How to Clean Your Home’s Air Conditioner
Quick 30-Minute Air Condenser Cleaning Tutorial
This quick 2-part process can save you energy expense and extend the life of your home’s air conditioner. It will only take you about 30 minutes and you don’t need to have any special experience or training. If you can work a screwdriver and a garden hose you’re good to go!
Locating Your Air Condenser
We’re going to focus on your home’s air condenser. This is the small unit outside your home, usually in the side yard on a foundation block of cement. It looks like this:
Familiar? Now let’s take a closer look. The part you’re going to clean is the fins. Like the radiator in your car, their important function is to dissipate heat. This is how your air conditioning system cools the air in your home. The air condenser fins are pictured here:
In order to dissipate heat efficiently, your air condenser fins need to be clean and in good condition. The fins of your air condenser unit accumulate dust and debris during those windy Las Vegas desert days. As the debris build up, your air condenser has to work harder to keep your home cool. You may end up running your air conditioner more often or turning the temperature down further in order to cool your home. This is going to cost you. Your home will actually be hotter in spite of your air conditioner working harder and expending more energy!
On the other hand, clean the fins of your air condenser unit 2-3 times each year: In the early Spring, mid-Summer and in the Fall to save on energy expense and be more comfortable in your home during our hot Las Vegas Summers.
Take a close look at the air condenser fins in the picture above. Note the debris accumulated in the fins. This routinely occurs. Also, note that some of the fins are bent and deformed. This also happens over time. We’ll refer back to this picture.
Here are 8 steps to cleaning your air condenser fins:
1) Turn off the Power to Your Air Condenser
The power switch is located on a wall connected to your air condenser. It looks like this:
You can easily remove the power switch cover and turn it to the off position.
2) Remove the Top of Your Air Condenser Unit
The top is a metal grillwork located just above the large air condenser fan. Note there are a number of screws or bolts. A screwdriver will often do the trick. You may need a socket wrench depending on the type of bolt. The top of the air condenser is pictured here:
You’ll need a screwdriver or socket wrench depending on the type of bolts attaching the top to the base of the air condenser. As you remove the top, watch carefully to ensure you are not disturbing any wires within the unit. You’ll also want to lift the fan so you can get to the air condenser fins below. As you remove the top, remember how everything looked before you touched it. You’ll need to replace it again later.
Consider all those little bolts. Please have an empty jar or can with you to store the bolts until you replace them later! Seriously…look at the landscaping rocks surrounding the unit. Imagine those tiny bolts falling into the rocks! You’ll never find them again. You’ll end up going to a hardware store to find replacements…searching for the exact same size…it can be a nightmare.
Once you remove the top, carefully remove all debris from inside the unit. There may well be leaves and twigs and bugs. Lots of stuff collects there over time. Get it all out!
3) Hose Off the Air Condenser Fins from the Inside Out
A regular garden hose will do the trick. Use a light spray. Do not use a power washer as this could damage the unit. Carefully hose off every area of the air condenser fins all the way around the air condenser. Be sure to direct the water from inside to outside the unit. Do not spray the outside as this will cause any dust and debris to lodge further into the unit.
4) Brush the Air Condenser Fins with a Fin Brush
Pictured here are a fin brush and a fin comb. You can find them at most hardware stores. We easily located the fin brush and comb pictured below on Amazon for under $8 by searching “air condenser comb”. The fin brush is on the left, the comb on the right. Note that there are air cooling fins behind your refrigerator, under the hood of your car and just about anywhere there is an air cooling system. These tools will work on most air cooling fins anywhere.
The fin brush removes debris from the air condenser fins. It’s a good idea to use the fin brush on all air condenser fins regardless of their age or condition. Carefully brush the outside of the fins all around your air condenser.
5) Straighten Any Bent Condenser Fins with a Fin Comb
The fin comb straightens any bent fins and helps provide the separation necessary to let the fins dissipate heat properly. In the case of severely bent or damaged fins, you can gently insert a kitchen knife between the fins to straighten them. Do not insert the knife more than 1/4th inch into the fins, and stay away from the coils in order to avoid damaging, or heaven forbid, puncturing them!
If you look closely at the air condenser fins in the picture above you can see some bent fins. The air condenser fin comb is designed to gently insert between the fins and straighten them out without damaging them.
6) Spray the Fins with a Fin and Coil Cleaner
Here is an example of a fin and coil cleaner we easily found on Amazon. We’re not attempting to sell any particular brand of any of these products and picture them only to help give you an idea what you’re looking for. Feel free to shop around. There are numerous brands available:
As with the air condenser brush and comb, the coil cleaner is especially designed to clean the fins and coils of any cooling system whether it’s your refrigerator, car or other. It dissolves dirt, dust and debris without damaging the fins. Go nuts and clean them all, making all your cooling systems function more efficiently at a lower cost. For example, when is the last time you pulled your refrigerator away from the wall and looked behind it? Scary!! This is a good example of what collects where ever there are air cooling fins and coils where air is continually passing through along with scads of dust particles and other unmentionable stuff!
7) Replace the Top of Your Air Condenser Unit
Be careful to replace the top of your air condenser unit exactly as it was before you removed it. This is the time you especially appreciate having stored all the screws and bolts in a jar at the beginning of this little adventure.
8) Turn the Power Back On
Take a moment to congratulate yourself! That wasn’t so hard was it? You just helped your air condenser to run more efficiently saving you money month after month and making your home more comfortable. And if you were extra ambitious, perhaps you did the same for your refrigerator!
Replace Air Filters
Another easy task we refer to as low effort, high results is to change your air filters monthly. See this article on our site.
Additional Care and Maintenance of Your Air Conditioning System
Your home’s air conditioning system also contains coils that need cleaning and parts that need special lubrication delivered at the exact right spot. And in addition to the air condenser unit outside your home, there is a larger evaporator unit inside your home – likely in the attic – that has parts important to maintain. Some parts need lubrication. Hoses need to be taken apart and cleaned. Parts may wear out over time. Watch for additional blog articles on maintaining these.
We didn’t want to overwhelm you, so we stuck to the air condenser fins in this article. Cleaning these is the lowest effort task with the highest results. If you keep your air condenser fins clean 2-3 times annually, the other components of your air conditioning system will not have to work as hard and will last longer.
Have Your Home Air Conditioning and Heating System Professionally Inspected and Tuned-Up Annually
We suggest you contact us to professionally service your home’s air conditioning system annually. If this is an off season, you’re in luck. That’s the best time to call for maintenance. During high demand seasons, professionals get booked up, parts can be harder to obtain and some may even raise their prices – we don’t. Though, scheduling can be tricky during those high-demand seasons (i.e. the outside temperature is 120 degrees, your poorly maintained air condenser breaks down on…you guessed it…a Friday evening. You spend the weekend trying to find a HVAC maintenance person rather than escaping to cooler climates on a much needed vacation).
Don’t let yourself get into that bad bad situation. Call us now to schedule your annual HVAC system maintenance. We’ll take care of everything for you…fins and all!