Of all the parts inside an air conditioner, the evaporator coil is one of the most important. It contains the refrigerant that absorbs heat from the air as it passes over, and without it, the air conditioner wouldn’t produce any cold air.
Unfortunately, the copper pipes inside the evaporator coil can deteriorate. When this happens, you’ll end up with an evaporator coil leak that requires prompt repairs. In this blog, we explain what causes an AC coil leak and how to keep it from happening so you don’t need to spend money on an AC coil replacement.
Table of Contents
What Causes an Evaporator Coil To Leak?
The most common cause of an evaporator coil leak is corrosion. The interaction of water, copper, and volatile organic compounds in the air creates formic acid, which eats away at the pipes. Eventually, this corrosion creates a leak, allowing refrigerant to escape.
VOCs in the air can come from many sources, including household cleaners, personal care products, and even the materials used to build your home and furnishings. Living in a coastal area like Jacksonville can also increase the VOCs in the air; the salt air speeds up the deterioration of many objects, especially metal ones.
Pet urine is another common reason for corrosion. When animals “do their business” on the outdoor unit, their urine can quickly corrode the evaporator coils and other mechanical components.
Corrosion is the most common reason for evaporator coil leaks, but it’s not the only possible culprit. Mold or biofilm accumulating on the pipes can weaken the copper tubing and cause a leak. It’s also possible for the vibrations that occur when you run the unit to weaken or even puncture the tubes, creating a hole that allows the refrigerant to leak.
Finally, a clog in the drain line can cause condensation to back up and leak out. This could be the reason you notice water dripping from evaporator coils.
How Coil Corrosion Can Affect Your AC Unit
The most likely outcome of corrosion is an air conditioner coil leak. Even a tiny hole in the copper pipes can allow the refrigerant to escape. The gas is potentially toxic, and the air conditioner will struggle to cool your home.
A leaking evaporator coil can also contribute to other damage to the AC unit. The condenser needs refrigerant to maintain the pressure necessary to function. When the refrigerant leaks out, the condenser won’t turn on, and you won’t have any air conditioning at all.
4 Warning Signs of a Damaged AC Evaporator Coil
If you suspect an evaporator coil leak, you need help from an HVAC technician to investigate, make repairs, and refill the refrigerant. But how do you know if the coil is the source of an air conditioner problem?
Identifying an evaporator coil issue is relatively easy since the part is so critical to the unit’s performance and cooling power. Here are four common signs to watch for:
- The air conditioner isn’t producing cold air, or the airflow is weak and not very cold.
- Warm air blowing from the vents.
- The compressor doesn’t activate because there isn’t enough refrigerant pressure.
- The unit doesn’t produce cold air at a consistent temperature.
How To Prevent Evaporator Coil Leakage
The best way to deal with a leaking evaporator coil and avoid needing an evaporator coil replacement is to keep it from happening in the first place. That means protecting it against corrosion and other damage.
Although you cannot stop corrosion from happening entirely, taking the following steps can help slow the effects and stop damage before it starts:
- Reduce VOCs in your home. Choose products labeled “low VOC” to avoid releasing chemicals into the air that can contribute to corrosion.
- Invest in UV lights. Installing UV lights in the air handler can help eliminate mold and bacteria from the air that cause the evaporator coil to deteriorate.
- Install an energy recovery ventilator. These systems pull fresh air into your home and push contaminated air out, improving indoor air quality while also protecting the evaporator coils.
Ensure Air Conditioner Problems Are Addressed With Waychoff’s Air Conditioning
If there’s a leak in your air conditioner’s evaporator coil, the only permanent solution is an AC coil replacement. Repairs typically aren’t possible because it can be challenging to find the leak, and there may be more than one problem area. Adding refrigerant can temporarily keep the unit producing cold air while you wait for new parts, but it’s not a long-term option.
Sometimes, technicians can seal leaks, but again, there’s a good chance that won’t work. In that case, replacing the coils is the best choice, but depending on the age and condition of the unit, a total air conditioner replacement may be the most cost-effective solution.
In any case, at the first sign of trouble, call Waychoff’s Air Conditioning for prompt, professional help. We specialize in air conditioners and will quickly determine whether you have an evaporator coil leak and, if so, how to handle it. Jacksonville, FL, residents trust our industry-leading technicians for all their air conditioning needs, including maintenance, repairs, UV light installation, indoor air quality services, and more.
Making a same or next-day appointment with one of our qualified HVAC experts takes less than a minute online. Or, give us a call at (904) 454-8261 to speak with a representative.