August 8th, 2017

A Guide to Cleaning and Maintaining Your AC Unit

When the warmer weather comes around you want to make sure that you have working air conditioning so that you are comfortable. Whether you have a window AC unit, or you have central air; having it working when it’s hot is your number one priority. Sometimes it doesn’t always work the way that you want it to. But fear not, because there are things that you can do to help your AC work again. Below is a complete guide to AC maintenance.

Professional Maintenance

If you have central air, you should have it regularly serviced before the warm weather starts. The professional will come out and inspect your unit and service it. This will make sure that things stay in running order as well as spot any potential problems. This will cost between $125 and $175 and it can save you lots of money on repairing or replacing your unit.

The technician will inspect your unit overall and look for any indications of trouble. They also will test its voltage, inspect the belts, ducts, vent’s conditions, check your refrigerant, and look at its drainage lines. They also should lubricate the ports that you have.

They’re also going to test your thermostat and inspect your blower motor to make sure it’s operating properly. If your motor’s drawing an overabundance of amps, it might be about to fail. If your thermostat is not engaging your AC when necessary, you may need to replace it or adjust it.

It’s important to check your air filter monthly, but it will be checked when you have your unit serviced. Your technician also should clean different parts of your air handler, condenser, compressor, evaporator coils, and drainage line.

The technician also should test the levels of refrigerant and look at how your unit functions during a whole cycle. If there are still issues, they should tell you and recommend any repairs.

DIY Cleaning and Maintenance

There are things that you can do on your own for basic maintenance. Here’s what you can expect:

Cost: $50.00 – $100.00
How Long it will take: A Few Hours
Materials and Tools:

  • Wrench or screwdriver
  • Dry/wet vacuum
  • Fin tool
  • Garden hose
  • Pruning shears
  • Level
  • Foil tape
  • Shims
  • Paint brush with soft bristles
  • Soapy, hot water
  • Bleach
  • Coil cleaner

Before Beginning

Turn the power off to your unit. Turn your condenser switch so that it’s off. At the breaker box in your home, turn off its breaker. The last thing that you want is for it to come on when your hands are close to its fan blades.


1. Clean your condenser

If it’s on your roof, it probably won’t need a lot of cleaning. If it’s on the ground you’ll probably have debris. Take off the grate that’s over your fan and then vacuum out the debris you find inside. Use your hose to spray your fins. Make sure that you’re not using your pressure washer since these things are extremely thin and they can be easily damaged.

2. Inspect your fins

These are extremely thin and they’ll bend easily. If there are spots that are damaged, like they’ve been flattened, gently straighten them using your fin tool or butter knife. Make sure you’re not damaging the fin’s tubing.

3. Raking

Rake any of the debris that is around your condenser, and then prune any bushes or branches so they’re a minimum of two feet from your condenser.

4. Level your condenser

As soil is settling, it isn’t unusual for your condenser pad to be off-level. Using your level and shims, you’ll be able to make sure it’s level again.


1. Clean your evaporator coils

You should find these above where your blower motor is and behind a door. This may be sealed using foil tape. Open up the cover, then dust it off using your paint brush. Then spray your coil using coil cleaner, allowing it to drip down into your drain pan. Then clean your drain pan using hot water and soap. You can prevent algae from growing by adding a tablet made for drain pans to your pan. You can get a package of 6 for approximately $3.50. Be sure your drain is flowing freely. If that is the case, you’re able to skip the step that’s coming up next.

2. Clean your evaporator drain

You’ll see a PVC pipe of 1 inch coming off the enclosure where your evaporator is. Follow this pipe to wear it will drain out. Attach your wet/dry vacuum and seal it using a rag or duct tape. Remove the filter from the vacuum so that it doesn’t get damaged and turn your vacuum on for 2 to 3 minutes so that any blockage is cleared out.

3. Change your filter

You should do this twice pear year on your cooling/heating system. You do it before winter starts and then again before the warmer weather starts.

4. Reset

Turn your power on again and allow it to go through its complete cycle. If you’re noticing that it’s not cooling the way it did before, you’ll want to call in a professional.

Room or Window Units

Maintenance on a room or window unit will be much less intensive since it doesn’t have as many moving parts

  1. First unplug your unit
  2. Remove its front plate, then vacuum your coils using your vacuum attachment with the soft brush. If you decide to take it outside, it can be hosed off as long as you’re not getting your electronics or motor wet.
  3. Inspect your coiling fins, straightening them out if needed using your fin tool or butter knife.
  4. Check the drain pan to make sure it has no algae or rust in it.
  5. Check your drain pipe to make sure it’s not blocked.
  6. Check your filter. If the filter’s damaged, it should be replaced. If the filter’s simply dirty, it can be washed. Allow it to dry before you put it back in.

AC Glossary

Your unit’s specifics often widely vary, there are only a few parts that are consistent across the board.

  • Condensing Unit – That’s the huge box that’s outside. Refrigerant gas gets condensed into a liquid and then sent through your evaporator coils. This is where it will turn back into a gas and that is what cools your air. That gas then goes back to the condenser to start the process all over again.
  • Ducts – These are the pathways where air is pushed through so that it gets into your home’s rooms. They’re generally installed during the home’s construction.
  • Evaporator Coil – This is a lot like your heat exchanger but it will cool your air.
  • Furnace – The furnace is where air is drawn so that it’s sent through your system to be cooled or warmed during the operation of the unit.
  • Heat Exchanger – When you have a unit that will heat your home along with cool it, this is where cold air is warmed before going through your ducts.
  • Refrigerant Lines – Your refrigerant lines are copper or aluminum tubes running through your system and carrying your refrigerant gas. When a line starts leaking, you’ll need to bring in a professional for the fix.
  • Thermostat – This is how you can set your desired temperature. Depending on the type you buy, you can even control temperatures in certain rooms.
  • Vents – These are openings for your air to go through into rooms. A lot of them have louvres so that you can direct your air or entirely close the vent off.

Regularly cleaning and maintaining of an AC unit is going to save you a lot of money, and it can also help you with avoiding a possible breakdown that can make your house very uncomfortable.

Need Help? Talk to An Expert!

Our goal is to help educate our HVAC customers in the Port Charlotte and Charlotte County, Florida area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC, Heating and Air Conditioning systems).

If you are contemplating having your air conditioning repaired, Contact Dales Heating and Air Conditioning by calling (941) 629-1712 or by filling out our secure Contact Form.