The Ultimate Guide to Identifying and Cleaning Condenser Coils

03.13.23 | Preventive Maintenance

What are condenser coils & what do they do?

Condenser coils are a major working component in a cooling system. 

The condenser coil’s sole job is to remove heat from a cooling system, allowing the refrigerant to turn from a gaseous state into a liquid state.

Heat is efficiently removed through the coils or thin metal fins with the help of a fan blowing through the condenser.

What do condenser coils look like?

Condenser coils come in all shapes and sizes, but if you look close enough, they all look the same. 

They are easily identifiable by their anatomy – many, very thin sheets of metal, each separated by a few millimeters to allow air to flow through. 

You will also see a metal or copper pipe snaking through the coils.

Here is a picture of what a condenser coil looks like:

If you look closer, you can see the very thin sheets of metal spaced out evenly, with a metal pipe running through them.

Why should you clean condenser coils regularly?

As mentioned earlier, a fan is constantly blowing air through the coils to cool them. 

As such, dust and debris build quickly over time and clog the coils.

Example of a very dirty condenser coil vs. a clean condenser coil:

Dust and debris make condenser coils less efficient, thereby forcing your cooling system to “work harder” to reach a desired temperature. 

This all boils down to higher energy bills and accelerated wear & tear on your cooling system’s components.

So, condenser coils need to be cleaned regularly.

Brushing the coils or vacuuming them removes the dust and built-up debris, allowing air to flow freely through the coils. 

This allows your cooling system (freezer, fridge, or HVAC unit) to operate more efficiently and, ultimately, last longer without failure.

How often should you clean condenser coils?

Weekly.  Condenser coils should be visually inspected and cleaned weekly.

Dust and debris accumulate between the metal fins quickly, so it is important to clean or vacuum the coils regularly.

What do you need to clean condenser coils?

Ideally, a vacuum with a hose and soft brush.

For outdoor units, you can wash them with a hose and water to remove all dust & debris.

You can also use compressed air to blow away dust & debris between the metal fins.

What equipment has condenser coils?

Any system that provides cooling or heating has condenser coils.

  • HVAC Units
  • All Types of Refrigerators and Freezers
    • Walk-In Coolers
    • Walk-In Freezers
    • Reach-In Coolers
    • Reach In Freezers
    • Display Coolers

Basically, any system that uses energy (electric power) to cool keep cool or freeze food or beverage.

Where are the condenser coils located?

They are typically located at the foot or bottom of the unit, hidden by a vent gate.

They can also be found behind the unit.

Smaller condenser coils can also be found at the bottom, accessed through the back of the unit.

You will have to look inside to spot them and clean them.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Condenser Coils

Once you know how to identify condenser coils and access them, they are easy to clean.

Always follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance instructions.  The following are general steps and should only be used as guidance.

1. Turn OFF the unit.

2. Locate the condenser coils. 

  • If you see a vent at the bottom of the unit, the condenser coils are usually right behind it.  If not, then look behind the unit or at the bottom of the unit from behind.

3. If there is a vent gate or covering, gently remove it. 

  • Please refer to the manufacturer’s instructions manual to remove it.

4. Use a vacuum or brush (or both).

  • Remove all dust & debris built up on the fins.

5. For outdoor units, like an AC unit.

  • Use a hose and wash the fins thoroughly to remove most of the debris. 
  • Use a brush if needed.

6. Make sure you do not damage or bend the fins. 

  • They are very delicate and can bend easily.
  • Bent fins reduce the airflow through the system, so be careful.

7. Put the vent gate or covering back on

8. Turn ON the unit 

  • Ensure it is working before leaving.

Now that you have a basic understanding of condenser coils and how to clean them, the hard part is staying on top of your schedule to maintain them. 

See why more restaurant operators are turning to preventive maintenance software such as MaintainIQ to easily track and manage the maintenance schedules and histories of all their kitchen equipment.

Will Jocson

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