Top 5 Reasons Commercial HVAC Coils Prematurely Fail

by Dan Jacobs, September 18, 2018

  • Commercial HVAC CoilsCoil Plugging: If you are not changing filters and/or your commercial HVAC coils are not properly cleaned in a timely manner, your coil will actually begin to act as a filter. When dirt builds up on the coil, that blockage prevents heat transfer and can cause an approximate 20% to 40% drop in performance. Dirt adds to the coil resistance and can be a primary cause for your coil to fail prematurely.
  • Vibration: When your HVAC coils are installed near a moving piece of equipment, vibration can occur and cause leaks. You can tell if vibration is the main cause if leaks are near the tube sheet and look like they are slicing through the tube. If/when that happens, the coils should be isolated from the rest of the system to prevent vibration from causing damage. One way to combat this is by oversizing the tubesheet holes, but many manufacturers will not do this. Condenser Coils are usually the most common victims of vibration.
  • Corrosive Environment: This applies to both the air in the environment and inside the tubes. For instance, if there is a corrosive element in the air, it will eat away at the copper tubes; whether you have 0.020” wall or 0.049” wall. This is very common in coastal areas where there may be salt in the air. To keep the costs down from going to a stainless steel or cupro-nickel coil, we usually suggest coating the HVAC coils. Coatings are almost always within your budget, and its application will only add about a week to the overall lead time. Steam condensate and untreated water can cause corrosion within the tubes of HVAC coils as well. If you have a steam coil that has failed before the one year warranty, there’s a great chance that corrosive agents are in the steam, and it’s eating away at the copper tubes.
  • Freeze-Ups: Most people think that when HVAC coils freeze, the water or condensate laying in the coil freezes into ice and it expands causing the tubes to bulge and eventually spring leaks. What really happens is that the coil will freeze in multiple areas simultaneously, and it’s the pressure between these areas that cause the tubes to swell and eventually burst. These are very easy to spot as the leaks will run the length of the tube rather than around the tube.  ALSO be very careful when considering “freeze-proof” coils!  If you remove 5-6 inches from the fin length to make the “freeze-proof” application fit, your coil’s performance will suffer considerably. 
  • System Design: You would be amazed to learn how many HVAC coils were never designed properly for their systems. If there is a design problem, replacing the coil will only waste time and money; while you have done nothing other than duplicate the previous problem. A little known fact in the replacement market is that a high percentage of all our projects are because the coils were built incorrectly or were never designed correctly in the first place. In some cases, owners attempt to improve the coil’s performance by adding additional rows. Most however do this without taking into account the air pressure drop or fluid pressure drop that comes with it.

When dealing with an HVAC coil manufacturer, try to partner up with one who will walk you through the engineering and explain it along the way. Capital Coil & Air has well over a decade of experience and can help you diagnose whatever problem that you are experiencing correctly the first time. We look forward to working with you on your next project!

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