Simple Tips on How to Clean an Outdoor AC Unit

AC Maintenance in Puyallup, WA

Your air conditioning unit works hard to maintain a comfortable environment in your home, particularly during those long, hot summer days. Similar to any other appliance, regular maintenance is key for optimal performance. Some of these tasks, like cleaning your outdoor AC unit, can be done by some handy homeowners themselves. However, it’s generally best practice to leave your important yearly maintenance to the pros.

If you’re a handy homeowner that wants to do a little extra in between your professional maintenance from a licensed technician, here’s a general outline of what cleaning and outdoor unit looks like!

Step 1. Cut off the Power

Disclaimer: It’s critical to switch off the power to your AC unit before starting any maintenance or cleaning for your safety.

Your safety is paramount, so the first step is to disconnect the power to the AC unit. Locate the exterior shut-off box near the unit and turn it off. It’s a crucial step to avoid any accidental electrical shocks.

Step 2. Clear Debris Around the Unit

Next, make sure there’s no debris around your outdoor unit. Remove any loose leaves, twigs, or grass. Trim back overgrown shrubs or branches that may interfere with the unit’s operation. Your AC unit requires sufficient airflow to operate effectively, so aim to maintain a clearance of at least 2 feet around it.

Step 3. Remove the Protective Cage

Your AC unit is usually enclosed within a protective cage or grill to guard the delicate fins. To clean the unit, you’ll need to remove this cage. This typically involves using a screwdriver or wrench. Remember to keep the screws in a safe place for reassembly.

Step 4. Clean the Fins

With the cage removed, you’ll have access to the fins – the thin metal blades surrounding the unit. Over time, they can accumulate dirt and debris, hampering the unit’s efficiency. Use a soft brush or a specialized fin-cleaning brush to gently clean the fins. Be careful not to bend or damage the fins as you clean.

Step 5. Straighten Bent Fins

If any fins are bent, they can obstruct the unit’s airflow. Use a fin straightening tool or a blunt knife to carefully realign any misshaped fins. Be gentle during this process to prevent any damage to the tubing within the fins.

Step 6. Clean Inside the Unit

Once the fins are cleaned and straightened, move on to cleaning the interior of the unit. A vacuum cleaner works well to eliminate loose debris without causing any damage to internal components.

Step 7. Clean the Evaporator Coil

The evaporator coil, typically located at the top of the unit, is your next target. Use a no-rinse coil cleaner (readily available at home improvement stores) and follow the instructions on the cleaner. The cleaner will foam up, dissolve, and drain away dirt and debris from the coil.

Step 8. Rinse the Unit

After the coil cleaner has done its job, gently rinse the unit with your garden hose. Steer clear of pressure washers – the high pressure can damage the fins. A gentle rinse is sufficient to wash away the cleaner and any remaining grime.

Step 9. Replace the Protective Cage

Once the unit is thoroughly cleaned and dry, replace the protective cage. Using the screws you kept safe during disassembly, secure the cage back onto the unit. Make sure it’s securely fastened to protect your unit from external elements.

Step 10. Restore Power

Finally, after making sure that everything is back in its place and the unit is dry, restore the power to the AC unit. This can be done by flipping the switch back on at the exterior shut-off box.

How Often Do I Need to Clean My AC Unit?

This cleaning process should be performed annually, ideally in the spring before the summer heat kicks in. However, if your home is in an area with high winds or many trees, more frequent cleanings might be necessary. Safety always comes first, so if you’re unsure about any step, don’t hesitate to call a professional HVAC technician.

What Are the Benefits of Cleaning Your AC Unit?

Regular cleaning of your AC unit significantly enhances its performance and lifespan and leads to energy cost savings. Following this step-by-step guide can keep your AC unit in top shape, ensuring a cool and comfortable home during those hot summer months.

Puyallup Heating & Air Conditioning provides expert air conditioning services for customers in King and Pierce County. We also specialize in ductwork design and air purifiers. Our team members are also happy to answer all of your questions. Feel free to contact Puyallup Heating & Air Conditioning to learn more about using our services.