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How to Clean an Outside Air Conditioner Unit—Without Paying a Pro

April 28th, 2014

Imagine your body is wrapped in a fuzzy, wool blanket on a sizzling summer day. The wool blanket prevents heat in your body from escaping, causing your body to overheat.

Sounds horrible, right?

But your air conditioner goes through this same struggle every year when it gets covered in leaves, dust and dirt. And it’s costing you money.

Here’s why.

Look at the outside unit on the left of this image from AHRI. Its job is to release heat the refrigerant absorbed from your indoor air.

But if the outside unit’s condenser coils (what the refrigerant flows through) are covered in dirt, it can’t release the heat. Just like how your body couldn’t release the heat when wrapped in the wool blanket.

So the air conditioner needs to run longer to cool your home. You spend more money. And the air conditioner risks overheating—leading to a breakdown on the hottest day of the year.

So here’s how to prevent all that by cleaning the outside unit.

How to clean the air conditioners outside unit

Tools you’ll need:

  • Air conditioner coil cleaner (Follow your air conditioner manufacturer’s recommendations when selecting a cleaning agent.)
  • Water hose with sprayer
  • Gloves and eye protection

Follow these steps:

  1. Find the electrical disconnect (a metal box) near your outside unit.
  2. Open the electrical disconnect and find the switch that turns off the air conditioner. This may be a pull out switch or a circuit breaker type switch. Turn the switch to the “off” position.
  3. Use the water hose spray to clean off loose debris (grass, leaves, etc) on the outside unit.
  4. Spray the outside unit with the coil cleaner.
  5. Wait 10-15 minutes as the cleaner foams and bonds with the dirt on the coils.
  6. Rinse the coil cleaner off with the hose.

Do this at least once a year, preferably during spring.

Want to keep your air conditioner super energy efficient?

Cleaning the air conditioner’s outside unit is just one of many tasks that need to be done to maintain your system’s energy efficiency.

Check out our maintenance checklist to see everything we do during a maintenance visit. This includes cleaning your outside unit, if you don’t have the time to do it yourself.

Schedule a $88 air conditioner tune-up today.

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