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Saltwater Corrosion: The Best HVAC for Coastal Homes

July 29, 2021

Lowcountry living comes with a number of benefits: sunny skies, warmer weather, and convenient access to beautiful beaches. And while we certainly enjoy the sweet relief an ocean breeze provides from the sweltering heat, our Charleston heating and air conditioning systems do not. Salty air can wreak havoc on HVAC equipment which, if left unchecked, […]

Lowcountry living comes with a number of benefits: sunny skies, warmer weather, and convenient access to beautiful beaches. And while we certainly enjoy the sweet relief an ocean breeze provides from the sweltering heat, our Charleston heating and air conditioning systems do not.

Salty air can wreak havoc on HVAC equipment which, if left unchecked, can lead to corrosion, parts shutting down, and a shorter lifespan (not to mention, summertime in the South quickly loses its charm without a working air conditioner).

As certified Trane Comfort Specialists, our goal is to help you keep your home comfortable all year long. That’s why, nearly seven years ago, AGL Heating and Air pioneered an HVAC experiment to document the effects of salty air on different brands of heating and air conditioning coils, which are used in heat pumps, packaged systems, and standard air conditioning units.

If you are a homeowner in the Greater Charleston, SC, region, keep reading to learn which heating and air system has stood the test of time, effectively giving you the most bang for your buck.

The Best HVAC System for Saltwater Corrosion

Humid, ocean air leaves a thin coating of salt on your Charleston HVAC system, attracting moisture and corroding the metal nearly twice as fast as inland units (learn more about how salt water can damage your HVAC system here). Saltwater corrosion can even be a big concern for homeowners several miles from the coast!

Due to this concern, AGL Heating and Air pioneered a saltwater experiment for air conditioning units to see how Trane HVAC units compare to those produced by ICP, who builds Carrier, Heil, Payne, and many other competing brands of air conditioners.

AGL Heating & Air Saltwater Corrosion Experiment

In this experiment, we compared three different types of coils: the Trane Spine Fin Condenser Coil (which is exclusive to Trane and American Standard), the ICP Standard Condenser Coil, and the ICP Coastal Condenser Coil—both of which used in Carrier, Heil, Bryant and many other brands. The Trane coil and ICP standard coil were set up in May of 2014, while the ICP coastal coil was set the year later.

Three different types of coils left out to the elements

If you have followed our experiment over the years, you probably won’t be shocked to know which brand holds its value the best. After seven years of being exposed to the elements, the Trane coil is still withstanding saltwater corrosion better than both of the other brands.

Trane Coil Held Up the Best Against the Elements

Although the ICP Coastal Condenser coils are holding up rather well, the steel plate is not. Keep in mind, this coil has been exposed to the elements for one year less than the others. Consistent with our previous findings, you can see in the image below that the steel plate joining all the coil tubing together has completely rusted off on both the coastal and non-coastal ICP units.

Rusted Coastal Coil - AGL Heating & AirThere is no question that this coil would be leaking refrigerant and beyond repair. Homeowners with this brand would need to replace this equipment well before needing to replace a Trane system.

To conclude, Trane is the winner of our saltwater corrosion experiment.

The Best Charleston Heating and Air Conditioning System

So, how does Trane withstand the damaging effects of saltwater corrosion so much better than other brands? The answer lies in Trane’s unique Spine-Fin coil design, which has been used for more than twenty years. Unlike other brands, Trane’s Spine-Fin coil features a rope-like design that loops around the unit with no steel plate, eliminating the weak soldering points altogether. This provides a nice circular flow of the refrigerant.

In a typical coil, the refrigerant travels through a series of U-joints (50 or more) soldered to a steel frame. Each soldered connection is a site for potential leaks and corrosion. In our experiment, all of these connection points in other brands were ringed with rust.

Trane’s coil is also made entirely of aluminum, rather than a steel-copper-aluminum combination that many other brands use. Pairing two dissimilar metals like copper and aluminum together is a quick route to galvanic corrosion—accelerated corrosion that occurs when two different metals meet a conductive agent, like saltwater. And while copper conducts heat slightly better and is easier to repair, aluminum performs much better against saltwater corrosion. Trane has an exclusive method of transferring the aluminum tubing to copper at the ends of its rope-like coil design.

Interestingly enough, Trane appeared on the Discovery Channel show “How It’s Made”, so you can see a condenser coil actually in production here.

Key Takeaways

At AGL, our goal is to provide our customers with the most value and help them make an investment they feel comfortable with. The purpose of conducting the saltwater experiment these past seven years was to understand how we can better accomplish this goal.

Our coastal climate is extremely harsh to metals—a huge component in HVAC equipment. While every brand has a failure rate eventually, Trane has outperformed many other competing brands. That’s why we have chosen to exclusively install Trane heating and air systems. In addition to superior durability, Trane systems provide industry-leading efficiency, effectiveness, and warranty options for our customers.

Efficiency

When it comes to the efficiency of Trane systems, we have personal experience. Two years ago, the AGL Heating and Air office replaced our old unit with a Trane model (the XV18 TruComfort™ Variable Speed Air Conditioner) and documented our energy bills for the year before and after. In the first year alone, we saved over $900.

But, how? This Trane air conditioner uses a variable speed compressor to bring down energy consumption, whereas typical single-stage compressors turn off as soon as they reach the desired temperature, turning on again when the temperature rises too high. Variable speed compressors are always running at a low power consumption level, slowing down and speeding up to maintain the temperature.

Air conditioners are notorious for using more power when they turn on than they do while they actually run, so single-stage compressors burn through a lot of energy turning on and off for short bursts.

Effectiveness

Variable speed compressors have the added benefit of increased humidity control, which is especially important for coastal homes in Charleston, SC. HVAC systems remove moisture as they cool the air by turning the humidity into condensation and draining it through the evaporator coil. Since variable-speed compressors are always running, they’re always removing humidity, leaving you with a fresh, cool home and a minimized electricity bill.

Warranty Options

One of our favorite things about Trane is its commitment to quality, which they demonstrate in their warranty policy. Their warranties vary slightly depending on the model, but all air conditioners come with a free 10-year warranty on the outdoor coil and internal parts when registered within 60 days of installation and requirements are met.
Their XR models have a 10-year warranty on their compressors, and the XV and XL (like the model we used to lower our energy bills) include a 12-year compressor warranty, the longest warranty of the three brands.

To protect your Charleston HVAC system and stay cool all summer long, choose an air conditioner that stands up to saltwater corrosion. Contact AGL Heating and Air today to discuss your home’s needs and set up a consultation with our Trane Comfort Specialists. We’re committed to keeping your energy bills low and your home comfortable, no matter the season!

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