Copper or aluminum coils: which way to go
Today, air conditioning condenser manufactures have started to use hydrophilic coated coils. Most of these coils are manufactured using either copper or aluminum. However, when a person is making a decision to buy an air conditioning unit, he or she needs to have a good understanding of which is the best between aluminum and copper AHU coils.
Traditionally, many manufacturers preferred using copper evaporator and condenser coils because of their cost, ability to easily swage and swing, heat transfer rate and the fact that copper line sets could be used to connect split systems. However, after the cost of copper skyrocketed, it changed everything. As a result, many manufacturers have resulted in using aluminum since it is cheaper than copper.
But, both copper and aluminum have their benefits and disadvantages. Therefore, it is important for a person to understand the advantages and disadvantages of copper and aluminum coils before making the decision to buy an air conditioner.
The advantages and disadvantages of copper vs. aluminum coils
- Copper has a far much better heat transfer rate compared to aluminum
- When damaged, copper can be easily repaired on site, while aluminum require a complete coil replacement if it is damaged
- Mostly, copper is used for line sets and aluminum for fins. Even though copper can be joined to aluminum, it can be easily subjected to galvanic corrosion. This type of corrosion happens if two different metals are joined together. But the growth in technology and improvement in joining different metals this disadvantage has become very minimum in aluminum.
- For those who don’t know, copper is usually affected by formicary corrosion. However, this cannot be a problem so long as the coils are properly and regularly maintained.
- Because of modern technology and the cost of copper, manufacturers have resulted in using thinner and thinner layers of copper in coils. If a new refrigerant is used to replace old coolant in an air conditioning unit, it operates at a very high pressure. As a result, the newer copper coils can spring leak as a result of thinner copper operating under high pressures.
- People have a perception of copper coils last longer than aluminum. However, this perception can change very soon since copper coils are becoming thinner and thinner because of the escalating cost.
- Because copper is becoming a valuable metal, copper coils are usually targeted by thieves. Many air conditioner contractors say they are being contacted to replace stolen copper a/c coils, and this is very disturbing. Therefore, it is critical to secure the copper coils in air conditioners to discourage people from stealing them. Stolen copper coils bring the burden of increased cost to the consumer.
- Many air conditioner condensing units come with aluminum fins and copper coils. Now, because everyone understands that copper is subject to formicary corrosion and aluminum is subject to mold and bacteria issues, many manufacturers still prefer using aluminum fins to cover the copper tubing. The manufacturers do so in order to maximize the area of heat absorption and also to effectively direct more air across the copper coils. However, a person with bacteria and mold issues should clean their ducts using a UV cleaner.