Cleaning Your Air Conditioning System

Spraying an AC unitWhat could be better than prolonging the life and health of your air conditioner with your own two hands? Nothing, that’s what. Austin AC repair can be expensive but not everyone knows that the vast majority of costly repairs can be completely avoided by having your air conditioner regularly maintained. And yes, there are a number of reasons why you’d want to have a professional like those at AC Express perform some routine maintenance, especially when it comes to the electrical side of the machinery of air conditioning in Austin. But, there are plenty of maintenance tasks you can take care of yourself in order to dramatically increase the life and the energy efficiency of your air conditioning system.

Most of these have to do with cleaning your air conditioner. There are a number of parts in your air conditioning system that can benefit greatly from a regular cleaning. You’ll need nothing more than a few tools such as a screwdriver, gloves and goggles for safety, a rag, a hard brush, and perhaps a shop vacuum. So do yourself a favor and take a look at your air conditioner. It’s more likely than you think that it could do with a little elbow grease and love and care.

Clean Your Outdoor Unit

Your outdoor unit is comprised of a compressor, a fan, and tubes. You’ll see your outdoor unit in some inconspicuous spot along the outside of your house, a big metal box connected to the house with copper tubes, one or both of which will be wrapped in a foam insulating case. Make sure to choose a day to clean this unit when it’s at least 60 degrees. Because this is the summer and this is Austin, air conditioning is usually necessary all day long and this isn’t an issue.

The first step, which you’ll find is the first step to most of these cleaning routines, is to switch off the power. Either turn the outdoor unit off directly by pulling the necessary plug or switch, or switch the whole thing off at the breaker circuits. Start by just giving the outdoor unit a generally cleaning around the outside of the metal casing. You can do this with your garden hose. Spray off any debris and dirt buildup that clings to the outdoor unit. Shoot the water at an angle so any buildup will peel off. Then, take off the top of the outdoor unit with a screwdriver. Inside, you’ll see a bunch of metal fins. This will likely have collected dust and debris. You’ll want to clean these fins the best you can with the tools you’ve got. The best method is by using a shop vacuum with a soft brush.

Sometimes, you’ll find that some of these metal fins have been bent. This will reduce the efficiency of the airflow in your air conditioner, so try bending these back into place. You can purchase a special fin comb for this or if the bends are not too serious you can use a butterknife.

Next, you’ll want to remove the fan. Use your screwdriver to remove the fan so that you can access the inner compressor. The fan won’t be able to be completely detached, as wires will keep it tethered to the outdoor unit. Depending on how much leeway the wires give you, you may need someone to help you hold the fan while you vacuum away debris and dust from the compressor. Use a gardening hose after you use the vacuum. Makes sure the hose isn’t set so high that the water pressure might bend the fragile fins. Let the gentle water pressure do the work and thoroughly clean off the compressor from inside the outdoor unit. Check the fan motor for lubrication ports. Most newer motors have sealed bearings and can’t be lubricated. Check your owner’s manual to be sure. If you find ports, as you might on an older motor, add a few drops of electric motor oil. This can be found at a local hardware store or an appliance parts store. Don’t use penetrating oil or all-purpose oil. They’re not designed for long-term lubrication and can actually harm the bearings.

From inside the outdoor unit, before you’ve put the fan back on, go ahead and use the hose to apply water pressure to the fins as well. If you’d like to go the extra mile, you could even purchase commercially available fin cleaning spray to get even the toughest dirt off the fins. Now, you can put the fan back in place using your screwdriver, and do the same with the outdoor unit’s metal cover.

To finish up here, you’ll want to clear the area around the air conditioning unit. Make sure there is about two feet of space in every direction around the outdoor unit that’s clear of debris, leaves, and overgrown vegetation. This will prevent anything from getting clogged in the workings of the machine in the future.

Clean Your Indoor Unit

Before cleaning your indoor unit, make sure you switch off the power to it. As with the outdoor unit, you can do this by either switching off the unit directly or by turning it off at the main panel.

The first step is to clean the evaporator coil, if you can get to it. The evaporator is often in an inaccessible spot downstream from the blower. If you can get to it, use a vacuum or a soft brush to clear it of debris from the blower side of the evaporator. Clean the fan blades with a wet rag if you can get to them. If you can’t get to the evaporator directly, don’t fret. You can still keep it clean by keeping the airflow between the blower and it clean. You can do this by vacuuming and cleaning debris off the blower component and by regularly changing your air filter. The air filter is one of the simplest cleaning tasks but one of the most important ones. Everyone should change their air filter at least every two months or so. This will keep your indoor air conditioning system healthy and efficient.

Next you’ll want to clean out the condensation drain tube. This is the tube that sends condensed water that the air conditioner has gathered out into a drain pan. Over time, algae and other contaminants can plug this drain tube. The easiest way to clean the tube and remove any clogging material is to first find the end of the tube. Start where the tube connects to the evaporator and follow it to where it drains out. Unplug the tube and connect the vacuum to the end. Use something to seal this connection such as duct tape or a rag. Then turn on the vacuum and leave it on for two to three minutes. This will clear out any debris from the inside of the condensation drain tube.

If your drain tube has a top opening, where it opens up into the air before connecting to the evaporator, you can use a cleaning solution to clean out the tube as well or in place of vacuuming. Simply pour a cleaning solution such as Simply Green or a mixture of fifty percent bleach and fifty percent water down the drain tube and wash it out with a little water.

If you haven’t done it already, now is a good time to change the air filter. Find the vent that takes in warm air and filters it out. Remove the vent and check the air filter. If it seems dirty, it’s probably too dirty and needs to be replaced. If you have a reusable air filter, take it outside and clean it off with your hose. If not, make sure you get an air filter of the same airflow rating to replace it. Line up the new filter according to the arrows so that it’s facing the right direction. Then screw the vent cover back on.

Maintenance and Air Conditioning Repair in Austin

As you can see, there a multitude of tasks you can do to regularly clean your air conditioner system. From the outdoor unit and its fan, fins, and compressor, to the indoor unit and its air filter, evaporator coil, and condensation drain tube, your air conditioner unit has a lot of parts that can gain much from a few simple cleaning routines.

Doing so will significantly reduce the chance of needing to seek costly Austin AC repair from a professional. It will keep your air conditioning working in top-notch shape for much longer than the average AC system without regular care and maintenance.

In addition to the cleaning routines you can perform yourself, your AC could benefit greatly from a regular yearly checkup and maintenance from a professional and reputable company such as AC Express. Covering areas from Round Rock and Leander to Buda and Taylor, Austin air conditioning is our business and we know how to get you the best air conditioning possible with as little cost to you as possible. In fact, we’re so committed to this idea we’ll give you a free preventative maintenance check when you schedule any service with us. For expert AC repair in Austin, call today!