Expert Tips

How to Clean an AC Condenser Unit

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Cleaning Your AC Condenser Unit

If it’s been a while since you’ve performed air conditioner maintenance, chances are it isn’t working as efficiently as it should be. A single year’s worth of dirt and debris can clog your cooling fins and prevent the system from working properly.

While some air conditioning problems – like coolant leaks – need to be repaired by professionals, a dirty air conditioner condenser is something that you can usually take care of yourself. Here are a few simple steps to properly clean your condenser unit and improve your cooling system’s efficiency.

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How to Clean an AC Condenser Unit

The outside unit of your cooling system, known as the condenser, contains a compressor, fan and cooling fan and tubes. The fan draws air through the fins and cools the coolant, which is then pumped into the house by the compressor through a cobber tube to the evaporator. Warm indoor air passes through the evaporator and is cooled before being circulated through your air ducts.

When the condenser is dirty, it can prevent air from flowing freely. To clean the condenser, follow these steps:

Turn Off the Power
Before working on your condenser, turn off the power to the unit. Either turn the switch to the off position, or turn the AC off at the main electrical panel.

Vacuum the Fins
Using a soft brush, vacuum dust out of the fins. The fins are fragile and can be bent or crushed easily, so they need to be cleaned with care. If you have fins that are bent, you can buy a special set of fin comes to straighten them.

Clean the Interior of the Condenser
Next, you’ll need to unscrew the fan to access the inside of the condenser. Once you’ve made enough space to access it, vacuum out any debris from inside.

Hose the Fins
Use your garden hose to dislodge and dust and small debris from the fins. After doing so, check the fan motor for lubrication ports. Many new models do not have these ports, but if yours does, add five drops of electric motor oil. Don’t use all-purpose oil or penetrating oil since they’re not designed for long-term lubrication and can damage the bearings.

Restart the Condenser
In most cases, you’ll just need to restore power to the unit and set the thermostat inside your home. If the power has been off for more than four hours, you may need to switch your thermostat from “cool” to “off” before restoring the power. Let the unit sit for 24 hours with the power restored before switching the thermostat back to “cool.”

Confirm Proper Cooling
If a dirty condenser was preventing your air conditioner from working properly, cleaning it should restore efficiency. If not, or if your AC is blowing warm air, a more serious problem may be to blame. In this case, you will likely need to contact a professional HVAC technician for AC repair.