How To Clean Heat Pump Coils the Right Way

Like a traditional HVAC system, heat pumps have coils that facilitate heat transfer. These coils need regular cleaning to stay in optimal condition, and, fortunately, you can perform most of this cleaning DIY at home. Today, the team at JC Mechanical is here with this quick guide on how to clean heat pump coils effectively.

Contact Denver’s expert heat pump maintenance team today!

how to clean heat pump coils

What Are Heat Pump Coils?

Coils in heat pumps play the same role as they do in regular HVAC systems. Heat pumps have indoor and outdoor units, both of which contain coils. When the pump is in cooling mode, the indoor coil acts as an evaporator and extracts heat from the air into refrigerant fluid. Pumps move the fluid to the outdoor coil, where it releases the heat energy and the refrigerant fluid condenses back into a liquid.

In heating mode, the process is the same, except the reversing valve turns back the flow of coolant. In heating mode, the outdoor coil extracts heat from the air, then moves the heat inside the home. The indoor unit releases the stored heat energy and moves the liquid refrigerant back to the compressor to start the process again.

Over time, these coils can pick up dust and dirt that affect their performance and compromise indoor air quality. Dirty coils can’t transfer heat as effectively, so the increased activity can strain your system unnecessarily, increasing the chances of a breakdown.

Cleaning Heat Pump Coils: Step-by-Step Guide

Before learning how to clean heat pump coils, you will need the following tools:

  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Rubber gloves
  • Mild detergent or dish soap
  • Bucket
  • Garden hose
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Fin comb
  • Spray bottle (optional)

Turn Off Power

The first thing you should do before ever performing maintenance on electrical appliances is turn off the power. Heat pumps pull a lot of electricity, and it is possible to electrocute yourself and cause serious injury if you are not careful.

You can cut the power to your heat pump through the shut-off box next to it. If you can’t find a shut-off box or there isn’t one on your heat pump model, cut the power through the main breaker box instead. Double-check that the power is off before working on the machine.

Clear Area Around Unit

To make cleaning go as efficiently as possible, you must have a clear space around the unit. Clear all debris, plants, and other items in a two-to-three-foot radius around the unit. More generally, you should keep this clearance in mind when installing any fixtures or plants outside your home. Don’t forget to remove loose dirt and debris, like leaves and sticks.

Removing surrounding debris will keep it from interfering when you are cleaning. Additionally, clearing the area around the outdoor heat pump unit will prevent the coils from getting dirty, reducing the frequency you have to clean them and maximizing airflow for better heat pump performance.

Remove Outer Cover

After clearing the ground near your heat pump condenser unit, remove the outer cover and expose the interior coils. Unscrew the cover, taking care not to lose the screws in your yard. You do not want to damage the electrical components while you are cleaning, so remove the fan unit as well. If you can’t take the fan out, block it off from water so it doesn’t get wet.

Clean Coils

At last, it’s time to learn how to clean heat pump coils effectively. Using the spray bottle, spray your cleaning solution onto the coils, taking care to coat the entire surface. You can buy a coil cleaning solution from a local hardware store, but you can also use regular soap and water. Avoid harsh chemical cleaners as they could do more harm than good as you clean the coils.

First, rinse the coils with your garden hose to remove the largest debris and grime. Don’t press your thumb over the end of the hose to make the pressure higher, as the spray can damage other electrical components. Gently scrub the coils, being sure to use a soft-bristled brush.

Once you have scrubbed the coils, gently rinse them with water. You can touch them up with a microfiber cloth afterward, but this step is not necessary. You must let the coils dry for at least an hour before turning the heat pumps back on.

Straighten Fins

It is very likely you will bend some of the coil fins while you are cleaning. Bent fins are common, but leaving them that way can damage your system by restricting airflow. You can use a fin comb to straighten these bent fins.

Don’t try to use a replacement object, like a screwdriver or knife, to straighten the fins, or else you could permanently damage your coils. If you can’t find the right kind of fin comb from a hardware store or online, you should call a professional to realign them.

Reattach the Cover

Reattach the outer cover once you have straightened the fins and let the coils dry. If you removed the fan or any other electrical components, return them to their original position. It helps to take a picture before disassembling so you can remember where everything should go.

Turn the Unit Back On

After reattaching the cover, flip the switch to turn the machine back on. Program a test cycle to ensure everything works correctly. You can test the system by changing thermostat settings. If cleaning your coils doesn’t fix the problem, contact an expert to assess your heat pumps.

Benefits of Coil Cleaning

Below are some of the main benefits of cleaning your heat pump coils.

Better Performance

Clean coils are better able to transfer heat, which translates into better heat pump performance. Clogged coils restrict airflow and make it harder for heat transfer to occur so that cycles take longer to complete. Dirty coils can reduce system efficiency by as much as 60%, so cleaning will dramatically improve system performance.

Lower Energy Bills

Another benefit of cleaning your coils is lowering your energy bills. Dirty coils make your system work harder to perform as it should. The result is spiking energy bills, even as AC performance stays the same or worsens. Cleaning your coils makes them more efficient, reducing your monthly energy costs.

Extend System Lifespan

Lastly, regular coil cleaning can extend your system’s lifespan. Heat pumps tend to last longer than traditional HVAC systems, and cleaning can extend their lifespans even further. Your heat pumps can last 30 to 40 years with proper care and maintenance.

How Often Should I Clean My Heat Pump Coils?

We recommend homeowners clean their heat pump coils at least once yearly — preferably every six months. The more frequently you clean your coils, the less likely you are to experience heat pump problems. Consider such maintenance a small investment in your health and peace of mind.

#1 Heating and Air Conditioning Services in Denver

Now that you know how to clean heat pump coils, take the next step. Family-owned and -operated JC Mechanical has over 30 years of experience as Denver’s leading heating and cooling provider. Every certified HVAC technician on our team can provide a wide range of personalized HVAC solutions for homes and businesses. With reasonable pricing and free estimates, we aim to make superior HVAC services affordable for all homeowners.

Fill out our contact form online or call JC Mechanical today at (720) 779-7263 to schedule heat pump repair or maintenance services!

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