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How to Clean Condenser Coils | A/C Heat Pump Maintenance

April 21st, 2017

You may not be thinking of your heat pump condenser coils as part of your spring cleaning tasks, but we recommend adding it to the list. If you have a central air conditioning system, you have two main parts, the indoor air handler (evaporator coils) and the outdoor heat pump (condenser coils).

The heat pump utilizes a fan to release heat absorbed by the refrigerant. When the fan is on, air flows into your coils/fins, pulling dirt and debris in as well. When grass clippings, “cotton,” dirt, leaves, and other debris gather on the coils, airflow and energy efficiency are significantly reduced.

This is just one reason why it’s important to schedule bi-annual HVAC maintenance. Your technician will include evaporator and condenser coil cleanings as part of their maintenance visit. But, double-check that this cleaning service is included. And most likely, you’ll need more than two heat pump cleanings over the course of a year.

Heat pump coils get particularly clogged in the spring and summer. If you have a lot of dandelions, cottonwood trees, and grass clippings, you may want to clean your heat pump every week or so!

Benefits of Clean Condenser Coils

  1. Energy Efficiency – cleaning your outdoor A/C unit allows air to flow more freely, helping reduce the workload of your unit. Higher energy efficiency = lower energy bills. 
  1. Indoor Comfort – your air conditioning system won’t have to work as long to reach the temperature you desire. A clogged heat pump unit significantly increases your comfort wait times.
  1. Prolonged Lifespan – proper maintenance of your HVAC system, including bi-annual heat pump cleanings, will not only prolong its life but reduce the chances of maintenance and repairs.

If you don’t want to clean the condenser coil yourself, contact your local HVAC contractor. If you feel up to the task, however, it’s not too difficult to do yourself.

How to DIY Clean Condenser Coils 

WARNING: If your heat pump is located on the roof, let your HVAC technician handle the cleaning tasks.

If you find a leak (dark drip marks), stop what you are doing and contact a qualified HVAC technician right away. Do NOT try to fix any leaks yourself!

  1. First, turn off power to the unit. When working on anything electrical, it’s important to disconnect it from your electrical system first. There is normally a shut-off box located on the exterior wall near your heat pump. You should be able to see it from where the heat pump is located. Sometimes, the shut-off is a simple switch, while other times you may need to remove a fuse. If you cannot find the shut-off switch near your outdoor unit, turn off power at the main breaker box. Test the unit to make sure that power has been turned off.
  2. Once the power is off, remove any large pieces of debris with your hand (put on work gloves for this). Make sure there is a minimum 2-foot clearance around the entire unit and that nothing is stacked on top of the unit, such as garden hoses, wood, boxes, or anything else. If you have plants encroaching on the unit, cut them back. Anything near the outdoor heat pump unit will restrict airflow and cause efficiency and comfort problems.
  3. Remove the outer heat pump cover. Some covers simply slide off, while other require the aid of a screwdriver. Once you have lifted the outer case off, place it to the side. Make sure you keep the screws in a safe place.
  4. Vacuum the fins with your soft bristle brush vacuum attachment. If you have a shop vacuum, use that. Be very careful not to bends any of the fins! If you notice any already-bent fins, either call your HVAC technician to straighten them out or you can purchase an HVAC fin comb. Never use a knife, screwdriver, or any other sharp object to straighten the fins.
  5. Next, try to remove the top grille and fan with a screwdriver. Be careful when lifting it up, as the fan will be attached and might snag on electrical wires and connections. If you cannot remove the top grille and fan, just be careful not to hit it with direct sprays of water when cleaning your fins.
  6. Now, you are ready to wipe down the unit with a cleaning solution. You can either use a simple solution of water and dish soap or condenser coil cleaner. Use a sponge or soft brush to wipe down your condenser coil fins. You can also use a spray bottle. Just be careful. Fins are fragile. They are known to bend easily.
  7. Once you have wiped down your condenser coil fins with the cleaning solution, you are ready to use your garden hose. Spray the unit down head-on. Spraying from an angle may unintentionally bend the fins.
  8. After you have rinsed off the unit completely, give the unit time to dry. Once everything has air dried, put the top grille and heat pump cover back into place.
  9. Now, all you have to do is turn the power back on. If everything went smoothly, you should now have a clean heat pump unit operating at maximum efficiency.

Of course, if you aren’t feeling up to the task, contact Service Champions. We offer a $88 Precision Tune-Up and Professional Cleaning!

Sign up for our Maintenance Value Plan (MVP) so you never have to remember your seasonal HVAC service appointments.

If you have any questions, check out our HVAC FAQ page first. If you still have questions, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Service Champions.

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