How Often Should You Replace Your Evaporator Coil?

A: Hopefully never, that would be my answer—only when there’s a failure. An evaporator coil should last the life of the system if it’s been installed properly and if there’s nothing that’s going to compromise the integrity of the surface of the coil that would cause a leak or corrosion.

There’s nothing that indicates that you should replace an evaporator coil from time to time. It’s usually replaced when the system is replaced with something newer.

I would say that these days you’ll see failures for evaporator coils because we use a refrigerant that runs at a very high pressure. R-410a is the current refrigerant that’s popular for residential air conditioners.

But yeah, you shouldn’t have to replace it unless there’s a major failure.

Although it’s never seen and rarely noticed unless it stops doing its job—your evaporator coil is one of the core components of your HVAC system. The evaporator coil is what facilitates the heat exchange process that cools the air in your home in the warmer months. Additionally, in Houston, an evaporator coil also performs as a dehumidifier. Houston is humid enough as it is, so without an evaporator coil for those warm spring showers, your home can be unbearable.

Although an evaporator coil is extremely efficient, its performance can be significantly impacted if not maintained properly. Part of that maintenance is routine inspections and cleanings. If you notice the humidity in your home is more significant, or your home is not cooling properly, you might want to have the evaporator coil checked.

AIRTEAM is Houston’s most trusted HVAC service provider and can diagnose your issue correctly on the first visit. For now, let’s dive a little deeper into the mysterious evaporator coil and when you should replace it, and if you should replace it. The answers may surprise you.

Why Does An Evaporator Coil Fail?

There’s a multitude of reasons why an evaporator coil can fail. Some of these are preventable and some are just a roll of the dice and out of your control.

  • In these tight economic times, homeowners will skip a scheduled maintenance program like our MVP planned service. Opting out may save you a small amount monthly, however, in the end, it will end up costing you many times more. When you skip regular maintenance, minor issues can turn into major ones and cause a domino effect. This can even lead up to major component failure, such as the evaporator coil.
  • Failing to change or at least check the filter at least once a month can cause damage to the evaporator coil. When the filter gets too dirty it allows debris and dirt to pass through and also restricts airflow. This makes the unit work harder which can cause damage to the coil as well.
  • Using the right refrigerant for your system is critical as well. Using the wrong refrigerant can cause the evaporator coil to break down. For example, you cannot use the current standard, R410-A in an older system that uses R-22. R410-A runs at a much higher pressure and will rupture the coil in an R-22 system.
  • The older your HVAC system is, the greater the odds of evaporator coil failure. An evaporator coil is a heavy-duty component designed to last for at least the life of the system. However, it is still a wear and tear part. With temperature changes, the tubes contract and expand. Over time, that wears the coil out and a failure later in the life of the system is more likely than when it’s new.   

Why Does It Have To Be Replaced?

The coil needs to be replaced because, over time, conditions such as corrosion causes the coils to become compromised. When it’s compromised like that, it can develop pitting which turns into holes and cracks. The refrigerant leaks and therefore it can no longer cool the air as efficiently, if at all. The cracks technically can be sealed in some cases, however, it does not guarantee how long that will hold up. So, the more cost-effective option is to replace the coil.

However, in some cases replacing the coil isn’t always the best solution despite maybe being the least expensive upfront. It may, in fact, be a smarter choice to replace the whole unit.

Replace The Evaporator Coil Or Replace The Whole Unit?

Hold on, hear us out. We agree, that replacing your entire AC unit is going to be more expensive than just replacing the coil. However, it may be the better investment in your home. Naturally, if you just replaced your AC last year—that is not the case. We’re talking about specific scenarios where replacing the entire unit is the smarter choice.

Your AC Is Over 10 Years Old

Your AC is at its peak performance, strength, and efficiency within the first 10-12 years of its life. That may be a few years longer for ultra-high-end units, but the fact remains—machines wear out. If your unit is past this age range or nearing it, it’s a smarter investment to buy a new unit.

The benefits outweigh the initial investment as well. You won’t be spending money left and right making repairs on an aging machine. If you buy comparable to your current unit, the new AC will be even more efficient than your old unit was.

Additionally, changing the evaporator coil on units this old causes undue stress on the unit and leads to a drop in performance and efficiency.

Your Evaporator Coil Is An Obsolete Part

All Houston AC units are required to have a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating. Typically that rating should come in anywhere from 14-23 on average. Those aren’t just numbers we’re making up, it’s federal requirements as directed by the EPA.

Now, you may have a unit that is older and falls below that, for example, a 12 SEER unit. Since that is now well below the federal minimum of 14, finding a replacement coil would be near impossible.

In this case, you really have no other option but to replace the AC, but you will save so much in the end.

The system uses R-22 Refrigerant

R-22, also called freon has been phased out due to EPA regulations and is no longer produced. Even if you could find some old stock, it’s very expensive due to scarcity. There isn’t a reputable Houston AC repair company that will suggest replacing the coil on such a system. The smart move is to replace the AC altogether. Even having old inventory of R-22 will soon be banned so it just makes sense to upgrade now.

How To Avoid Coil Damage

Your evaporator coil is not something you want to be reactive with. You want to be proactive and prevent damage in the first place. Waiting for the coil to incur damage and then doing something is a costly move. It’s very simple to prevent damage to your evaporator coil all you need is to follow two rules:

  • Keep it maintained regularly—Our MVP service plan keeps your system running strong and efficient and helps discover new minor issues before they become major ones.
  • Don’t try DIY repairs on your unit— Not only is it an expensive piece of equipment with complex parts, but it also holds a lot of voltage even after cutting the power. You can electrocute yourself real easily if inexperienced.

Have Trouble With Your HVAC?

If your AC is not performing as you feel it should don’t risk it with tinkering around the unit. Let the pros at AIRTEAM diagnose the problem and give you your best options.

Contact us today to speak with one of our comfort experts!

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