Properly cleaning your air conditioner outdoor unit extends its life and minimizes maintenance issues. A clean air conditioner also cools the air more efficiently and can reduce energy consumption by up to 15 percent, according to Cornell University. Most outdoor units are easily accessible, which allows homeowners to perform maintenance themselves. Units perform best when cleaned twice annually at the beginning and again at the end of the summer cooling season.
1. Locate and remove the air conditioner filter. Filter locations vary depending on your air conditioner, but they are usually found along the air conditioner return duct. If the filter is not located within the air conditioner unit, look for an access panel on the interior or exterior of your home near the air conditioner location.
2. Wash reusable filters outdoors. Rinse them with a sharp spray of water from a garden hose to remove the dust and debris in the filter. Dispose of cardboard and fiber filters and replace with a new filter, since these are not reusable like the metal and plastic variety.
3. Turn off the power to the air conditioner unit. Usually this requires flipping the breaker switch assigned to the unit since most units don’t have a separate on/off switch.
4. Remove the top access panel on the unit. This is the panel with the vent openings. Locate the screws holding it in place and remove them with a screwdriver. Set the panel aside carefully without damaging the attached fan or fan wires.
5. Examine the condenser coils on the inside of the unit for dirt, debris and dust. Vacuum the debris from the coils using a shop vacuum, taking care not to bend the fins and coils. Rinse the coils with water from the garden hose after vacuuming.
6. Wipe the fan blades clean with a wet rag. Clear any debris from the fan vents in the panel.
7. Replace the panel on the unit and screw it in place. Turn the power back onto the unit.
Things You Will Need
- Replacement filter (optional)
- Garden hose
- Shop vacuum
If the fins on the condenser coils are badly bent, air won’t flow through them properly. Use a fin comb, available from air conditioner wholesalers, to fix the fins.
Replacing or cleaning the filter at least twice a year minimizes the amount of dirt that reaches the condenser coils. With proper upkeep, the coils may only need cleaning every few years instead of annually.
Wear heavy gloves when cleaning the condenser coils. The fins are sharp and can cause cuts or scratches.