Have you noticed a decline in your air conditioner’s performance? Whether you’re heating or cooling, a dirty HVAC system isn’t running at full efficiency. Dirt, leaves and other debris pile up during the months in between your HVAC system’s tune-ups. In the same way that clogged and dirty air filters result in subpar air conditioning, dirty and clogged condenser fins will produce less than desired results. Luckily, occasional basic cleaning can make a big difference in air quality and can be done by the homeowner. If you’re uneasy about a project like this, it is always in your best interest to contact a local air conditioning company instead of taking any chances that could damage your system.
Now that we’ve woken your inner DIY self, here’s the list of cleaning supplies for your AC condenser:
• A screwdriver
• Air conditioner coil foam cleaner
• A shop vacuum with a soft brush attachment
• Your garden hose (attached to a water source, of course!)
Step 1: Cut the Power
Before you can clean your air conditioner’s condenser you have to shut off its power. The power switch can be found not far from the condenser itself in a connecting metal box. Open the lid, and depending on style, either pull the box switch out and turn it over to off or, with a normal switch, flip it to off.
Step 2: Debris Removal
If your condenser has a metal casing, carefully lift it away to reveal the fins. Using a shop vacuum with a soft brush attachment, remove all visible debris (dirt, leaves, etc.) from the condenser’s fins. After vacuuming, spray the fins with the foaming coil cleaner and let it sit. Condenser fins can be easily bent. Vacuum gently to avoid bending or damaging the fins. If your fins are already bent, fin combs are available at home improvement stores that can help straighten them out.
Step 3: Cleaning the Interior
First, unscrew the condenser’s top grille. Before any rinsing can be done, you need to lift the fan free, and either set it aside or have someone hold it out of the way, without stressing or disconnecting its connecting wires. With a damp rag, wipe down the interior surfaces and remove larger debris if necessary. For optimal cleaning, spray the fins, from the inside now, with the foaming coil cleaner. Now take your garden hose and rinse the fins, spraying from the inside out.
Step 4: Put the Fan Back
Carefully place the fan back in its proper place by replacing and securing the top grille.
Step 5: Power
Switch the condenser’s power back on. Set your thermostat to cool inside so that you hear the compressor turn on. After 10-15 minutes, if you check the condenser’s connecting tubes, the insulated one should be cool. The un-insulated tube should be warm to the touch.
Cleaning your HVAC unit’s condenser is a fast way to refresh your air conditioner in between its bi-annual tune-ups. If cleaning your condenser has no positive effect (and you’ve been regularly changing your air filters) call your local HVAC company for an evaluation. Your unit may be low on coolant or have a leak. In those cases, satisfy your DIY needs with a different project (hello, Pinterest!) and leave your AC troubles to the professionals.