Neat Know-How: Air Conditioner

Neat Know-How: Air Conditioner

Neat Know-How: Air Conditioner

Wow, it’s hot outside! It’s been quite the summer with the hottest June on record worldwide—all of which has us contemplating the importance of proper A/C cleaning and care. 

Air conditioning works essentially by collecting heat and humidity from inside your home—using evaporator coils—and transferring it outside via the unit’s condenser coils. When either set of coils gets dirty, less heat transfer occurs, potentially making the unit cool less effectively.

Aside from leaving your home feeling hotter than it should, ineffective cooling drives up both energy consumption and costs. Meantime, dirt left untreated on the coils can cause them to corrode, potentially leading to chemical refrigerant leaks (bad for the environment), excess wear and tear, and even premature system failure. That can leave you with high repair or even replacement costs, particularly if you have an older A/C system that relies on now-outlawed coolant types. 

There are other A/C parts that need regular cleaning too. For example, the filter’s job is to capture and prevent mildew, mold, dust, and other allergens from blowing into your rooms. When the filter is clogged, it stops doing its job, potentially diminishing air quality. 

Finally, the A/C unit needs to do something with all the humidity it’s taking out of the air. Neglected drains and moisture-collection pans are susceptible to growing mold, mildew, algae, and, if the components are metal, corrosive rust.


Cleaning a window or wall A/C unit is typically a DIY job. For central A/C units, though, it’s strongly recommended to call in a professional as they can be more thorough, will know what important safety precautions to take, and also how to prevent accidental damage to expensive cooling equipment.

For a room or wall unit:

  • Unplug and remove from the window or wall if possible.
  • Open the unit and either brush or vacuum the coils; for super-dirty coils, use a specialized coil cleaner, which can be found in home/hardware stores or ordered online.
  • Use an all-purpose cleaner to clean fan blades, grills, drain/drain pan, and other plastic and removable parts.
  • Wash and/or replace the filter.
  • Repeat these steps when done using for the season to prevent mold, mildew, and algae from accumulating over fall and winter.

Central A/C cleaning tasks you should always leave for the pros include:

  • Opening the outside condenser to service and clean fan blades and other internal parts.
  • Straightening bent fins. 
  • Servicing and cleaning inside evaporator coils, air handler, air vents, and so forth.

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