Your AC unit needs to be rigorously cleaned about once or twice a year. If you live in an area where there is a lot of dust and dirt flying around, you may need to clean it out more frequently. While using a power washer may seem like the fastest way to clear the clogs and filth, it can lead to efficiency problems and expensive repairs.
Avoid Using Power Washers
Power washers create an immense amount of pressure so that they can quickly remove debris, mildew, and filth from a variety of surfaces. Their overall power is measured in pounds per square inch, or PSI. The average power washer uses hundreds if not thousands of pounds of pressure, which can be harmless to concrete or vinyl siding but deadly to the soft metal fins and delicate parts inside your AC. Even small, battery-operated power washers create too much pressure for your unit.
AC unit coils are often made of aluminum or copper. They’re so soft that you could accidentally bend them by hand when completing repairs or maintenance. Too much pressure will cause irreparable damage to the unit, impacting its efficiency and the comfort of your home. You may even be faced with internal tubing that has been ruptured and destroyed, which could require you to replace the unit entirely.
Rather than face hundreds of dollars in repair and replacement costs, avoid using your power washer on your AC unit. It’s much easier and safer to take your unit apart and clean it by hand. This also gives you the opportunity to check for damage, rust, and leaks.
Cleaning Your AC Unit
The first step to cleaning your AC unit is to turn off the power. AC units need to be cleaned with water, which can present an electrical hazard if there’s a live current. Make sure that the area around your AC unit is clear of any underbrush or debris. Vegetation can easily block airflow, affecting the unit’s ability to create cool air.
Pop off or unscrew the top of your AC unit. Depending on your model, an internal fan may be attached to the top. Some AC unit covers can be washed with low-pressure power washers. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines for further information before attempting to power wash it.
Cover the motor and wiring with a secure plastic bag. You can then use a vacuum to remove any debris, cobwebs, sticks or vegetation. A soft-bristle brush can be used to clean the coils and fans. Using compressed air or coil cleaner is a great way to efficiently remove dirt from the fins. If you happen to damage a fin, try to gently move it back into place. Having a fin comb on hand is a great way to minimize any lasting damage.
Rinse out the whole unit with a water hose. It’s best not to use any high-pressure nozzles or settings. Unlike power washers, hoses have settings such as “mist” that can gently rinse away lingering pollen and dirt. Try not to spray water directly on or near the plastic-wrapped motor.
After the unit is clean, remove the plastic and put the unit cover back in place. Turn the power back on, and test your unit to ensure that it’s working as intended. Complete this process about once or twice a year to keep your AC unit clean and in optimal condition.
Taking apart your AC unit can feel like a frightening endeavor if you’ve never cleaned one before. It’s never too late to start learning how to take care of your home’s essential appliances. Your local HVAC company can also provide information and advice on how to best care for your specific model. Experienced technicians often complete system cleanings when they come out for seasonal maintenance.
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