Preparing Your Central AC for the Cooling Season Part 1


After sitting unused through the winter months, your air conditioning unit will need a thorough cleaning to make it run efficiently. It is highly recommended that your unit receive an annual checkup from your local HVAC professional, as only they can check the coolant levels and electrical components. For the most efficient service, call before the cooling season begins.

Otherwise, a thorough cleaning of your basic air conditioning components will guarantee that your unit will be running at full efficiency at the beginning of the cooling season. Continuing basic maintenance throughout the season will help to keep your unit working properly through the heat of the summer while keeping your energy bills low.

Before beginning any cleaning on your unit, make sure that the power to the air conditioner has been turned off.

Air Conditioner Basics: Components

Outdoor air conditioner units are comprised an evaporator and a condenser. The condenser is located outside the home while the evaporator sits above the furnace inside.

The condenser contains a fan, which pulls air into the unit. The air passes through cooling fins and reduces the temperature of a special coolant, which is then pushed by the compressor into the evaporator. Once inside the evaporator, the coolant chills the tubes. Warm air is pulled through the house and into the evaporator by the blower, where it is cooled by the chilled tubes. Condensation is drained out of the evaporator through a tube, which connects to a floor drain.

General Cleaning and Maintenance of the Condenser:

Trane AC Cutaway

As a quick reminder, the power to the air conditioning unit should always be turned off before you begin any routine maintenance or cleaning.

Since the condenser fan pulls outdoor air through the cooling fins, the unit often becomes clogged with dust, dirt and other organic debris. This causes your unit to work less efficiently by blocking the air flow. Thus, the grille and cooling fins are the main focus when servicing your condenser.

  • Clear the area of any leaf litter and debris surrounding the condenser. Make sure to pull any twigs, leaves and grass clippings from the grille. Using a soft brush attachment, vacuum up any dust, seeds and pollen from the exterior cooling fins. In some newer models, the cooling fins are housed behind a metal box, which will need to be unscrewed and removed to reach the fins.
  • The cooling fins are fragile and bend easily. If you notice any bent fins, a fin comb can be used to straighten them. Fin combs can be found at any store that sells appliance parts.
  •  Unscrew the fan in order to vacuum any debris that may have found its way into the interior of the condenser. The fan will still be attached to the condenser by a number of wires, so you may need to recruit an extra set of hands to hold the fan while you clean the interior.
  •  Hose down the cooling fins. Always make sure to direct the spray from the inside out so that none of the electrical components get wet.
  •  If you have an older model, check for lubrication ports on the fan motor. Add a few drops of electric motor oil to the ports. If the bearings are sealed, no lubrication is required. Replace the fan.

Next post: General Cleaning and Maintenance of the Evaporator Coil and Cleaning or Replacing the Filter

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