How to Clean an Air Conditioner

A picture of cleaning your AC unit

Cleaning an AC Unit, Step-by-step

Cleaning your air conditioning unit is one of the best ways to keep it running smoothly and efficiently. Investing just a few minutes before summer comes to Cincinnati (and monthly during the cooling season) can lower your energy bill and add years to the working lifespan of your outdoor AC unit or window air conditioner.

Get your AC working like new with a few tips on cleaning everything from the evaporator coil to the filter.

How to Clean an Air Conditioner – What You Can Do Yourself

Homeowners can add simple tasks to the DIY lists: clearing debris away from the outer unit, changing a filter, or brushing dust off the grill. For in-depth cleaning around the delicate interiors of the AC unit, leave it to the pros. We’ve included instructions on cleaning both central air and window units.

How to Clean the Air Conditioner Unit in or Outside of Your Home

Central air conditioning units distribute cool air through your ductwork to vents located in nearly every room in your house. Most have an exterior unit that requires cleaning.

Smaller, portable window AC units fit securely in a window. They’re more common in rentals, apartments, dorms, and single rooms within larger homes. Pros know how to clean a window air conditioner or a central air unit to leave them as good as new.

What to Make Part of Your Chore Routine

You can do some basic maintenance to keep your AC clean on the outside, without getting close to the more delicate interior parts. Remember to turn off your air conditioner if you’re going to remove the filter.

  • Remove and clean the front cover. Most air conditioning unit covers snap off with tabs, though you may need your screwdriver. Double-check your owner’s manual if you aren’t sure how the cover comes off. Put on protective gloves, spray the cover with a mix of water and mild soap, wipe thoroughly, and set it aside to dry. This prevents dust and grime buildup.

  • Locate and change the AC filter. A central AC unit’s air filter is usually located in a rectangular slot with a label. Depending on the model of your window air conditioner, your filter will be located behind the grill cover or inside the cover itself. You need to change your filter at least once every three months.

  • Learn how to clean your air conditioner filter. If you have a washable filter, you need to clean it at least once every three months. Wipe surface-level dust from the filter. Spray the filter until it's wet, and wipe away as much dust and dirt as possible. Most should come off quickly, although you may need to scrub gently with a soft bristle brush in some areas. Set the filter aside to dry before putting it back in the unit.

Enjoy the Benefits of a Professional Tune-up

When you schedule your twice-a-year tune-ups, the experts will handle the more finicky maintenance jobs. Your HVAC technician will:

  • Clean the AC coils. Your air conditioner uses evaporator and condenser coils to draw heat out of the air and cool it down. Dirty coils can reduce the efficiency of your air conditioning or even cause parts of the machine to ice over. That’s why you should hire a professional who knows how to clean air conditioner coils without damaging them.

  • Clear debris from the interior. Dust and grime can build up inside your unit, reducing the efficiency or blowing dust into your vents and home. Your HVAC expert will vacuum or wipe out your HVAC system.

  • Check for loose parts or damage. ACs can wear down with time, which is why we inspect your unit thoroughly to ensure nothing needs to be replaced or repaired.

  • Realign parts. Your blower fan may rattle if it comes loose or doesn’t sit properly in its housing. We’ll make sure everything is secured tightly in its proper place.

How Often Should You Clean Your Outside AC Unit?

We recommend checking your filter monthly during the cooling season and having your evaporator and condenser coils cleaned in the spring and fall as part of your biannual maintenance. Replacing your filters is a quick and easy way to extend the life of your HVAC system, but only about 36% of American homeowners say they do it regularly! Check your outdoor unit every month and after large storms to keep debris away and ensure nothing’s growing too close to it.

How Often Should You Clean Your Window AC?

We recommend cleaning your window AC unit every month during the cooling season. Dust the unit’s exterior as part of your weekly home cleaning routine. Make sure you replace your home’s HVAC filter every 1-3 months to lower dust, dander, and other airborne irritants that could clog your window AC filter.

Get Professional Help Maintaining Your AC Unit

One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning of Cincinnati can help keep your Cincinnati-area home comfortable year-round. Our friendly, professional HVAC technicians will provide expert insight and repairs on time and at a fair price. Get started today; book an appointment online or call (513) 815-3460.