Top 10 Tips For Measuring HVAC Coils

1. When measuring HVAC coils, performance has very little to do with accurately measuring for replacement coils. Fitting the coil in the existing space with the least amount of labor has everything to do with measuring a coil.  If you duplicate the coil in almost every respect, the performance will match and take care of itself.  New is always more efficient than old.

2.  If you’re ever in doubt about a dimension, smaller is always better than bigger. You can always “safe off” around any coil as long as you can fit it in the space.  If a coil is too big, it makes a really ugly coffee table in your shop.  Too big is the enemy of measuring coils.

Chilled Water Coil

3.  The fin height and fin length are not the determining factors in measuring a coil. The overall casing dimensions are the most important, and you work backwards to determine fin dimensions.

4.  The depth of any coil is the total casing depth in the direction of airflow. The height is the number of tubes high in any row.  Depth is a function of rows deep and height is a function of tubes in a row.

5.  Overall length (OAL) is not the fin length and it’s not the casing length. It is the length from the return bends to include the headers that are inside the unit.  Again, it is necessary to work backwards to get the other dimensions once you know this critical dimension.

6.  Circuiting is the number of tubes connected to the supply header. Generally, you just want to count the number of tubes connected to the header and that will tell you whether it’s full, half, or even a double circuit.  It does not matter how the return bends are configured.  Your goal is to count the number of supply tubes and all performance is based on that.

7.  Fins are measured in fins per inch. Hold a tape measure up to the coils and count the number of fins in one inch.  If you can’t get in to take the measurement, a safe rule of thumb is 10-12 fins/inch.  That will work on almost every coil.  The exception to that rule is a condenser coil.  14-16 fins/inch on a condenser coil is usually pretty safe.

8.  Connection locations are difficult only if you are using the existing piping in the system (which are welded). Copper piping is brazed and can be changed easily.  If a system is old and the piping is being replaced as well as the coil, the connection location is not a major deal.  It’s very easy to match up!

9.  With replacement coils, the concept of “left hand vs. right hand” doesn’t actually exist. Connections are “top left-bottom right” or vice versa.  Ideally, all coils should be counter-flow which means that the water and air flow in opposite directions.  The air hits row one first and the water is piped into row eight first.  However, there are lots of installations that are piped backwards, and they work just fine.  Just match them up, and the coil’s performance will be equal to the old coil.

10.  Connections are not measured from the top of the header! They are measured from the top of the casing to the centerline of the connection.  Or the bottom of the casing to the centerline.  You need a point of reference, and the header height can be anything just as long as it doesn’t stick above or below the casing height.


All of the above “suggestions” or “secrets” are in no particular order.  They are just things that you should know to ensure that you are selecting the correct replacement coil. While most seem like common sense, your best bet is to talk with the sales team at Capital Coil & Air, who can walk your through the entire process and help you to fill out coil drawings when trying to measure the dimensions.


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How Should Steam Coils Be Designed??

Standard Steam Coil

Of all of  the various types of coils, steam coils operate in the most complicated ways. They are, in effect, a product of the system and controls around the coil. If not installed correctly, steam coils simply won’t work properly.


The object of any steam coil is to have steam enter the coil as steam and exit as condensate. In a perfect scenario, the BTU load on the coil turns steam into condensate just before it’s ready to exit the coil. Under real world conditions however, condensate usually begins to form inside the tubes almost immediately. Especially when dealing with low-pressure systems, you have to find a way to evacuate the condensate from the steam coil.

Coil Pitch

A good coil manufacturer will internally pitch the steam coil within the coil casing to force the condensate toward the outlet connection. This pitch is usually 1/8 “ per lineal foot of coil.

Coil Length

If you require steam to travel 144” and make multiple passes through the coil, then, simply put, your system will not work properly. Condensate forms too early, and it cannot escape the coil. Because of this, coils cannot be too long. A better strategy is to break one long coil into two smaller coils side by side, while feeding from both sides.

Tube Diameter:

Steam Distributing coils often have to be 1  1/8 ” diameter tubes. If the BTU load on a coil is really large, then as a result, you will generate many more Lbs./hour of condensate. If the tube diameter is too small, then the condensate, which needs to evacuate, has no place to go.


Traps are required on steam coil systems. The traps should be “float & thermostatic” type traps and be located 18 “ below the condensate connection on the steam coil. Without this, the condensate just sits in the system without any place to go.

Vacuum Breakers

Vacuum Breakers are often installed in coil systems to remove any excess condensate that may remain within the coil.

Insulated Piping:

There is no such thing as a “Condensate” Heating coil, built as a steam coil. IT DOESN’T WORK.  However, and this happens an astounding amount of times, due to the long distances the steam has to travel from the boiler to the coil, many times, the steam will enter the coil as condensate due to the piping not being insulated.

Anything that makes condensate lay in a coil is harmful to both the steam coil and the system. You will get a “water hammer” when the system is turned on and the incoming steam just blasts against the condensate. Worse than the loud and annoying sound that produces is the fact that it just destroys the steam coil. The brazing was never designed for “water hammer”.  Also, the coils do not heat properly. Have you ever seen a long coil and run your hand down its length only to feel that the entering steam end of the coil is hot but the far end is cold? More times than not, this means that condensate is laying in the coil and not allowing the steam to properly travel the length of the coil.

Steam Coils require a real expertise to design & build. We at Capital Coil have a long history in solving coil problems and building steam coils so that they work correctly the first time. Give us a call for your next job – you’ll be pleasantly surprised!


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