Do I Need to Clean My Outdoor Central Air Conditioning Unit? - NYCM Insurance Blog

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Jul 25, 2022

Do I Need to Clean My Outdoor Central Air Conditioning Unit?

Summer days in New York State are often beautiful, sunny, and clear, but they can also be hot and muggy. After using your trusty central air conditioning unit for months or even years of relief from the summer heat, you may be left wondering if, how, and when you need to clean it? Continue reading to learn more about how to best clean your outdoor central air conditioning unit to keep it in tip-top shape.


Do Outdoor AC Units Need to be Cleaned?

The short answer is yes, your air conditioning unit does need to be cleaned. If you are experiencing issues with your outdoor unit, these issues can often be resolved by simply giving it a good cleaning. Since these units take in air from outdoors, they can often pick up dirt, grass clippings, and other particles from your yard. Because of this, routine cleaning of your outdoor AC unit is highly recommended. The cleaning process is usually straightforward and easy to do. Getting into the habit of cleaning your outdoor AC unit can even save you money when it comes to your utility bill and preventing issues from arising in the future.


How Often Should I Clean My Air Conditioner?

Even if you are not experiencing issues with your outdoor air conditioning unit, you should plan on giving it a deep clean least once a year. Having a dirty condenser and evaporator coils can increase the energy usage of your air conditioning system by over 30 percent. This means that the cleaner you keep your AC unit, the more money you will save throughout the summer.


What is the Best Way to Clean an Outdoor Central Air Conditioning Unit?

Although cleaning your outdoor air conditioning unit may be daunting if you’ve never done it before, it truly is a simple task. Follow these steps for a successful cleaning:


Step 1: Power Down and Open the Unit

To clean your outdoor air conditioning unit, you’ll want to start by powering it off. You can do this by locating the service disconnect, which is usually a box with a door that flips upward. This is typically found on the side of your house. Flip open the door on the box and pull out the fuse to cut off power to the AC unit. Some outdoor central air conditioning units have a protective casing around their tops and sides. These function as shields that protect the AC unit from the elements. To clean your unit, you may need to unscrew these pieces and remove them to expose the coils.


Step 2: Remove Debris from the Unit

Depending on your unit and where it is located, there may be debris in the bottom of the air conditioner. Oftentimes, entry-level air conditioning units will lack guards that stop debris such as leaves, seeds, or tiny twigs from collecting in the bottom of the pan. Be sure to scoop out any debris you do find either by hand or by using a shop vacuum.


Step 3: Clean the Air Conditioner Coils and Fins

Once you are sure that the power to the unit has been cut off and your AC unit's coils are exposed, the next step will be to wash all the dirt and grime out from the inside of the unit. Using a coil cleaning solution, you will want to spray directly on to the coils and fins. Let your solution sit for a few minutes and foam up before gently rinsing off with a garden hose. Pro-tip: avoid using a pressure washer as the fins can be delicate and can become damaged under pressure. Be sure to use the water to push the dirt to the outside faces of the unit. Once you start to see the dirt surfacing on the unit's outside faces, then you can start to spray the dirt off the outside of the unit and onto the ground.


Step 4: Finishing Touches

After deep cleaning the unit itself, in order to ensure that your unit is running efficiently there are a few things you’ll want to do before powering it back up. The first thing you will want to do is inspect the air conditioner fins, as bent fins cause reduced airflow. It’s best to purchase a fin tool kit from your local hardware store to help you properly adjust the fins back into place. After this, you should be able to reassemble your unit.

The next thing you’ll want to double check is the area around the unit. Make sure this area is clear at least two feet in each direct to ensure optimal airflow. Then, inspect the area in which your outdoor AC is sitting.  Because dirt can settle below the unit and cause it to start tipping, it’s important that you level out the unit once you are done working. If your unit is unlevel for too long it can cause damage leading to costly repairs.

Now that your outdoor air conditioning unit is sparkling clean, it’s time reconnect it to its power source. After a full season of using your freshly cleaned central air conditioning unit, you should see a noticeable difference in your energy usage. For more information on summer related tips, check out the link below.