Table of Contents
What you will learn with the Copper Versus Aluminum Coils HVAC article:
1) The transition from copper to aluminum for HVAC manufacturers.
2) The pros and cons of copper coils versus aluminum coils for air conditioner systems or heat pumps.
3) Trying something new or keeping the status quo?
4) A video debunking the “aluminum is difficult to repair” myth.
5) Lastly, plenty of resources and in-depth related links to help you learn
The Conductivity of Copper Versus Aluminum Coils | Copper Versus Aluminum Coils HVAC
When it comes to Copper Coils Versus Aluminum Coils for Condensers and Evaporators, what is the best choice? What are the options if I’m a consumer? Some manufacturers are starting to transition from copper coils to aluminum coils for both condensers and evaporator coils for various reasons.
Origins of Copper and Aluminum Discovery | Copper Versus Aluminum Coils HVAC
When deciding to buy a new system, you need to inform yourself about the pros and cons of purchasing a system with aluminum coils or copper coils. Traditionally, copper was the chief choice to use to manufacture evaporator coils and condenser coils because of heat transfer rate, cost, pliability (easy to bend and swage), and because copper line sets are used to join split systems.
Moreover, the price of copper has skyrocketed, and that was a game-changer. Furthermore, many manufacturers have started looking at aluminum because the cost of aluminum is cheaper than copper, and aluminum has some of the same benefits of the properties mentioned above that copper has.
Copper Coil Vs Aluminum Coil Heat Transfer Characteristics
A copper coil has approximately twice the conductivity of heat transfer of an aluminum coil and therefore is more efficient at transferring heat. An air conditioner or heat pump works on the principle of refrigeration. The classic definition of refrigeration is moving heat from one place where it is not wanted to another location where it doesn’t matter. Finally, that means it is crucial to use materials that efficiently move or transfer heat. In this regard, copper wins. Refrigeration is what makes air conditioning systems work.
Furthermore, another pro for copper coils is the ease of repairing the copper coil in the field if they become damaged. Finally, aluminum coils, if damaged, are tough to fix and often need to be replaced.
Pros and Cons of Copper Versus Aluminum Coils HVAC
- Heat Transfer
- Repair Ease
- Galvanic Corrosion
- Formicary Corrosion
- Material Quality/Durability
- Aluminum Repair Ease
- Copper Durability
- Copper and Aluminum Together
1Copper has a better heat transfer rate than an aluminum coil
2A copper tube is easily repaired in the field when damaged whereas an aluminum coil, when damaged, typically requires an entire coil change
3Because the copper tube line set, copper coils, and fins are aluminum, where the copper joins the aluminum, it is subject to galvanic corrosion. Galvanic corrosion will occur when two dissimilar metals are pressed together. Furthermore, modern technology and advancements in joining dissimilar metals have made this con very minimal for aluminum.
Copper is subject to formicary corrosion. Additionally, that is not a problem as long as the copper coil gets proper and regular maintenance.
4Modern technology and the price of copper have made manufacturers use thinner and thinner copper. The new refrigerant replacing the old HCFCs operates at higher pressures; therefore, the newer copper coil is more likely to spring a leak because of the thinner copper tube and the higher operating pressures.
Aluminum Repair Ease
5Because an aluminum coil is challenging to repair, air conditioner manufacturers use a heavy-duty cabinet to protect the coils. Lastly, that makes it more difficult to clean the aluminum coil without disassembling the cabinet.
6The traditional perception is that copper is more durable than an aluminum coil, but again, that will soon change as the copper gets thinner and thinner because of the rising cost.
7Since copper is costly, it makes it a target for thieves. A contractor friend of mine just replaced some air conditioner condensers and all the copper the thieves could get their hands on, for a church. Now it’s bad enough they hit a church (imagine the implications of that in the afterlife. LOL). Still, it is now necessary to secure copper, including condensing units with copper coils, to discourage theft. Furthermore, that is an added cost for the end consumer.
Copper and Aluminum Together
8I have read that as much as copper suffers from formicary corrosion, aluminum suffers from bacteria and mold issues. The problem with that argument is that manufacturers have always used aluminum fins over the copper tubing to increase the area for heat absorption and to channel the air more effectively across the coils. Besides that, anyone with mold or bacteria problems need to use a UV Air Cleaner inside their ducts.
9The traditional copper coils, copper tubing with aluminum fins have functioned for years and years in condensers and evaporator coils. These coils are tried and true, so anything new on the market is subject to some apprehension. Moreover, Trane has been using aluminum coils for years and years, and they offer a good warranty for their product, so aluminum coils can’t be that bad for use in HVAC equipment.
Traditional Coils | Copper Versus Aluminum Coils HVAC
Additionally, refrigerator and freezer manufacturers have used aluminum coils for many years for the coils in their products. What is your opinion based on the facts? Leave your opinion in the comments below.
Finally, the below video is of a repair to an aluminum coil. That is in case of a puncture or leak in the coils. Furthermore, not sure how this stuff would work for joining two dissimilar metals together, such as copper and aluminum, but this is a plus for aluminum coils.
Copper Versus Aluminum Coils HVAC