How to Properly Clean Your Air Conditioner’s Condenser Unit


Chances are that you’ve neglected your spring time cleaning because the summertime heat is just not here yet. We are here to help you get started! Your home’s air conditioning system sits idle for almost an entire year. To ensure it works efficiently, a proper and thorough cleaning is necessary.  A year’s worth of dirt and debris clogging the fins, a low coolant level, and a dirty blower fan can significantly reduce the effectiveness of your air conditioner and actually wear it out faster.

We will be giving you some simple maintenance steps that will only take you a few hours. And don’t worry – you don’t need to know the in’s and out’s about your air conditioner, we will walk you through the basics. Let’s get started! 

Tools & Materials:
- 4 in 1 Screwdriver
- Rubber Gloves
- Shop Vacuum
- Garden Hose
- Ordinary Kitchen Knife
- Rags
- Household Cleaner
- Electric Motor Oil

Clean the Condenser

Step One: Turn off the power

This should be your first step when doing any maintenance on any of your appliances. Turn off the electrical power to the condenser unit located outside of your house. You may have to pull out a block or move the switch to the off position.  Wait at least 30 minutes after shutting of the unit to begin any work.

NOTE: If you are not familiar with your condenser, it usually sits next to your house with two copper tubes running from it, one that is bare and the other encased in a foam sleeve. If you have a heat pump, both will be encased in foam sleeves.

Step Two: Vacuum away debris

Check your owner’s manual for directions to access condenser fins. On many units you’ll have to unscrew and lift off a metal box to get to them. Vacuum away debris from the exterior fins using a soft brush attachment. Clear away all bushes, weeds, and grass within 2ft. of the condenser.

Step Three: Straighten fins

Using a tool as simple as a dinner knife, realign bent/crushed fins with gentle pressure. If large areas are crushed, have a pro straighten them during a routine service call.

Step Four: Remove the fan

Unscrew the top grille. Lift out the fan and carefully set it aside without stressing the electrical wires. Clean fan of any debris and wipe away dust with a damp cloth.

Step Five: Clean the fins

Spray the fins using moderate water pressure from a hose nozzle. Direct the spray from the inside out. Reinstall the fan when cleaning is complete. After hosing off the fins, check the fan motor for lubrication ports. Add five drops of electric motor oil (strictly from a hardware/appliance store).

Restart the Condenser

Step Six: Confirm Proper Cooling

Turn the power back on, then set your house thermostat to “cool” so the compressor comes back on. After 10 minutes, feel if the insulated tube is cool and if the uninsulated tube is warm.

If the power to your unit has been off for more tan four hours:

  • Move the switch from “cool” to “off” at your inside thermostat.
  • Turn the power back on and let the unit sit for 24 hours
  • Switch the thermostat back to “cool.”

If you switched the unit off while compressor was running:

  • Wait at least five minutes before switching it back on. (The compressor needs to decompress before restarting.) Make sure it’s actually working by touching the coolant tubes. Keep a sharp eye out for dark drip marks on the bottom of the case and beneath the tube joints. This indicates an oil leak and a potential coolant leak as well. Call in a pro if you spot this problem.

Clean the Indoor Unit

Step Seven: Check the furnace filter

Turn off the power to the furnace at a nearby main panel. Then pull out the furnace filter and check for dirt buildup. Change it necessary.

NOTE: If you are not familiar with your indoor conditioning unit, refer to your owner’s manual for further instructions and part descriptions.

Step Eight: Vacuum and lubricate

Gently vacuum the evaporator’s fins with a soft brush as you did with the outside condenser. Then, open the blower compartment and vacuum up the dust. Check the motor for lubricant ports and squeeze five drops of electric motor oil into each (as done in step five).

Step Nine: Clean the drain tube

Pull off the plastic condensation drain tube and check for algae growth. Clean it by pouring a bleach/water solution (1:16 ratio to be specific) through the tube to flush the line. You can also simply replace the tube.

Step Ten: Clean the drain port

Fish a pipe cleaner into the drain port to clean out any debris. Most tubes are flexible plastic and are easy to clean. But if the plastic is rigid, you may have to unscrew or cut off with a saw to check (re-glue rigid tubes using a coupling or simply replace them). Reinstall the drain tube and turn the power back on.

We hope our step by step instructions on how to clean your air conditioner’s condenser were helpful! Be sure to check out our other blogs and do not hesitate to order the replacement parts you need from our website: Air Conditioning Parts

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