Spring Cleaning for Your Home’s Air Conditioner

dirty AC unit

Take advantage of the warm spring days in the Clearwater area to prepare your AC for the summer heat. A regular spring cleaning can keep the system running smoothly and extend its lifespan. Here’s a breakdown of how to clean an air conditioner effectively.

How to Clean Your Central Air Conditioner Like an Expert

Whether you’ve tried to clean your air conditioner before or you’re trying for the first time, make it easier on yourself by learning how the pros do it. Follow these steps to clean your air conditioner unit like a professional.

  1. Disconnect the power. Start by making sure the power switch is off and locating the AC breaker switch to fully disconnect the power.
  2. Open the top of the unit. Unscrew the bolts and lift the fan up out of the condenser box. Be careful of the connecting wires as you move the fan. Often there is enough give to fold the fan backward to rest on the other side of the unit while you work with the opening.
  3. Clean out the debris. Don’t be surprised to find a cluster of leaves, sticks, and dirt inside the unit. You can either remove it by hand or use a dry/wet vacuum.
  4. Clean the condenser coils. Depending on how dirty the coils are, there are different ways you can clean them. We break down some of the best ways further down.
  5. Reassemble the condenser. After cleaning the coils, replace the fan and all the screws. Make sure everything fits together properly.
  6. Turn the power back on. Switch the AC’s circuit breaker back on. Start up the machine and check that it runs smoothly.

How to Clean Your Air Conditioner Coils

When you open your outdoor unit, there are small vents that line the inside of the box. These are called coil fins. The fins prevent dust and dirt from causing damage to the condenser, which is the part of your AC that pumps and cools the refrigerant in your AC. They are very fragile and can bend or break if mishandled. To clean the coils effectively, try one of these methods:

  • Compressed air. If your AC unit is only lightly dusty, blowing compressed air through the fins can dislodge particles to clean the coils sufficiently. Alternatively, a dry/wet vacuum can pull light amounts of dirt from the coils.
  • Brush. First, ensure your brush is soft. Brushes with stiff bristles or wire could easily damage the fins. But a soft brush can remove light dust and dirt from the coils.
  • Chemical cleaner. For heavier dirt on the coils, you can apply a chemical coil cleaner spray. After evenly spraying the inner walls of the condenser unit, allow the cleaner to foam for 5 to 10 minutes before washing the soap away with a garden hose.

Related Content: 10 Ways to Get Your Home's HVAC System Ready for Spring

Reshaping Coil Fins

When the delicate slotted fins become bent or twisted, they can block airflow. To prevent your system from working harder to push air through, you can use a fin comb to gently reshape the fins. If the damage is too much, contact professionals for repair.

How to Clean an Air Conditioner Filter

According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, you can save 5% to 15% on energy costs simply by cleaning your filter regularly. But what happens if you don’t clean your air conditioner filter enough? The buildup of dirt and dust will slow the airflow through your AC. The AC works harder to push air through, and some particles may get past the filter and inside the evaporator coil compartment, damaging the system’s heat absorption.

If your system has reusable filters, follow these steps to clean them.

  1. Pull out the filter. Remove each filter from the unit, checking the vents to ensure you found them all.
  2. Dust with a vacuum. To start cleaning the filter, remove as much dust as you can with a vacuum.
  3. Wash. Submerge the filter in a deep sink or rinse it outside with a garden hose to clean the rest of the dirt. For a deeper clean let it set in a mixture of vinegar and water for one hour. Finish by drying thoroughly.
  4. Return to the unit. As you replace the filters, make sure they are completely dry. Damp filters can quickly develop mildew or mold.

Stay Cool in Pinellas County

In Pinellas County, spring is the ideal reprieve before the heat of summer to check and clean your AC unit. If you know how to clean your air conditioner but your system needs deeper cleaning or repair, our expert technicians at FAST of Florida® can help. Call (727) 273-7810 or request service online to make sure your air conditioner is ready to handle the heat.