How to Clean the Condenser Unit to Avoid AC Repair

April 6, 2023

Cleaning the outdoor condenser unit can keep your home comfortable and avoid costly AC repairs. It’s one of those maintenance tasks you can DIY. And it can lower your utility bills and increase the system's lifespan. You’ll need a cordless drill, screwdriver, hose, vacuum cleaner, soft bristle brush, and a fin comb. If it’s time for a spring cleaning, we’ll explain how to clean the condenser unit, so your HVAC system is efficient this summer.

Steps to Cleaning Your AC Condenser Unit

Dirt, dust, and debris can interfere with heat transfer. This forces the system to work harder, run longer, and use more energy. Excess strain will increase wear that eventually causes parts to fail and the system to break down. Here are simple steps to follow that can avoid these hassles:

  • Disconnect the System: Cut the power by switching the condenser off, pulling the plug from the power box, and flipping the AC circuit breaker at the main panel. This ensures contact with electrical components won’t result in a shock or burn.

  • Vacuum the Outside of the Unit: Clean dirt, grass, leaves, and other debris from the unit's exterior using a wet/dry vacuum. A soft-bristled attachment avoids damaging the outer surface. Manually remove any debris or vegetation from the area around the condenser.

  • Remove the Panel: Remove the panel screws using a cordless drill or a screwdriver with a socket. Carefully remove the panels from the back side of the unit.

  • Clean the Fins: Wipe the fins with a soft-bristle brush, moving in an up-and-down pattern. Wiping from side to side can damage the fins and AC repair may be necessary. You can also use a hose with a spray nozzle; just make sure the pressure isn’t set too high.

  • Straighten Bent Fins: Use the fin comb to straighten out fins that have bent due to hail or impacts by toys or outdoor furniture. Gently insert the comb and pull on the bent fin. If using a knife or other thin object, don’t stick it more than a half-inch inside the unit.

  • Inspect/Clean the Coils: Inspect the AC coils for any damage; if they’re corroded, dented, or broken, call an AC technician right away. Dirty coils can be cleaned by wiping them with a coil brush. Hose the coils down to remove debris and then spray a coil or multipurpose cleaner onto them. After 10 minutes, use water to rinse the solution away.

  • Clean the Interior: Remove the top grille and gently lift out the fan assembly, leaving the electrical wires connected. Place the fan in a safe location. Remove debris that’s accumulated inside the housing and wipe interior surfaces clean. Then reinstall the fan and the condenser unit panel. Insert the screws but don’t tighten them until all are inserted.

Once you’ve cleaned the condenser unit, turn the electricity back on and lower the temperature setting at the thermostat (making sure it’s set to ‘cool’). The unit should start running. Check each room for proper airflow and that the AC is providing cooling. It may take up to two hours if this is the first time turning it on for the season.

Schedule AC Repair and Maintenance with Service Champions

Our trained technicians can clean your condenser unit and AC system during a routine maintenance visit. We also provide high-quality AC repair services in Northern California. If you’re not sure you can fully clean the outdoor unit or notice any issues, schedule a visit online or call Service Champions at 833-600-0991.

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