Warning: I'm about to make a very strong case for doing a chore. (Look at me, Mom!) The chore in question is cleaning your air conditioner on a regular basis when you're using it during the warmer months.
Without regular cleaning, your cooling unit has to work twice as hard to keep you cool. That's bad for several reasons, one being that it can significantly drive up your monthly bills. Another being that the more energy your unit uses, the worse it is for the environment. Add that to the potential for more unfortunate results because poorly maintained air conditioners are more vulnerable to performance issues and hefty repair costs.
Not be a downer, but I'm not done yet. Pushing off cleaning your air conditioner can even be bad news for your health, considering clogged filters are treasure troves for allergens, mold and contaminants that can cause colds, stuffy noses, sore throats, coughing and eye and skin irritations, as noted by Health magazine.
All that is to say: Clean your air conditioner! Here's how to do it:
If you have central air conditioning …
You'll want to perform a deep clean on your air conditioner at the beginning and end of summer, maintaining your handiwork in the meantime by cleaning or replacing the air filter every three months or so.
Follow these steps:
1. Safety first: Turn off the power to the unit on the circuit breaker. SFGate Home Guides also suggested wearing heavy gloves to prevent cuts or scratches.
2. Clean the condenser: Use a vacuum hose with the soft bristle attachment to remove dirt, debris and leaves from the outside of the unit. You may need to remove the protective grill to reach the condenser coils. Be gentle with your vacuum strokes so you don't bend the fins or damage the coils, as advised by HomeTips.
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3. Clean or replace the air filter: Locate the air filter, which is usually inside the unit or behind an access panel somewhere near the air conditioner. If you have a reusable air filter, rinse it with water and let it dry before putting it back. Otherwise, replace the filter with a new one.
Note that an HVAC technician can clean your unit during seasonal tune-ups, but it doesn't hurt to keep up the cleanliness on your own.
If you have a window unit …
When it comes to window air conditioners, the easiest way to clean them is to remove them from the window. I know, it's a pain. But the good news is that you should be fine with one seasonal clean, according to DoItYourself.com.
After your unit is out of the window, take it outside and follow these steps:
1. Remove and clean the filter: Wipe down the filter to remove dust and other debris, spraying it with a hose and using soapy water if necessary.
2. Vacuum the fins: Use the hose attachment to suck away dust and other debris from inside the unit. The soft brush attachment works well for cleaning in between the fins.
3. Spray it down: Cover the unit's motor and spray it down with a house. Alternatively, use a wet cloth to wipe down the condenser and other parts of the air conditioner. Use a dry cloth or towel to soak up the water, and leave the unit in the sun for a day or two to ensure it's fully dried out.
From there, try to clean the filter monthly, which you should be able to do without removing the entire unit from the window. (Phew.)
Congrats! With that cleaning job done, you're on the right track to extending the life of your cooling system with proper maintenance.
Being prepared for HVAC repairs is always a good strategy. See how plans from HomeServe can help with the costs of covered repairs.