Regular maintenance of your air conditioning systems is an easy way to keep it working in great condition. Save money and avoid having to call in the HVAC repair guy by following our step by step guide to maintaining your home air conditioning unit. These instructions are for a whole-home air conditioning or heat pump unit.

Step #1: Turn the Power Off

It’s extremely dangerous to touch any part of the air conditioner’s moving parts while the power is on, so make sure your unit is off before you begin. Turn the power off at the breaker box inside your home and look for an outside shut-off box on the exterior condenser/compressor.

Step #2: Clean Around Unit

Cut back branches and vegetation around the unit by at least two feet. This is necessary to ensure proper air flow. Also make sure to rake away any leaves or debris from the area. During winter when the unit isn’t in use, you can cover the top with a piece of plastic or plywood, leaving the sides unobstructed to avoid moisture buildup and corrosion. This will prevent future debris from falling in. Important, remove any cover when the unit is operating.

Step #3: Clear Exterior Unit of Debris

Take off the fan cage from the exterior unit and then, using a screwdriver, remove the fasteners. Lift the fan grill or cage off the top of the condenser/compressor. Clean away dirt, leaves and other debris either by hand or with a wet/dry vacuum.

Step #4: Wash The Fins

Wash the fins using a strong stream from a garden hose. Blast out the dirt by spraying through them from the inside. Caution: Never use a pressure washer as this may damage the fins.

Step #5: Straighten The Fins

Using a regular knife, gently straighten any bent fins. This will help improve your unit’s efficiency since bent fins can cause a reduction in air-flow. Work carefully to avoid damaging the tubing embedded within the fins.

Step #6: Level Condenser

Replace the unit’s fan cage and check that the condenser is level. An unlevel condenser can cause the compressor to fail. If needed, use rot-resistant shims to bring it back to level. The one exception is if you are using a heat pump system. Then it’s ok for the pad to be slightly sloped away from your home’s foundation.

Step #7: Clean the Evaporator Coil

Back inside your house, find the inside blower/furnace unit and look for the evaporator coil door. Open the door and using a soft brush, dust off the coil, then spray the coil with a no-rinse coil cleaner. The foam from the cleaner will drip into the drain pan. Using soap, water and bleach, clean the drain pan and then pour one cup of 50% bleach, 50% water down the drain. If the bleach solution does not drain easily, you will need to unclog the evaporator drain before moving onto the next step.

Step #8: Change The Filter

Replace the evaporator coil door and re-seal with duct tape (if necessary). Using FilterScan Wifi is an easy well to tell if your filter needs changing or not. If it does, you’ll find the filter in its enclosure on the indoor furnace/AC where the large fresh air return duct enters the unit. Open the door to the filter (you may need a screwdriver to turn the latch) and remove the old filter. Install the new filter, ensuring you are matching the air-flow direction arrows on the filter to the arrows on the unit. Close and latch the door. Turn the power back on.

Got questions about air filters and air filter monitoring tech? Get in touch with the team at CleanAlert!