exposure to toxic refrigerant. Most homeowners can expect to pay between $600 and $2000 for professional evaporator coil replacement.

Evaporator coil leaks can make a big impact on your monthly energy costs and your home's comfort. Use this information to spot evaporator coil leaks so you can call for professional repairs when needed. For more information on AC repair, contact a professional near you.