During the hot summer months, most households run the AC for an extended period to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures. With time, dirt will begin to build up within your system, and your vents will start recirculating pollen, dust and other contaminants throughout the house. This can exacerbate allergies and other respiratory illnesses, especially for people with compromised immunity.
If the dirt accumulates on the coils, your system will start to work harder, leading to a spike in utility bills. This also strains the unit and can result in unexpected repairs, frustrating breakdowns and a reduced equipment lifespan. The best way to prevent such problems is by having your AC cleaned regularly. It’s well worth the money to hire a professional for this task, but if you wish to attempt this yourself, here are the steps you should follow.
1. Turn Off the Power to the AC
Trying to clean the air conditioner while the power is still on can be very dangerous. Locate the shut-off box, usually near the outdoor unit, and flip or remove the switch to cut the power. You should also deactivate the electric system at the breaker box. Note that this will also cut your lights, so plan adequate lighting for the project.
2. Clean or Change the Filter
Your air conditioning unit has either a replaceable or washable filter located along the return duct. A clogged air filter limits airflow, which reduces your AC’s efficiency. You might need to unscrew some bolts to access the filter. If it’s cleanable, take it out and use your vacuum cleaner to suck up dirt and other debris.
Mix about five cups of water with an equal amount of vinegar, and soak the filter for an hour. You can leave it longer if it’s too grimy. After this, use a hose to spray the air filter with water, but don’t use a pressurized hose that might damage it. Let the filter dry entirely, and then put it back. If you are using the replaceable type or the filter has holes, discard it and replace it with a new one.
3. Proceed to the Evaporator Coils
Open up the air conditioner to access the coils. In some models, you need to remove the coil duct tape, while in others, you unscrew any fasteners holding the door in place. Use a soft-bristled brush to clear off loose dirt.
Put a little soapy water in a bottle and spray it on the coils. Alternatively, you can use a no-rinse coil cleaner readily available in your local stores to reach areas that you can’t access with your hands. Ensure that you clean the coils on warmer days so that when you turn the AC on, the condensation will rinse the coils.
4. Clean the Drain Pan
The drain pan is usually underneath the indoor evaporator coils, and its role is to catch the condensate that forms when warm indoor air passes through the cold coils. If you see standing water at the drain, the condensate line could be clogged. Use a rag to soak up the water, and then clean the drain pan with soap and water.
You can use a shop vacuum to pull out clogs in the condensate line through the drain opening. Alternatively, pour distilled vinegar or hot water and a drop of liquid soap into the drain line to dislodge the clog. Leave the solution for 30 minutes, and then flush it with water.
5. Clear Off Debris From the Outdoor Unit
Remove leaves, sticks and any other litter around your outdoor unit. Pick up large debris hanging on the system with your hands. If you are uncomfortable doing it by hand, you can use a soft brush to clear off the dirt.
6. Clean Condenser Coils
The condenser coils get dirty quickly since they are in contact with outdoor elements. Start by unscrewing fasteners at the top part of the outdoor unit. Lift the fan and grille. Use a soft brush to clean the coils, and do it gently to avoid bending the fins.
For more stubborn dirt, you can use commercial air conditioner coil cleaner. Spray it directly on the coils until they are fully covered. Leave the cleaner for a few minutes so that it has time to expand and pull out the grime. Alternatively, you can use water and a mild detergent. After the cleaner soaks long enough, use a hose to rinse the coils and remove the foam.
7. Don’t Forget the Fins
Bent fins reduce airflow. If you accidentally bend the fins while cleaning, you can straighten them using a fin comb. Match the bristles to the fins’ spacing, insert the comb and pull it up to straighten the fins. Repeat the process several times. This will also help remove dirt particles stuck in the fins. Be careful during the process, and wear gloves to prevent cuts.
8. Inspect, Reassemble and Test the Unit
Once you finish cleaning the unit, inspect the AC to ensure that it’s in the right condition. Check the refrigerant lines that travel from the evaporator coils to the condenser. They should have foam insulation to prevent energy loss. Replace worn-out insulation.
Next, check for dirt or other particles underneath your outdoor unit that could cause it to trip. Level it using shims to prevent future costly repairs. If you notice complex issues while cleaning your AC, such as debris caught up in the condenser fan, you might need to seek professional assistance. Note that the cords connected to the condenser fan might still have an active charge even when electricity is off.
Return the fans and covers, and then screw them into place. Confirm whether you closed the AC access panel. If the AC has metal foil tape, use it to seal the top and bottom part of the access panel. Ensure that nothing is blocking your unit to impede the airflow.
Once you have assembled everything, turn the power back on and set the thermostat to the cooling mode to activate the system. Observe how it functions. If your AC still doesn’t run efficiently even after the cleaning, have a professional further assess any issues.
Do You Need Professional Air Conditioning Cleaning Services?
Regularly cleaning your AC keeps the unit running at optimal efficiency and creates a healthier living space for your loved ones. If you aren’t sure you’re competent to clean your own AC safely, you should know that you’re not alone. After all, you wouldn’t expect the average person to walk into your business and perform expertly at it. An air conditioner is a complex piece of equipment. It’s a good idea to consult with a professional HVAC technician who has the training and knowledge to clean, repair and maintain an AC system properly and safely.
During cleaning, an experienced technician can spot worn-out parts and replace them to prevent frustrating breakdowns. A professional will also be able to diagnose any underlying issues that contribute to your unit’s inefficiency and advise you on the best cause of action. Hiring an expert will save you time and energy, especially if you have a busy schedule. Besides that, it will protect both your personal comfort and your investment.
If you need some assistance with your AC, reach out to Beyer Air Conditioning & Heating. We specialize in cooling, heating and indoor air quality equipment installation, repair and maintenance. Our company also offers duct repair and cleaning as well as ductless AC systems. We serve clients throughout San Antonio, TX, and the nearby regions. Get in touch with us today, and we will be happy to help.