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How Dirt Can Affect Specific Parts Of The AC

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Dirt accumulation on an air conditioner is bad news. Dirt can affect almost all parts of the AC. The effects can range from impaired cooling to catastrophic motor failure. Below are some of the specific ways that dirt can ruin your cooling system.


The filter cleans the air that goes into the AC — you also breathe this air. Dirt on the filter affects the AC in two main ways. First, a dirty filter restricts airflow to the AC, which interferes with cooling efficiency and overworks the AC. A dirty filter lowers indoor air quality, which can lead to respiratory problems in vulnerable people, such as asthma sufferers.


AC coils facilitate heat exchange, which is central to your house's cooling efficiency. The evaporator coil, located in the house, provides the surface through which the refrigerant absorbs heat inside the house. The condenser coil, which sits outside the house, allows the refrigerant to lose its heat to the outside air.

Debris insulates the coils from the air above them. Insulated coils cannot exchange heat efficiently. The result is impaired cooling, which also leads to energy inefficiency and elevates the system's susceptibility to frequent breakdowns.


ACs have motors to drive the fans, compress the refrigerant, and facilitate refrigerant flow. These motors run on electricity, and the electrical resistance inevitably generates some heat. Dirty motors run hot because the dirt insulates the motors and prevents heat loss.

Dirt also increases friction between moving surfaces of the motor. Increased friction leads to accelerated wear and tear and overheating. In the end, dirty motors experience frequent breakdowns and shortened life spans.


Dirt can affect the AC thermostat in two main ways. First, dirt on the electrical parts of the thermostat can insulate them. Insulated contacts don't transfer electrical signals as well as clean electrical contacts. Secondly, the thermostat depends on heat sensors to register temperature changes. The isolative property of dirt can also interfere with temperature sensing.

Both things can result in erratic operations of the thermostat. For example, the thermostat might read the wrong temperature and trigger short-cycling in the AC. Effects of a short-cycling AC include things like uneven cooling and accelerated AC wear.

As you can see, you really don't want your AC to accumulate debris. Fortunately, regular cleaning can easily prevent the above issues. If you haven't cleaned your AC in a long time and it is acting up, consult a technician to determine the extent of the malfunction and fix it.

To learn more, contact an air conditioning contractor.