how to clean air conditioning unit

December 27, 2023

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Your family relies on your home’s air conditioning unit to be comfortable throughout the hot summer season. While it would be nice if air conditioning units didn’t require any maintenance, that’s simply not the case. As a homeowner, it’s crucial that you perform the maintenance tips below to lower your risk of having an air conditioner malfunction and also cost-effective in the scorching hot summer.


Before you attempt to clean either the indoor or outdoor air conditioning unit, it’s necessary to turn off the power. You can easily do this with the power button on the indoor unit. As a secondary precautionary measure, you should turn off the breaker for your cooling system. This will ensure no power makes its way into the unit while you’re working on it.


Regardless of the type of air conditioning system that you have in your house, it will have an outdoor compressor unit. You’ll locate this unit within a few feet of your residence, typically at the side or rear of the property. The compressor unit has a big grill cover that protects it from much of the outside elements. You’ll need to locate the screws that are holding the grill cover on and remove them.

Be careful when removing the grill cover, as there’s likely wiring attached to it. You should have enough slack to set the cover next to the unit. If not, you may need to disconnect the wires to have full access to the compressor unit. Just ensure that you know where the wires came off and in what order so that you can easily hook them back up when you’re done cleaning.


Once the cover is off, it’s time to get your cleaning on. You’ll want to start with the interior of the unit. Use a wet/dry vacuum to suck up any loose debris like twigs and leaves. Avoid using a hose, as that could force the debris further into the system’s components.

You’ll need to locate the condenser coils and use a coil cleaning solution to remove any stuck-on debris. Be careful when applying this cleaner, as it’s very caustic. Once the cleaner has sat for the recommended time period, you can use your hose to give the coils a thorough rinsing.


Next up are the delicate metal fins. You’ll need to evaluate the state of all of your fins. If any of them are bent, it’s necessary to bend them back into their original position to ensure optimal airflow to your unit. You can pick up a fin comb at your local hardware store. You’ll just need to know how many fins per square inch are in your system so that you can purchase the appropriately sized comb.

Once all the fins are bent back, it’s time to clean them. You can utilize your hose and a fin cleaning solution. However, don’t use a pressure washer, as the intense pressure could bend the fins out of position. Once the fins are all cleaned, it’s time to reinstall the air conditioner grille cover. Be sure to reconnect any wiring that you disconnected when you initially removed the grille cover.


Before you head inside for more air conditioner cleaning, you’ll want to evaluate the surrounding area of your outdoor unit. It’s very common for loose debris like twigs and leaves to get stuck around the unit. You’ll want to remove this debris. If you have any shrubs that are growing near the unit or any tree branches hanging over it, you should trim them back. There should be a good few feet around your entire unit to allow for adequate airflow during operation.


Once your outdoor unit is all cleaned up, it’s time to head inside for your indoor unit cleaning. Start by removing the access panel, which is likely held in by a few screws. You’ll want to start by cleaning the evaporator coils. Your local hardware store should sell a no-rinse coil cleaner. Don’t use the same caustic solution as you did on the outdoor condenser coils since it could ruin the components of your indoor unit.


As the foam cleanser works its magic on your evaporator coils, it will drip a dirty solution onto your drain pan. Once the dripping is complete, it’s time to clean the drain pan and drainpipe. You can use a bleach and water solution to provide hard cleaning action for things like stuck-on debris and hard water stains.

You may want to consider investing in a drain pan tablet that will work to keep unnatural algae growth from occurring in your drain pan throughout the summer months. These are typically sold at local hardware stores, and each tablet lasts about six weeks. Once you’re done cleaning the drain, it’s time to reinstall the access panel.


The last step on your home air conditioner cleaning list is the vents and ducting. You’ll want to go to each room of your home and pop out the vents. There should be a minimum of two vents per room, one being the air output and the other being the air input. It’s easiest to clean these with a sink hose, and be sure to let them dry out before you reinstall them.

While you don’t have access to all of your ductwork, you should be able to reach some of it. Take your vacuum and suck up any loose dirt and debris at the entrances to all of the ductwork that you can access. This is a perfect time to look over your ducting to identify if there are any leaks that need to be taped up before you run your system.

If you locate any leaks, you’ll want to ensure that you use tape that’s approved for ducting. The best tape to use is foil-backed tape. Traditional masking or duct tape will not work as a long-term fix due to its adhesive construction. After a few weeks, these other types of tape will simply fall off and leave the leak exposed once again.

If you don’t want to clean the ducting yourself, you can hire a professional to do so. Once your ductwork is clean and your vents are reinstalled, it’s time to turn the breaker back on. It’s advisable to run your system for at least 30 minutes to ensure that it’s working correctly before turning it off.


If you need assistance with your air conditioner in Calgary, Alberta, Alberta Mountain Air Heating and Air Conditioning can help. With our highly skilled technicians, we can handle all of your air conditioning, heating, and air quality needs, including repairs, installation, and maintenance. Give us a call today to get the assistance that you need.

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