How to Clean Air Conditioner Coils

how to clean air conditioner coils

During those hot summer days, stepping into a cool, restful home is very reviving. It’s a kind of comfort that was brought to us by Willis Carrier, the inventor of modern air conditioners. It’s difficult to imagine life without it. However, like any other mechanical device, an air conditioner requires some fundamental cleaning to maintain its optimal, long-term health. 

Air conditioner coils are an indispensable part of your HVAC framework. Your air conditioner won’t reduce the humidity level and cool without the coils. This is where the magic happens. Here, heat is being absorbed by the refrigerator unit of your appliance in order to cool the air. As air passes over the cool refrigerant, it draws off heat out in a process that’s essentially the opposite of how your forced air furnace operates. That’s why regularly checking and cleaning your AC coils will allow it to run cooler with less energy consumed. Therefore, it can help you save money in the long run. 


Types of coils in the AC unit: 

A split-system central AC, there is an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. Each of these units contains a coil that is integral to the air conditioning process. 


Evaporator coil 

This is the indoor component that is located on the top of your furnace or air handler. It is sometimes referred to as the cooling coil.  It is located on the air intake side of the fan coil or the outlet side of the furnace. Its function includes removing heat from indoor air so the blower fan can blow cool, refreshing air inside the living space. When problems develop with dirty evaporator coils, your AC’s efficiency can drop, it’s performance will decrease, and damage or breakdowns can occur. 


Condenser coil 

This is the outdoor unit that really powers the whole operation. Often referred to as the air conditioning unit. It releases that absorbed heat outside. Most evaporator and condenser coils are made of copper tubing which runs through a sequence of thin, aluminum strips called fins. While there are other coil designs and compositions, like aluminum coils, or spine fin coils that look kind of like a large pipe-cleaner, airflow across the coil helps the transmission of heat energy into and out of the home.


Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Air Conditioning Coils:


Step 1: Shut off the power to the air conditioner

First, turn off the A/C at the thermostat and shut off the power going to the condensing unit. Most outdoor air conditioning units have an appliance shut off box situated nearby. Open the door on the box and remove the stab connection or fuses. Just pull the handle that you see and the terminal must come out. If for some reason, you don’t need to disconnect, simply shut down the power at the breaker panel. There should be an exclusive breaker for your A/C.


Important note: 

Pulling the disconnect mitigates the power to the unit, NOT to the disconnect. Electricity is still being supplied to the disconnect itself. Only the breaker at the panel can cut the power to the disconnect itself.

In the event that you have no shut-off box, flip off the power at the circuit breaker in your home

Do not attempt to work on an air conditioning unit without first disconnecting the power.


Step 2: Remove the Top of the Condenser

Make sure that the power is turned off while you remove the condenser. Also, remove the bolts attached to the lid from the condenser but not the bolts that keep the fan to the lid. Just leave the fan attached. You may use your hex driver or drill to detach these bolts which are usually 1/4″, 3/8″ or 1/2″.

Set the lid with the fan attached aside. Ideally, you have enough leeway in the wiring to do as such. However in the event that not, it is possible because the slack is tied up inside the access panel. If you detach the access cover, you can cut the tie on the wires and must be able to get the slack you need. The power is off, there’s no need to worry about the shock. Just make sure not to cut the wires as you cut the tie. Also, make sure that the metal on the unit doesn’t cut or scratch the wires as you move the top around to a stable resting place.  This is a good time to use a paper towel or paintbrush to clean out the dirt inside the entrance board


Important note: 

Focus on how the wires are wrapped inside the access panel with the goal that you can tie them back in a similar manner when you’re done. Do not disconnect any wires. If you find that you cannot do this without disconnecting wires, contact an expert. Misplacement of wires can cause immediate harm to your unit and present potential safety hazards. 


Step 3: Remove the Caging

With the top off, remove the caging. In case that you have a metal packaging or cabinet around your condenser, the concept here will still be the same. Detach the bolts at the base of the unit that is connected to the cage and it will come off easily. Once more, be careful as we avoid smashing down any more of those finds than are already. 


Step 4: Clean Out the Debris in the Base of the Unit

Wipe out the debris in the base of the unit where the compressor is found. Leaves and other natural falling things can get into the top of the unit when it’s not running. They may cause corrosion and form a blanket of insulation under the compressor when they get wet and decay. This can decrease the airflow that we need to help the compressor cool. 


Step 5: Comb Out the Smashed Fins 

In order to clean the spaces in between, we need to open the fins. Here is where we need this little air conditioning coil comb. Choose the side of the comb with the properly spaced teeth to avoid causing harm. 

Moreover, avoid forcing the comb through any areas that are resistant so that you will not tear these very thin pieces of metal. In the event that you don’t have this comb, a butter knife or other similar objects will do the job though it may take longer than usual. 


Step 6: Presoak the Unit

Use a hose to wash things down. Spray from the inside out to push back any debris it absorbed.  You want to avoid spraying directly at the disconnect or the electrical segments inside the access panel. However, a little splash won’t hurt anything since it’s built to be outside and water isn’t going to damage it at all. Check on the outer base of the unit where heavier grass deposits are likely to build up.


Step 7: Spray the Coils With Your Cleaner Mix

A healthy dose of your coil cleaner must cover the front and back of the coil, base to top. Let the cleaner stick for a bit before washing it down with water. Make sure to follow the directions provided by the manufacturer of your coil cleaner for blending rations and stand time. These are somewhat dependent on the product you use. 


Step 8: Reassemble the unit

At this point, just put the unit back up the same way you’ve taken it apart and you’re all set. Make sure that the electrical segments are dry before plugging the disconnect back in and turn on the breaker and thermostat. 

At this point, just button the unit back up the same way you’ve taken it apart and you’re all set. Make sure your electrical components are dry, plug the disconnect back in and turn on the breaker and thermostat.