Understanding How Hail Damage Affects Commercial HVAC Units

HAIL DAMAGE PRIOR TO COMBING

 

 

 TOOL USED TO COMB OUT THE FINS

 

FINS ON CONDENSER COMBED

 

 

 

 

–Hail damages a condenser coil when it impacts and bends the fins which prevents the appropriate airflow across the coil and inhibits cooling of the refrigerant.

–If the refrigerant is not cooled the system can overheat reducing the life of the unit. Coils are designed with extra capacity to allow for some reduction in airflow due to debris in the coils or minor bending of the fins, but proper practices to maintain unobstructed coils is important for extending the life of the unit.

–When a condenser unit is damaged by hail, it can often be restored to its pre-loss condition by “combing” the fins with a special tool. A fin comb has thin plastic or metal teeth that fit between the aluminum fins of the condenser coil. Because the fins are thin and malleable, a technician can straighten them by pulling a comb along the coil.

–This is typically a far more cost-effective method to restore the efficiency of the condenser.  If the deformation of the fins is too extensive, or if large hailstones have caused damage to the copper tubing itself, then it may be necessary to replace the coil.  The cost advantage of combing out the hail damage can be substantial in many cases. Combing involves a few hours of labor, and does not require the purchase of any materials; replacing a coil or an entire condenser unit requires installation labor, thousands of dollars worth of materials, and even crane rental fees for rooftop units.

Combing is the most efficient way to repair coils and by far the most common repair method recommended by G&B Environmental technicians. About 85% of G&B Environmental hail studies recommend repairing the unit by combing the coil. To comb a coil, a plastic or light gauge metal comb or a precision blade is inserted between the fins and pulled down to straighten them and allow the appropriate airflow to cross the coil. This is a tedious process and can take a contractor from two to four hours to perform at an hourly rate of $150 per hour, but $300 to $600 is much more reasonable than the cost to replace a coil ($3,000 to $5,000) or replace the RTU ($10,000 to $20,000).

G&B ENVIRONMENTAL, INC. 1-800-466-2018

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