Keeping your air conditioner (AC) maintained will not only save you money, it will also extend the system’s life cycle. AC units need regular attention to make sure that they are operating at the highest efficiency, so don’t neglect the following steps to keeping your AC running smoothly.
Before starting any maintenance routine with your AC, you need to make sure you are shutting off the power to the unit. On the external condenser or compressor, there should be a shut-off box. Inside, you can also switch off power at the breaker box.
1. Remove Debris Inside and Outside
Straighten up the outside of the unit, because any debris nearby could eventually get sucked in. Afterwards, remove the fan cage. By hand, or with a wet/dry vacuum, clean leaves and other visible debris from the interior of the unit.
2. Change Filters
Dirty air filters murder efficiency. You should install a new one often—sometimes once a month—when the unit is running constantly in the summer. Be sure to get a filter with a high MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value). The higher the number, the better and longer the filter will work. Just keep in mind that higher numbers might also cause the unit to work harder, so you need to balance power with cost.
3. Fix Air Leaks
Ducts can lose up to 30% of airflow through a leak. This is especially true with window AC units. You can use foil tape to seal gaps or duct mastic for larger spaces where air is leaking through. For window AC units, foam and taping can reduce air leaks drastically.
4. Clean and Straighten the Fins
If dirt and grime is caked on the fins, or if they are bent, your unit might not be cooling or functioning properly. Take a brush attachment and remove all outside dirt. From there, you can use a gentle stream of water from a garden hose. Never use a pressure washer, as that could damage the fins. Once you have removed dirt from the fins, start straightening the ones that have been bent. You can use a butter knife or a commercial fin-straightening tool. Be gentle so the tubing just beyond the fins doesn’t get damaged.
5. Clean the Evaporator Coil
You will need to remove some foil duct tape and screws or bolts to access the evaporator coil. Inside the housing, use a soft brush to remove dust from the coil then spray it with a no-rinse coil cleaner. The spray will foam up then drip down into a pan. Take out that pan, clean it with some soap and water, then take 50% bleach and 50% water solution and pour it down the drain. You can also place a drain pan tablet on said pan to keep the drainage system cleaner for longer and inhibit algae growth.
Unless you have found a serious issue with your AC unit, don’t forget to turn the power to the unit back on once you finished cleaning! Should you find something alarming, however, take immediate action and have a professional HVAC technician inspect the AC unit as soon as possible.