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How to Clean Your Outside AC Unit

how do you clean an outside air conditioning unit

Just as filter changes keep your interior HVAC system clean, air conditioner maintenance tips include regular cleanings of your exterior AC unit. How do you clean an outside air conditioning unit? Disconnect its power and remove visible debris before vacuuming and spraying the condenser fins. This step-by-step guide illustrates how to clean your outside AC unit, maximizing its function and extending its lifespan.

How Often Should You Clean Your Outside AC Unit?

Why is it necessary to clean AC unit outside? Keeping the condenser coils clean can maximize efficiency, saving you money. It also prevents malfunctions that can result in costly repairs. How often should you clean your outside AC unit? Cleaning it twice a year, before the summer and fall seasons, will help it properly cool and heat your home. 

Follow these simple steps to clean your exterior AC unit with the right supplies and methods.

Step 1: Turn Off Power to Unit

Before you begin to clean your outside AC unit, ensure your safety by turning off its power sources.

Here’s how to turn off power to your AC unit:

  1. Turn the inside thermostat off.
  2. Turn off power at the exterior electrical disconnect. Open the disconnect box and, depending on the unit, unplug the pullout switch or switch the circuit breaker off. 

Step 2: Remove Large Debris

Put on a pair of work gloves and remove large debris such as leaves, twigs and grass clippings from around the exterior. A shop vac or standard vacuum hose attachment can remove smaller pieces of debris from the unit’s base and external surfaces.

clean your outside AC unit

Step 3: Clean Air Conditioner Coils

Cleaning air conditioner coils requires delicate but thorough vacuuming to remove accumulated debris.

Use these tips to clean the condenser coils or fins:

  1. Carefully remove the top of the unit and set it safely aside.
  2. Use a vacuum’s hose attachment to remove dirt, dust, and debris from the base of the unit.
  3. With the vacuum’s brush attachment, gently vacuum the fins or coils in an up-and-down motion to avoid bending them.

Step 4: Apply a Coil Cleaner

Spray the fins or coils with an AC coil cleaner. Alternatively, you can also spray the coils with a mixture of dish detergent and water. Wait 5-15 minutes for the cleaner to foam and adhere to dirt and debris.

Step 5: Spray or Wipe Down the Coils 

Use a garden hose and spray nozzle to spray the coils, removing the cleaner and debris. Is it ok to spray water on your air conditioner? As long as you avoid spraying the motor, water will ensure that the coils are completely cleaned and rinsed.

If you prefer not to spray the coils with water, you can wipe them down with a damp cloth. After spraying or wiping the coils, use the hose or wet cloth to remove lingering dust from the outside of the unit.

Step 6: Restore Power to the Unit

After you clean your outside AC unit, replace the top access panel. Open the exterior disconnect box and plug the pullout switch back in or switch the circuit breaker to the on position. Turn on your interior thermostat and run the air conditioner to make sure it functions properly.

Don’t want to clean your outside AC unit yourself? Let the experts at Dependable Heating and Air take care of it for you. Schedule an HVAC maintenance plan with us today!

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