How to Spring Clean Your Air Conditioner

Lead Image for How to Spring Clean Your Air Conditioner
What You'll Need
Work gloves
Shop vacuum with soft brush
Electric motor oil

Finally, spring is in the air and it's that time of year again to clean up your home. As with all of the other areas in your home, your air conditioning unit needs to be checked over and cleaned to ensure that it will operate properly in the warmer months of the year. Over time dirt can clog your system, coolant can run low and your filter can become filled with debris, reducing the effectiveness of your air conditioner.

There are several steps you can take to clean out your air conditioner and have it running effectively without any help from a service professional. All of these steps are easy to follow and will only take a few hours to finish. If your air conditioning system seems to have a serious issue, call in an expert to take a look at your unit.

Get Yourself Ready

Choose a day in early spring to clean your system. If you find any problems with your unit, it will be much easier to schedule an appointment with an air conditioning technician in the spring than if you wait until the warmer days in early summer. Pick a day when the temperature is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit -- this is the minimum temperature level at which you can test that your system is operating properly. Take out the owner’s guide to your unit and read through the section on cleaning and maintenance. Put on your work gloves to protect your hands while you do your cleaning.

The Parts of Your Condenser

Your outside unit is referred to as the condenser, which holds the compressor, the fan, the coolant tubes and the cooling fins. There should be two tubes running to the condenser -- one with a foam covering and one without a cover. The fan in your condenser uses the fins to bring in cool air, which lowers the temperature of the coolant. The coolant is then pumped by the compressor into the evaporator that is located inside your home. The warm air inside your home goes through the evaporator where it is cooled and then blown back into your rooms. As the air is cooled, it is also condensed. The condensation from the air is drained into a tube and removed from the system.

Shut Off the Condenser

Shut off the power to the condenser unit of your air conditioner located outside. If you are unsure where the switch is located, check the manual to your unit. If you cannot find your manual, turn off the condenser power switch on the main electrical panel.

Clean the Condenser Fins

The fins on your condenser look like blades. As they suck air through them, they also pull in dirt and debris. This debris can reduce the flow of air and reduce the ability of your unit to cool your home.

Use a vacuum to get rid of the debris. The fins can be easily bent so be sure to use a soft brush attachment. You may have to remove a metal cover in order to access the fins. Check your manual on the best procedure for removing the cover. Use your screwdriver to take out the screws and place them in a safe place while you work. If your fins have major damage to them, call a professional to have them repaired or replaced.

Lubricate the Ports

Once you have cleaned the fins, check for lubrication ports on the fan motor. If required, add five or six drops of oil to the ports. Be sure to use the proper motor oil for your system. If you are unsure of the type you will need, check your owner’s manual or visit your local hardware store and speak with a service representative about your cleaning project.

Restart Your Condenser

Check with your manual on the necessary steps to take before turning the power back on to your system. There are different steps to take depending on how long the power to your unit was not connected. Restart the condenser unit and set the air temperature in your home to cool. Wait about ten minutes before you check the tubes running to the condenser. The foam covered tube should be cool to the touch and the uncovered tube should be warm.

Shut Off the Indoor Unit

Go to your main electrical panel and shut off the power switch to your furnace. Read through your manual for help on removing the cover to the blower unit. Pull out the filter from your furnace and check for dirt and debris. If your filter is clogged with dirt, replace it. You will find the information you need on the correct filter type and size in your owner’s manual.

Clean the Evaporator

Use your vacuum with a soft brush attachment to clean the fins on the evaporator and the blower compartment. As the air moves through the evaporator, it becomes dehumidified. The condensed air produces water which is collected in a pan and then drains out of the unit through tubes. If possible, remove the tubes and clean them. If they are difficult to remove, leave that job for a trained professional.

Restart the Indoor Unit

Once you have checked through your entire air conditioning system and have replaced the cover to the evaporator, restart the unit. Turn the air temperature to cool and check to be sure that everything is running as it should be.