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A/C Air Handler Evaporator Coils Cleaning Guide
How to clean the evaporator or "cooling" coils on a home HVAC system's inside air handler unit with pictures and steps.

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Please note, I am not a professional HVAC service technician. If you have any doubts, do not proceed and consult an air conditioning company or your A/C unit's manufacturer. I assume no responsibility for damage to your property or persons.
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Inside Air Handler Unit
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Turn Off At Thermostat
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Air Handler Breaker

If your home's air conditioner is prone to "freezing over" you may need to clean the evaporator or "cooling" coils located in the indoor A/C air handler unit.

Even if your HVAC system doesn't freeze, it's still a good idea to check and clean the evaporator coils once or twice a year depending on how often you run the air conditioning in your home and whether or not you have pets.

Do not proceed with this guide if your coils are frozen over until the ice is allowed to completely melt away.

The first step with any HVAC system maintenance is to cut the power. I like to turn off the A/C at the thermostat, at the breaker switch on the air handler and at the home's main breaker box.

The tools you may need to clean the coils include a dusting tool such as Swiffer Duster, a wet/dry shop vacuum, paper towels, a can of compressed air, a foaming HVAC coil cleaning solution spray (optional), and a  plastic or wire brush (optional).

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Turn Off Circuit Breaker
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Condensate Drain Pipe
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Filter Cover Thumb Screws
To access the air handler unit's evaporator coils, you'll need to remove the A/C filter. I had to remove two thumb screws to remove the air filter cover and then slide out the mesh screen air filter itself. (If your air handler developed a water leak, check out my HVAC Air Handler Condensate Drain Pipe Unclogging & Cleaning Guide.)
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Filter Cover Removed
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Edge of A/C Filter
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Removing Mesh Filter
If you haven't cleaned the evaporator coils in your air handler in many years, you may want to invest in a spray can of HVAC system coil foaming cleaning solution. After this cleaning, I purchased a can of coil cleaner for the next time. In a pinch, you can also use very hot water in a spray bottle to help dislodge dust, debris and pet hair from your air handler's coils. Do not use bleach or anything that may be corrosive to metal. Some coil cleaning sprays claim to not require a rinse after use, but it's always a good idea to rinse off any cleaning solution with some water after use.
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Dirty Evaporator Coils
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Dust, Lint, Pet Hair
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Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum
I started off cleaning the evaporator coils by gently running a soft Swiffer Duster up and down and across the coils. The most important thing when working with HVAC system coils is to be very gentle. If you bend, crush, or damage the coils in any way, it may reduce the efficiency of the unit and negate the beneficial effects of the cleaning.



 

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Swiffer Duster
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Wiping Down Coils
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Swiffer Duster On Coils
If you don't have a Swiffer Duster, I found that using dry and also moist paper towels with very minimal pressure worked well to remove some of the clumps of pet hair and dust stuck to the evaporator coils.
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Pet Hair & Dust Removed
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To get any stubborn pieces of dust, dirt or pet hair, I used a Rigid 5 HP wet/dry shop vacuum with the narrow car cleaning tip attached. If you also choose to use a wet/dry or any other vacuum, be very careful to not allow the tip to actually touch the coils. The key to not damaging the coils with the vacuum is to maintain control of the suction area and always keep it just barely off the delicate metal edges of the coils. It helps to switch from the vacuum to blow air side of the wet/dry vacuum to attempt to dislodge any dust or hair that could not be sucked up.
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Carefully Vacuum Hair
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Vacuum Bottom Edge
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Do Not Touch Coils!
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Do Not Bend Fragile Coils
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Dust Off Compressed Air
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Blowing Out Dust
I also attempted to blow out the coils with a can of compressed air, but found that it was not as effective as the wet/dry shop vacuum. I continued to repeat this cleaning process for almost an hour and sprayed down the coils with hot water  in a home spray bottle to finish the job. I plan on cleaning the evaporator coils again in a few months with the foaming cleaning spray and perhaps use a wire brush to gently comb out any hair or dust stuck in the coils.
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Pet Hair In Vacuum
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Carefully Wipe Coils
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Hair On Paper Towel
If you still have the energy and some time, this would be a good time to check that all your A/C vents are wide open and also clean them with the wet/dry shop vacuum to ensure maximum HVAC system efficiency.
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Big Ball of Pet Hair
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Coils Getting Cleaner
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Clean Mesh A/C Air Filter
For more of my related home maintenance guides, click on the following links: A/C Run/Start Capacitor Replacement Guide, Dryer Hot Air Exhaust Vent Cleaning Guide, Culligan US-600A Undersink Water Filter Installation Guide, Culligan Refrigerator Icemaker Installation Guide, Kitchen Sink Drain Leak Repair Guide, Culligan IC-EZ-1 Water Filter Install Guide, Honda EU3000is Generator Maintenance Guide, Sticky Door Lock Lubrication Guide, Hunter Just Right Digital Thermostat Installation Guide, Kenmore Refrigerator Clogged Defrost Drain Pipe Water Leak Repair Guide, N:Vision CFL Light Bulbs, Fagor Pressure Cooker Review, Toilet Water Supply Valve Leak Repair Guide, Kenmore Range 220V Power Supply Repair, Carpenter Bee Pest Control Guide, and How To Deep Fry A Turkey.
 
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