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How to Clean Air Conditioner Fins

Does the outside condenser of your air conditioner look dirty? Soil, dust, sand, and lawn debris clogging the fins surrounding the unit interfere with your unit’s cooling function. As a homeowner, you can learn how to clean air conditioner fins yourself. Although it will improve airflow and operational efficiency, cleaning the fins will not resolve underlying mechanical problems. Issues beyond surface dirt require inspection and care from a qualified air conditioning technician. If you live in the Delaware Valley or at the Jersey Shore, reach out to Oliver’s expert team today for an esimate.

Tools You’ll Need How to Clean Air Conditioner Fins

  • Cooling fin comb (small tool available at hardware and home improvement stores)
  • Shop vacuum
  • Screwdriver
  • Spray bottle
  • Garden hose with spray nozzle
  • String trimmer
  • Rake

Common Questions When Learning How to Clean Air Conditioner Fins

Can I spray an air conditioner condenser with water to clean it?

Yes. The outdoor unit of an air conditioner is built to withstand the rain and snow without compromising the interior electrical components. Spraying the fins with a garden hose is similar to a heavy rain shower. If you see visible damage, however, contact a professional A/C technician for help.

How does cleaning air conditioner fins help with cooling?

The fins on the condenser assist with the movement of air away from the coil. Rapid air movement pulls heat out of the circulating refrigerant. Clean fins ensure good airflow and efficient cooling. On the other hand, clogged fins reduce airflow and force the system to work harder and not perform as designed.

Air Conditioner Fin Cleaning Directions Step by Step

  1. Before starting to clean air conditioner fins, shut off the air conditioner at the thermostat.
  2. Locate the power supply box next to the outdoor condenser unit. It should be right next to the condenser. Shift the switch to OFF or pull the disconnect to cut electrical supply to the outdoor unit.
  3. Alternatively, you may shut off the circuit supplying electricity to the air conditioner outdoor unit in the electrical panel.
  4. If necessary, trim overgrown plants or weeds from around the condenser. A minimum of 18’’ clearance would be ideal if possible.
  5. Rake away yard waste so that the area is free of debris that could obstruct the fins.
  6. Line up the cooling fin comb with the fins above any bent fins.
  7. Straighten bent fins by gently moving the comb down through the fins.
  8. After correcting any bent fins that you find, it is time to open up the unit.
  9. Use the screwdriver with the appropriate bit for the bolts or screws holding the top.
  10. Take out the screws and set them aside in a secure spot.
  11. Slowly lift up the top.
  12. The wiring of the fan motor should have enough length to let you shift the top aside enough to access the interior. Take care not to disrupt wiring.
  13. Put the brush attachment on your shop vac.
  14. Vacuum dirt out of the bottom and then proceed to vacuum the fins.
  15. Working up and down in the same direction as the fins, pull dirt out of the crevices. Do NOT vacuum across fins because that could bend them. They are delicate.
  16. Fill a spray bottle with detergent and water or a special coil cleaner product.
  17. Spray the cleaner all over the inside of the fins.
  18. Let the detergent set for 5 or 10 minutes to loosen dirt.
  19. Fit a spray nozzle on your garden hose and rinse the fins thoroughly from the inside.
  20. Put the top back on the unit and tighten the screws or bolts back in place.
  21. Restore power to your air conditioning system.
  22. Switch on the thermostat and confirm that the air conditioner is functioning properly.

Complete Air Conditioning System Maintenance

Knowing how to clean air conditioner fins is just one part of maintaining your unit. An annual 21-point inspection by the team at Oliver will protect the investment you made in your air conditioning system. With our A/C maintenance plan, you’ll know that your air conditioner is clean and ready for the summer heat. A well-maintained A/C system keeps energy bills under control and is much less likely to break down on a hot summer day. For A/C services you can trust, contact Oliver 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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