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Aluminum vs. Copper HVAC Coils

May 2, 2013 | Blog

Last Updated: Aug. 21, 2019

Air conditioning coils are a vital component of any air conditioning and heating unit, so it’s important to know what type of coil is best for your HVAC system. Coils come in two different materials: copper or aluminum. While aluminum coils have always been an option, they have only recently gained popularity. Technological advancements over the past few years have made aluminum an easier metal to work with.

The Pros and Cons of Aluminum and Copper Coils

Both aluminum and copper coils are viable options for air conditioning units, so what are the pros and cons of each?

Efficiency

Aluminum is more malleable than copper, meaning the coils are easier to shape. This added flexibility allows engineers to bend coils into efficient designs. For example, microchannel coils boost heat transfer, reduce leaks and are more resistant to corrosion. “Spine Fin” coils are also used to decrease corrosion and increase heat exchange.

Winner: Aluminum

Formicary Erosion

As mentioned above, corrosion is a problem for HVAC coils, especially in the Fresno area where pollution is an issue. This type of corrosion causes small “pinholes” to form in the coil, resulting in costly repairs or replacements. There are several causes for formicary corrosion, but there is only one metal affected by it: copper. Aluminum isn’t affected by formicary corrosion, making it the preferred choice for manufacturers.

Winner: Aluminum

Repairs

Coils are high-value components of any AC unit, so replacements can be costly. Copper is an easier material to repair, while damaged aluminum coils usually need replacement.

Winner: Copper

Value

While copper isn’t considered a precious metal, it is significantly more expensive than aluminum. Copper’s higher value also makes it a target for thieves. Business and homeowners with copper coils can become targets for thieves. Unfortunately, whole units can be destroyed when broken into, resulting in expensive replacements. Aluminum coils deter thieves and make the unit a cheaper option.

Winner: Aluminum

When choosing an air conditioning unit, it is important to pay attention to the type of coil it uses. If you have questions about what unit is right for you, give Lee’s Air a call or schedule an appointment!

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