Steps to Clean and Test A/C Equipment in the Greater Cincinnati Area

Clean and test AC

A central air conditioner has many different parts – AC coils, condenser, air handler, condensate drain, filter, fan motor, fins, evaporator, blower, and more! Exposure to dust, dirt and debris in both the indoor and outdoor air causes air conditioners to become dirty and require cleaning as part of air conditioning maintenance. If you don’t clean your air conditioner, the system loses efficiency, uses more electrical power to run, and may have trouble properly cooling your home during the summer.

Many essential air conditioner cleaning services are performed as part of a professional HVAC tune up, but you may find it necessary to clean central air conditioning equipment more than once per year. Thomas & Galbraith details steps to clean air conditioning units the right way, which helps them cool your home with higher efficiency and provide clean indoor air.

Steps to Clean the Condenser Unit

The outdoor unit of a central air conditioner is the AC condenser. This outdoor air conditioning unit holds the condenser coil, fins, compressor, condenser fan, and fan motor. Dust, debris, and dirt from outdoors can settle along the unit, plants can grow up around it, and these issues can make it hard for the condenser to release heating outside of the home during cooling season.

  1. Turn off electrical power to the condenser indoors at the main panel and outside at the switch on or near the unit.
  2. Use a fin comb or household knife to straighten fins along the exterior of the condenser unit.
  3. Unscrew the grille on top of the condenser and remove it. The condenser fan may be connected to the grille.
  4. Remove debris from inside the condenser unit with a vacuum.
  5. Spray a garden hose to clean fins from inside the outdoor unit.
  6. At this time, it is easy to conduct maintenance on the fan motor. Find the oil ports and add electric motor oil to each of the oil ports until full.
  7. Reattach the grill and fan atop the condenser.
  8. Turn the power back on at the electrical panel and unit switch.

Steps to Clean AC Condenser Coils

Inside the condenser, the condenser coil releases heat during cooling season. The compressor sends highly pressurized refrigerant through condenser coils and the coils transfer heating energy to the outdoor air. Dust and dirt build up on the condenser coils, causing efficiency loss and restricting heat transfer.

  1. Shut off electrical power at the main panel and condenser switch.
  2. Use a fin comb to straighten bent or damaged fins around the AC condenser.
  3. Unscrew the grille on top of the unit and pull it off with the attached fan.
  4. Spray the coils with compressed air to blow off dust and dirt then vacuum it from inside the unit, or use a vacuum and soft brush along the coils to clean them.
  5. Apply a dish soap and water solution or use a commercial condenser coil cleaning solution along the surface of the coils.
  6. Use a garden hose sprayer to rinse the coil and spray direct to avoid damaging delicate fins.
  7. Give the condenser and coil time to dry out.
  8. Secure the fan and grille on top of the condenser unit.
  9. Turn the power back on to the AC condenser at its switch and the main electrical panel.

Steps to Clean the Indoor Evaporator Coil

A split system central air conditioner has a furnace or air handler as its indoor unit. Inside the unit is the evaporator coil which removes heating from indoor air. Particles from the air can settle on the evaporator, or mold can develop along the evaporator coil due to the moist surroundings of the coil – the evaporator coil loses area to perform heat transfer and loses cooling efficiency when this happens.

  1. Turn the power off at the main panel and switch on the unit.
  2. Remove the panel to the furnace or air handler to expose the evaporator coil.
  3. Clean the evaporator coil using a soft brush to clear off dirt, dust, and debris. Use a vacuum to remove dust from the surrounding compartment.
  4. Spray a no-rinse coil clearer along the evaporator coils and allow it to sit – rinsing isn’t necessary.
  5. Reattached the access panel.
  6. Turn power on at the electrical panel.

Steps to Cleaning the Condensate Drain

Below the evaporator coil sits a collection and drain system that moves moisture out of the air conditioning unit. Moisture formed through the cooling process drips off the evaporator coil and is caught by a drip pan. The pan empties into a condensate drain tube line which carries moisture to a nearby drain or out of the home. Dust, dirt and debris, and mold inside the AC unit can cause the drain system to clog. This forces moisture back into the air supply and makes it harder for the air conditioner to cool your home.

  1. Turn off power to the indoor furnace or air handler at the electrical panel and switch.
  2. Pull off the access panel to the furnace or air handler to reach the evaporator and the drain pan underneath.
  3. Pull out any water in the pan using a wet/dry vacuum.
  4. Clean the pan with soap and warm water or use vinegar for natural cleaning. If you like, add an HVAC drain pan tablet to help prevent mold and algae growth.
  5. Replace the access panel to the exterior of the furnace or air handler.
  6. Find the drain port connecting the drip pan and condensate lines.
  7. Remove the tube line and insert a wire brush or pipe cleaner to clean out the pipe tube.
  8. Reattach the line to the drain port.
  9. Find the exit of the condensation drain lines either outside or at a nearby drain in the home.
  10. Create a seal between your wet/dry vacuum hose and the opening of the drain lines. Turn the vacuum on for two to three minutes so debris and clogs are extracted.
  11. Go inside and find the drain access port, which looks like a capped pipe or T-vent that sits up vertical from the drain lines.
  12. Remove the cap and flush the drain tube with vinegar, a soap and water solution, or a cup of bleach.
  13. Replace the access port plug.
  14. Turn on power at the main electrical panel and switch on the unit.

Steps to Clean the HVAC Blower Fan

Inside the air handler or furnace indoor air conditioning unit is the blower assembly which is made up of a fan and fan motor. The blower and fan receive cool air treated by the evaporator and circulate it into the home. Grime and deposits of dirt and dust form on the blower parts, bogging them down so they cannot achieve the speeds needed to move air with efficiency.

  1. Shut down electrical power at the home’s main panel and the switch on the air handler or furnace.
  2. Pull off the panel to access the blower cabinet.
  3. If a circuit board sits in front of the blower, remove its screws and carefully place it aside, leaving wires connected.
  4. Loosen and remove bolts keeping the blower in place and slide out the blower assembly.
  5. Unscrew the blower assembly cover and wipe it down with a clean, fiber-free cloth.
  6. Clean fan blades and the motor air intake with a soft brush. A solution of warm water and bleach may be used for tough dirt and grime.
  7. Reattach the cover to the blower components and place the blower assembly back into position inside the chamber, bolting it back into place.
  8. Replace the circuit board if applicable and shut the access panel.
  9. Restore power at the switch and main panel.

After You Clean, Test your AC Unit

After performing any cleaning task for air conditioner maintenance, you need to test the air conditioning system. When you clean and test AC units, you’ll know the system works correctly following your DIY service.

  1. Verify electrical power is restored to all units at the main panel and switch on each unit.
  2. At the thermostat, set the temperate down so it is lower than the room’s current reading. This should trigger the air conditioner to start a cooling cycle.
  3. Let the system cool the home for about 10 minutes, listening for strange noises and checking vents for good airflow.
  4. Adjust the thermostat temperature back to your preferred setting.

If you notice a new noise, detect poor cooling or airflow, or suspect another type of repair problem when you test the air conditioning, stop use of the system and call your technician to inspect your units and repair them if needed.

Cincinnati Air Conditioner Maintenance

If you don’t want to clean your air conditioner, leave it to the pros of Thomas & Galbraith. We perform air conditioning maintenance services for homeowners throughout the Greater Cincinnati area.

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