Clean Your Home Air Conditioner

Cleaning your home air conditioner probably isn’t top of mind for most of us, until we get that reminder email or post card that it’s time for servicing. And while it’s always a good idea to have your air conditioner professionally serviced annually, it’s also doable — and can save you some money — to do some of the cleaning yourself.  Most commonly, when people talk about cleaning their air conditioners, they’re referring to the outdoor component of it, called the condenser.

clean your home air conditioner

How Do I Know if My Air Conditioner Needs Cleaning?

Chances are if you’ve never cleaned your air conditioner’s condenser, and rely solely on your HVAC professional for yearly service, your unit could use some cleaning. Especially before the summer heat starts, giving your outdoor unit a cleaning once-over can reduce your energy bill by helping your A/C system work more efficiently.

You can also simply take a look at the outdoor portion of your unit.  If it’s been sitting in the elements all winter, you’re likely to see leaves or other debris on the fan, or in between the blades. If you have a cover on it during the winter there’s less chance of this, naturally, but it’s still a good idea to give it a visual once over to see if there’s any build up or debris that could be impeding the work of the fan or the fins. 

Once you’ve established that the unit may need some attention, it’s time to gather the right supplies and take it step by step.

What Materials Do I Need to Clean My Home A/C Unit?

In order to make sure you’re cleaning the unit correctly and won’t be doing any damage, collect your tools and materials ahead of time to be sure you can do the job correctly:

  • A/C Specs and/or operating manual (any documentation you can find relating to your a/c unit will be helpful, and be sure to read through this before you start)
  • Screwdriver
  • Shop vac or vacuum cleaner with a gentle brush attachment
  • Cloth or rag
  • Mild cleaning solution or water
  • Garden hose with sprayer attachment

How to Clean the Outdoor A/C Unit (The Condenser)

The first, and most important step in cleaning your home a/c unit is to cut the power to the unit. You can do this at the outdoor shutoff or the main electrical panel, and however you choose to do this just make sure the power is off before you start.

  • Use the shop vac to clear away large leaves and debris that have collected on the outside
  • Unscrew the fan from the top portion of the condenser and carefully set it aside so you can wipe the area with a damp cloth or mild cleaning solution
  • Spray the condenser fins from the inside of the unit with mild pressure
  • Replace the fan

Air Conditioner Cleaning Mistakes to Avoid

Cleaning your home a/c unit can seem daunting at first, which is why we’ve compiled a list of things to watch out for when cleaning the condenser, fins, and coils:

  • When removing the fan from the top of the unit, make sure to carefully handle it and place it somewhere it can’t be damaged while you’re cleaning. The fan itself and wiring can be delicate, so you’ll want to make sure you’ve arranged for how you’ll protect both of these components.
  • When spraying the fins — take care to avoid spraying the actual motor; this is why spraying water from the inside out is recommended.
  • Not checking the air filter — it’s easy to think that proper air conditioning cleaning stops at the outdoor unit, but making sure the indoor air filter is clean also has an impact on how well your unit performs.
  • Allowing plants, equipment, or anything else within 2 feet of your condenser — condensers require at least a 2-foot buffer around them to function properly.
  • Using a power washer — while this may be tempting, the force of the water can easily damage both the fins and coils, which can lead to a total unit failure.

Cleaning your home air conditioner — and keeping it that way — is just one of the many ways you can reduce the strain on it, saving you time and money in the long run by helping it run as efficiently as possible. Especially if you live somewhere where your unit gets a lot of use, staying on top of cleaning yourself can extend the life of your unit while keeping your utility bills down.

Still have questions about cleaning your A/C unit at home? Our professionals are happy to help with questions, servicing, and much more, call (619) 762-30144 today.

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