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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Texas Hill Country
    Posts
    53

    Steam-Cleaning Coils?

    What's the general consensus around here about using a small resi-grade steam cleaner to clean evap coils? Is there a consensus?

    I've never done it on an in-place coil, but the Boss seems to think it's a good idea. (The idea is to avoid pulling filthy coils whenever possible) As far as I know, the steamer is only rated to produce steam at around 220F or slightly less. Not sure about the PSI, but it's negligible. I used it to clean out my fridge and had to hold the nozzle in place for a while to remove what I assumed was sticky soda residue.

    It's a distilled-water cleaner, no chemicals or anything. I tried it on an old slant coil that was waiting to be recycled, using a soft nylon brush attachment, and I have to say it cleaned the crud off better than anything I've ever seen. Obviously I don't know if it damaged the coil in any way, but superficially, at least, it seems fine. Bright and shiny, almost like new. Shame it has a fist-sized hole through the middle.

    So... Ideas? Thoughts? Swear words?
    "Every mathematician knows it is impossible to understand an elementary course in thermodynamics."

    -V.I. Arnold

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    1,008
    get some coil cleaner/soap/degreaser, dump it into a fumigation/garden variety spray pump and some water and pump away. or just get the pressure washer out.
    Parts Changer Extraordinaire
    ------------------------------------------------------
    Have tools and gauges, will travel.

    RIDGID|YELLOW JACKET|UEI|TESTO|STANLEY|CPS|VETO| KLEIN|MILWAUKEE|MASTERCRAFT|

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Houston,TX
    Posts
    11
    I am working on an apartment complex that is 32 years old, talk about some dirty coils! I use a pump up spray bottle with nu-brite http://nucalgon.com/ followed with an air compressor. Sometimes it looks like mud coming out of it. I debate on removeing them and cleaning them but found blowing air with water gets them clean enough vs opening the system. Some of these Rudd systems are 32 yo condensers and still running and its not from preventive maint til now.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Boston/Cape Cod
    Posts
    66
    Quote Originally Posted by proretro View Post
    I am working on an apartment complex that is 32 years old, talk about some dirty coils! I use a pump up spray bottle with nu-brite http://nucalgon.com/ followed with an air compressor. Sometimes it looks like mud coming out of it. I debate on removeing them and cleaning them but found blowing air with water gets them clean enough vs opening the system. Some of these Rudd systems are 32 yo condensers and still running and its not from preventive maint til now.
    That sounds like a lot of fun Only good thing about jobs like this is, you knew it's better after

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    North Richland Hills, Texas
    Posts
    14,914
    Quote Originally Posted by proretro View Post
    I use a pump up spray bottle with nu-brite http://nucalgon.com/ followed with an air compressor.
    If you are using nu-brite on evaporator coils, and not rinsing them with water extremely thoroughly, you will likely need to change out a bunch of evaporator coils soon when they start leaking.

    You should also not be using it inside, the vapors from it are harmful.

    For in place cleaning of evaporator coils indoors, and without the ability to wash tons of water through them to get all of the cleaner off, only use self rinsing coil cleaners that are specifically for evaporator coils.

    Also, read all of the instructions, and MSDS, for the cleaners you use. Misuse can cause damage to the equipment, and to you.
    If more government is the answer, then it's a really stupid question.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Pompano Bch, S Fla
    Posts
    57
    Sounds plausible but this is the first I've ever heard of it, please let us know if it works. As for in place coil cleans I have used NuBrite for years for in place cleans. But only if you can drag a hose inside with the high pressure-low volume nozzle attached. And of course a contractor bag taped in place to catch errant particles and water. Flushing the line goes without saying. Following with bleach or pan tabs also helps.
    You gotta love showing the customer the before and after

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    NC
    Posts
    37
    Just thought i'de throw in my two cents. I am also dealing with an apartment customer with 20 plus year old filthy coils. I called the Coil Jet factory and was put in touch with a local sales rep. He has a loaner that I am trying out.
    The furnace units are old Snyder General, slant coils, usually 2 ton. I started with Ace Self rinse Detergent cleaner, then rinsed with the 100 psi spray nozzle. Started on the back of the coil, move back and forth front to back. The coil is 1.5 inches thick. It helped tremendously but the maintenance super didn't go WOW. The pressure did not damage the fins, even when I tried. When the bottom 1/3 got clean enough, the water just ran down the fins, no overspray. Most of the overflow we got at the start was a clogged condensate.
    I spoke the the sales rep today, we are going to "tweak" the next attempt, including a stronger shop vac, I'm making a plexiglass shield to put in the filter rack to avoid almost all overflow, a different coil cleaner with more foaming action and maybe even a funnel for the shop vac to press against the dirty side to create suction while I pressure wash the other side. I'm trying hard to make this effective, cutting and pulling 250+ coils is probably not an option.
    The other tweak is that I'm going to measure air flow before and after the cleaning. CFM numbers are better than "that feels like more airflow"
    Anyone else use the Coil Jet and maybe have other suggestions?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Paper Street Soap Company
    Posts
    2,298
    I only have experience with commercial steam cleaning coils. It was on Liebert units with 4 pass condenser coils and WE were not doing it.

    Another company sold the service to one of our data centers. I told them it wouldn't work but they ignored me and had to have their coils washed twice.

    Steam cleaned first, then washed correctly by us.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    King of Prussia, PA
    Posts
    13
    Usually i just use a shop vac and a coil brush to get the big stuff off, then if i have to, a biodegradable evap coil cleaner. I am not a huge fan of using chemicals on a evap coil due to chemical cleaner usually have a smell to them. If the tenants of the building smell ANY thing, they freak out and say they have to leave cause their throat suddenly hurts or complain of headaches. Use of a good filter media cuts down on evap coil cleanings imo....

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