An air conditioner helps maintain favorable temperatures on scorching summer days. If you want your AC to serve you efficiently for years to come, you need to take good care of it. You should clean the unit often to remove dirt build-up that can strain the AC components leading to malfunction. Here is a step-by-step guide about how to clean your AC and prepare it for summer.

1. Turn Off the Power to the Unit

The AC has a lot of electrically powered parts. Therefore, attempting to clean it with the power on can be very hazardous. Locate the switch box, which is usually near the outdoor unit, and completely turn the power off. If you can’t find the disconnect box, refer to the manufacturer’s guide, or deactivate the electricity to your house at the main breaker box.

2. Start With the Air Filters

Some AC units have washable air filters, and others need to be replaced. Consult the instruction manual to determine the type of filter in your air conditioning unit. Look for the air filters at the cold air return duct, unscrew the fastener, and slide it out. Some units have multiple filters, so you need to check all the vents. Use a vacuum to remove dust particles stuck on the filters. Next, soak the filter in a solution with equal portions of vinegar and water for about an hour.

Rinse the filter gently with a hose, and allow it to air dry. Check the clean filter for signs of damage. If you find any replace the filter with a new one. Most filters have an arrow that indicates the direction they’re supposed to face when installed. If you have a modern AC model with an automatic filter-cleaning function, you only need to set it to clean the filter regularly. For units that use the disposable filters, take out the dirty ones, and replace them with a new one.

3. Clean the Evaporator Coils

The evaporator coil is usually damp due to the dehumidification process. Therefore, it’s very easy for dust and other particles to cling to the coil. You can access the coil by opening the air handler in the basement, utility closet, or attic. Use a soft brush to remove loose dirt and debris.

Next, spray the no-rinse evaporator coil cleaner as directed, and allow it to foam. If there are some stubborn stains, you can use a brush and the cleaner to remove them. Once you turn on the AC, the condensation from the indoor air will wash away the cleaner and any remaining dirt.

4. Clean the AC Drain System

Once the warm indoor air blows over the cold evaporator coils, the moisture condenses into water and flows into the drain pan. It then flows through a drain line to the outdoors. When neglected, algae and molds can grow on the drain system, causing a clog that results in water backup. Begin by cleaning the condensate pan with soap and water, and then rinse and dry it thoroughly. Use a shop vacuum or a thin stiff brush to pull out any clog within the drain system.

Next, locate the condensate line, a PVC pipe usually at the outdoor unit attached to the house’s walls, and find the access point to the drain line. Most models have a T-shaped vent with a cover that you can easily take out. Pour 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar into the drain line and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can use hot water and a few drops of soap to dislodge the blockage. Complete the process by flushing the drain line with water, and observe if it’s running smoothly. This will help clear off any bacteria or fungi build-up within the drain system to ensure that your AC runs at peak performance.

5. Clear Around the Outdoor Unit

You need to ensure that an area of about 2 feet around your outdoor unit is completely clear to allow optimal airflow. Remove any leaves, seeds, twigs, sticks, and debris around the outdoor compartment. Also, uproot any tall plants and grass growing near the unit. Remove all particles underneath the unit and use shims to level it and prevent tipping. Note that when the condenser unit is out of level, it can make the compressor fail sooner than expected.

6. Clean the Condenser Coils

The AC’s outdoor unit is constantly exposed to multiple elements. It gets dirty quickly, so it might need more effort to clean. Begin by unscrewing the metal fasteners on the unit, disconnect, lift, and remove the AC grille. Pick any visible leaves and debris by hand, and you can even use the wet and dry vacuum to suck them out.

Spray the unit with water, but be careful not to splash on the electrical components. Next, apply the coil cleaner and allow it to foam for about 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse off the coils with a hose at low pressure to avoid damaging delicate fins. You can leave the unit to dry in the sun, or wipe the water with a dry cloth.

Next, you need to inspect the fins for damage. Keep in mind that bent fins restrict airflow interfering with the air conditioning process. Thus, use a fin comb to straighten the fins and put them back to their original position. Once you are done, reassemble the unit, and you can cover it with a plastic garbage bag to prevent the accumulation of debris.

7. Turn on the Power and Test the Unit

Once you are done cleaning the AC, reconnect power to the unit from the main panel or the shut-off box. Set the thermostat to the cooling mode to activate the air conditioning unit. Let it run for about 15 minutes, and observe how it works. Move from room to room, and confirm whether the spaces are adequately cool. Pay attention also to any unusual sound or odors. If you notice any strange smells and noise or if your AC fails to work as expected, call a professional immediately to assess and to fix the issue.

Do You Need Professional AC Cleaning Services?

A clean air conditioner unit runs efficiently and quietly and is less likely to break down. Taking time to clean your AC isn’t always an easy task. You should expect to uncover molds, animal droppings, and even dead critters while cleaning. If you don’t have the right tools or enough time to clean your AC, you can seek professional assistance. Even if you can manage to do the cleaning independently, some components are better handled by professionals. The duct is a very delicate part, and if you lack the proper knowledge, you risk damaging it, which can make your AC less effective. Also, during professional AC cleaning, an expert can quickly spot minor issues within your unit and fix them before they escalate into more significant problems.

If you wish to avoid the hassles associated with AC cleaning, reach out to Reliable Air Conditioning. We deal with AC and heating systems installation, repair, and tune-up. Our company also offers indoor air quality, whole-house fans, ductless mini splits, home energy audits, and boiler services in Gilbert, AZ, and the nearby areas. Get in touch with us and request any of our services.

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