How to Clean AC Unit Coils

How to Clean AC Unit Coils

When was the last time you cleaned your air conditioner coils? Over time, dirt buildup on coils can impact performance, robbing your system of efficiency as it’s forced to work longer and harder than usual to meet your cooling needs. This increases energy usage and reduces the lifespan of your system. Not sure how to clean air conditioner coils? Luckily, we’ve got you covered….

How to Clean an AC Coil:

The easiest way to clean AC coils is to pick up the phone, and have this regular maintenance performed during your regularly-scheduled, pre-season service to ensure a cool home and improve air quality. More of a do-it-yourselfer? It is possible to tackle this task yourself.

  • Things You’ll Need
    • Garden hose
    • AC coil cleaner
    • Eye protection
    • Disposable gloves
  • Steps to Cleaning AC Coils:
    1. Shut off power.
      Turn off the system at the thermostat, shutting off power to the unit and air handler at the circuit box. Turn the toggle switch at the air handler to the ‘off’ position. Cleaning fluids and electricity don’t mix.
    2. Locate the access panel.
      You may need to check your AC system owner’s manual to find the right one. Vacuum the exterior of unit with a brush attachment, hosing the exterior off carefully with water if any dirt or debris remains.
    3. Open the access panel.
      Remove any screws/fasteners, then loosen the cover of the access panel. You may need to peel away metal foil tape from the panel edges. Place panel screws aside in a safe location where they won’t get lost/separated.
    4. Identify the coils.
      The coils are integrated into an A-framed design, and resemble small fins, similar to your car’s radiator.
    5. Loosen debris.
      Spray coils with water from the inside, out. Never use a pressure washer, steam cleaner, or method other than a hose nozzle. Doing so may damage your system.
    6. Spray on coil cleaner.
      Carefully follow manufacturer directions and recommendations. Be sure to coat both sides, letting it soak-in until foam and debris drain away. Most foam-style cleaners will breakdown to be whisked-away by your unit’s draining system.
    7. Repeat.
      If debris remains, repeat the process.
    8. Check for mold and algae.
      Minor issues can be addressed with a 50/50 solution of bleach and water. Severe contaminations, however, require prompt attention by a trained HVAC technician.
    9. Check the drain tube.
      Pour a bit of water down the drain tube before rinsing. If your drain tube is blocked, discontinue cleaning and consult an HVAC contractor to clear the blockage.
    10. Hose-off cleaner.
      Once the cleaner has done its job, hose-off any remaining residue.
    11. Reinstall the access panel cover.
      Carefully reattach the access panel cover, re-taping the seams.
    12. Restore power.
      Restore power by flipping the air handler switch back to the ‘on’ position, flip the circuit breaker on, and finally, return your thermostat to normal operation.

How Often Should My Coils Be Cleaned?

Generally, AC coils should be cleaned twice per year, in the spring before warmer weather hits, and again in the fall at the end of the cooling season. In some situations, however, your coils may require more frequent cleaning:

  • Older Systems
    Older equipment is prone to more rapid dirt accumulation.
  • Frequent Usage
    The higher the cooling load (the more often your system runs), the more easily dirt will accumulate, and the more often you’ll need to clean coils.
  • Urban Locales
    Units located close to street level, or nearby demolition, construction, or other areas where airborne contaminants and pollution are higher, will need to have coils cleaned more often, possibly as frequently as every few weeks

AC cleaning pays for itself in energy savings, and prevents the need for emergency service on summer season’s hottest days, when dirty coils ice-over, resulting in system shut-down. Get your air conditioner off to the right start, schedule an annual preventative maintenance and coil cleaning with Aire Serv® today.

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