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How to Clean a Central Air Conditioner

Whether you think of your central air conditioner as a luxury or necessity, you need it to work efficiently. Cleaning the system improves your air conditioner’s performance and protects the equipment from failing prematurely. At Oliver Heating & Cooling, we’ve seen firsthand just how much dust, dirt, and debris can clog a central air conditioner. Learning how to clean a central air conditioner involves multiple steps inside and outside your home. If you choose to do the job yourself, make sure to disconnect the electricity prior to starting any work. If you live in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or Delaware our HVAC technicians are just a quick or call away. We’ll ensure your central air conditioner is cleaned and ready to go for the summer season.

Tools and Materials How to Clean a Central Air Conditioner

You may already have the tools you’ll need to use while learning how to clean a central air conditioner. However, you will need to buy a special spray cleaner for the evaporator coil.

  • Wet/dry vac
  • Garden hose with spray nozzle
  • Wrenches
  • Screwdrivers
  • Evaporator coil cleaner
  • Utility knife
  • Aluminum foil tape
  • Stiff metal wire

How to Clean a Central Air Conditioner Step by Step

  1. Locate the outdoor power connection for the central air conditioner condensing unit.
    1. It will be the box on the exterior wall with an ON/OFF switch or plug.
  2. Switch the power to OFF or unplug the condenser.
  3. Vacuum the air conditioner’s many thin metal fins with a wet/dry vac to remove dust and debris. (Dirty fins reduce air flow and impact cooling efficiency.)
  4. If you see any bent fins, gently straighten them with a flat head screwdriver.
  5. Find the bolts or screws securing the grate covering the fan.
  6. Remove the fasteners with an appropriate wrench or screwdriver.
  7. After exposing the fan, remove the screws connecting wires to the fan motor.
  8. Unscrew the fan and carefully lift it out.
  9. Attach a spray nozzle to a garden hose.
  10. With the fan out of the way, you can now position the nozzle inside the air conditioner.
  11. Spray metal fins from the inside out to blast out more dirt.
  12. Spray off the fan blades.
  13. Reattach the fan.
  14. Fasten the fan cover again.
  15. Turn the power supply back on.
  16. Head inside to where your evaporator is located.Clean Air Conditioner Evaporator Coils
    1. Most central air conditioners tie in with a forced air furnace.
    2. The duct work near the system’s internal blower will contain the evaporator coil.
  17. Go to your circuit breaker panel and shut off the circuit for the internal furnace/air conditioning system.
  18. Find the panel on the duct that covers the evaporator coil.
  19. If aluminum foil tape is on the cover’s edges, cut it with a utility knife.
  20. Unscrew the fasteners holding the panel to expose the coil.
  21. If you see mold on the coil, your system needs professional antifungal cleaning.
  22. If you see dirt and dust, spray the coil with the evaporator coil cleaner.
  23. Allow the cleaner to stand according to its manufacturer’s directions.
    1. The cleaner will drip off slowly.
  24. Confirm that drippings are draining through the condensate drain.
  25. If drain appears clogged, slide a stiff metal wire through it to remove blockages.
  26. Reattach the coil cover and reseal edges with aluminum foil tape.
  27. You now need to change the air filter.
  28. The air conditioner filter is usually between the incoming air duct and the furnace.
  29. Slide out the old dirty one and insert a fresh one.
  30. Note the airflow arrows on the filter and line them up with the air movement direction.
  31. Some air intakes in a central air system have filters.
  32. Unscrew the vent covering an air intake and remove the dirty filter.
  33. Insert a fresh filter.
  34. Be sure to clean and inspect the drainage system to make sure condensate flows properly.

Air Conditioning Maintenance the Easy Way

Keeping your central air conditioner clean is essential for protecting your investment. A maintenance plan from Oliver will ensure that your system runs at optimal efficiency. We perform an annual 19-point inspection. Contact us about a Oliver Peace of Mind Membership plan today.

Need help with this project?

If you do not have the time, tools, or experience necessary to complete the project, please contact the professionals at Oliver for help.

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