4 steps to cleaner central air conditioning

July 27, 2015

A clean air conditioner is an efficient air conditioner. Follow these steps to keep your central AC working at its best.

4 steps to cleaner central air conditioning

1. Clear a path

  • Central air conditioners work better when the area around the outdoor unit is kept free of debris.
  • Trim bushes periodically so they're at least two feet away.
  • If you have any trees nearby, you'll have to keep the grills cleared of leaves in the fall. Consider removing tree branches that cause problems.
  • When mowing, bag the clippings when you're near the unit or direct them away from the unit.
  • Cover the unit during snowy weather.
  • Wash the panels on the outdoor unit with water, then rinse with a hose.
  • To prevent rust from spreading, lightly sand any scratches with metal-grade sandpaper. Then, touch them up with any kind of outdoor enamel paint.

2. Change the filter

Change or clear the filter on the indoor unit at least once a month during the cooling season. Shut off the power to the blower and the outside unit first. In most homes, this is exactly the same as changing the filter on a forced-air heating system.

3. Clean the condenser coils

Clean the condenser coil and fins on the outdoor unit once a year, at the beginning of the cooling season, more often if they get particularly dirty. Here's how:

  1. Shut off the power to the unit and turn up the thermostat.
  2. Remove the metal grill and, if necessary, the housing from the unit. The grill is often held by bolts with cap nuts. The housing is held together with screws.
  3. Cover the compressor, fan motor and other electrical parts with plastic bags and seal them with string or tape.
  4. Gently brush away any visible dirt from the coil, then use a garden hose to wash it from the inside.
  5. Let the unit dry before removing the plastic bags protecting the electrical systems.

4. Clean the evaporator drain

  • The evaporator coils on most central air conditioners are sealed and inaccessible. If the coils are clogged, you'll need to call in a licensed service technician.
  • You can deal with the drain that carries away condensed moisture from the evaporator coils yourself.
  • If you find water puddles beneath the coils, the drainpipe from the evaporator is probably clogged. Disconnect the drainpipe near the evaporator and flush the trap with a hose. Pour in one tablespoon of chlorine bleach and reattach the drainpipe.

Clean AC units are more efficient and can last longer than those that don't receive the attention they need. If you clean your unit often and watch out for problems, you could see a noticeable difference in performance and operating costs.

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