Your AC was not working fine, and the technician identified a problem with the evaporator coil. He gave you two choices to replace the coil or buy a new AC. This dilemma has financial ramifications, and obviously, you would want to go with the less cheap one. But is that really the right option? Let us try and understand whether you should replace the evaporator coil or the whole AC unit.
Evaporator Coil – What Is It?
The thing that keeps the temperature regulated inside your home, all around the year, is the evaporator coil. It is filled with refrigerant, which in hot summer months helps cool the air.
While during the cold winter months, its heat exchanging capability warms up the air and makes the environment comfortable.
During the rainy season, it works as a dehumidifier as well and draws out moisture from the air. Basically, the evaporator coil is an essential part of your AC or the HVAC unit.
Why Does Evaporator Coil Malfunction?
There are a plethora of reasons which can make the evaporator coil go bad. Some of these are avoidable, while others are not in your hands.
1. In trying to save a few dollars, homeowners often ignore the importance of regular maintenance. Lack of maintenance compounds even small issues and can result in the evaporator coil malfunction.
2. Usually, you should change the filter in the HVAC unit every 30-40 days. A dirty filter will also damage the coil.
3. Sometimes issues with the condenser coil lead to the failure of the evaporator coil. Therefore, it is necessary to keep the condenser coil clean.
4. Even incompatible refrigerants filled inside the evaporator coil can cause it to breakdown.
5. The older the AC unit, the higher are the chances of evaporator coil malfunction. With constant temperature changes, the tubes expand and contract, which makes them weak over a period of time. Hence, the chances of evaporator coil breakdown increase if the AC is old.
Why Does Evaporator Coil Need To Be Replaced?
Erosion causes the coils of the evaporator unit to weaken. In a weak state, the coil develops holes and cracks due to which the refrigerant leaks. If the points of leakage cannot be sealed completely, the evaporator coil needs to be replaced. Rather than sealing the cracks, a more cost-effective option is to replace the coil.
Replace Evaporator Coil Or Whole AC Unit
Replacing the whole AC unit is any day a costlier option than just replacing the evaporator coil. But sometimes it is wiser to make this more expensive investment. There are 3 main scenarios under which you should replace your AC unit with a brand new one.
1. Your AC Is More Than 10 Years Old – The efficiency of an AC unit is at its best for the first 10 to 12 years of its life. So if your air conditioner is nearing this deadline, it is better to buy a new one. At least you will not be working with a machine which is on the verge of a breakdown after every few days.
Changing the evaporator coil in such a case will put stress on the unit, and its efficiency of performance will decline steeply and lead to further troubles.
2. Obsolete Evaporator Coil – All ACs have a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating. Under ideal conditions, this rating should be anywhere between 13 to 21.
However, the federal minimum SEER is 14. If your air conditioner is old, the chances are that its SEER rating will be below the minimum requirement. So if your unit is 12-SEER the coils for that model are now obsolete. So much so that they aren’t made anymore.
If you still go ahead and replace the evaporator coil, there will be a mismatch in the indoor and outdoor unit. Hence, buying a new AC is better.
3. R-22 Refrigerant Is Used – R-22 is a refrigerant that is not being produced anymore. Since it is a form of chlorofluorocarbon, it harms the environment and therefore, has been phased out by almost all the countries.
With a complete ban on its production, it is not only hard to procure but also very expensive. Also, in the years to come, it will become impossible to get it anymore. If your unit uses R-22 refrigerant and the evaporator coil has sprung a leak, the HVAC expert will advise you to buy a new AC.
How To Avoid Damage To The Evaporator Coil?
Waiting for the damage to happen and then taking corrective action is not a sensible move.
Smartness would lie in ensuring that the evaporator coil does not suffer undue stress. For this, you need to get regular maintenance of your HVAC unit done by experts. Also, pay heed to their advice and do not try to do repairs on your own.
Your AC is an expensive piece of machinery so refrain from tinkering with it. A $150 maintenance charge will save you from $1500 repairs.
The above discussion would have given you a fair idea of the importance of the evaporator coil in your AC. It would also have enlightened you about when to replace the evaporator coil or the whole unit.
Chances are you would get drawn to the option which costs you less. If that is the case, convince yourself whether you are making the right decision or not keeping in mind the age of your AC, its SEER rating, and the type of refrigerant used. When in doubt, always ask for professional help.
You can easily book an appointment with us or your local HVAC technician and get their expert opinion regarding what is the best option for you. It is not necessary that you will have to buy a new AC. A proper inspection of the existing unit is the only way to ensure that you cover all your bases while making the final decision.