Clean the AC Condenser

Posted on June 7th, 2018 by Brian Hall

Chances are that if you’ve neglected a spring checkup, your air conditioner isn’t cooling nearly as well as it could. A year’s worth of dirt and debris clogging the cooling fins, a low coolant level, a dirty blower fan filter and several other simple problems can significantly reduce the efficiency of your ac condenser and wear it out faster.

Taking care of your air conditioning system should certainly be a priority. This is since your air conditioning system is all that stands between you and the heat and humidity outside in those sizzling summer months. When your air conditioning system starts to take a turn for the worse what you typically want to do is to try and fix the problem quickly. However, you can still carry out most maintenance procedures we show here because each system will have a condenser outside and an evaporator inside. Use the owner’s manual for your particular model to help navigate through any differences from the one we show in our photos. And call into Performance AC every two or three years to check electrical parts and the coolant level.

Tip: Call for service before the first heat wave, when Performance AC becomes swamped with repair calls!

Step 1: Clean the condenser

Turn off the power

Turn off the electrical power to the condenser unit at the outdoor shutoff. Either pull out a block or move a switch to the off position. If uncertain, turn off the power to the air conditioning condenser at the main electrical panel.

Vacuum away debris

Vacuum grass clippings, leaves, and other debris from the exterior fins with a soft brush attachment. Clear away all bushes, weeds, and grass within 2 ft. of the ac condensers.

Straighten fins

Realign bent or crushed fins with gentle pressure from a dinner knife. Don’t insert the knife more than 1/2 in.

Remove the fan

Unscrew the top grille. Lift out the fan and carefully set it aside without stressing the electrical wires. Pull out any leaves and wipe the interior surfaces clean with a damp cloth.

Step 2: Restart the condenser (outside unit)

Confirm proper cooling

Turn the power back on, then set the house thermostat to ‘cool’ so the compressor comes on. After 10 minutes, feel the insulated tube. It should feel cool. The uninsulated tube should feel warm.

Step 3: Clean the indoor unit

Check the furnace filter

Turn off the power to the furnace at a nearby switch or at the main panel. Then pull out the furnace filter and check it for dirt buildup. Change it if necessary.

Vacuum and lubricate

Open the blower compartment and vacuum up the dust. Check the motor for lubrication ports. If it has them, squeeze five drops of electric motor oil into each.

Clean the drain tube

Pull off the plastic condensation drain tube and check it for algae growth. Clean it by pouring a bleach/ water solution (1:16 ratio) through the tube to flush the line. Or simply replace the tube.

Clean the drain port

Poke a pipe cleaner into the drain port and clean out any debris. Reinstall the drain tube and turn the power back o

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Rubber gloves
  • Shop vacuum

You’ll also need your garden hose and an ordinary dinner knife.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • Electric motor oil

If you’d rather not have to deal with troubleshooting when your major appliances go on the fritz, a Total Home Care membership like that from Performance AC can save you time, money and hassle.

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