When the weather gets warmer, many people turn to their window air conditioner for refreshment. The cool, dry air of a wall or portable air conditioner can turn a hot, muggy room into a relaxing oasis. But when you first break that air conditioning unit out of storage, it may be a little dusty, dirty or clogged up. When dust and dirt get caught up in the condenser, evaporator or cooling fins, the unit can’t produce air as cold or as quickly as it should. People commonly misunderstand this problem as low refrigerant levels.
There are professional air conditioner cleaners that can disassemble and clean out the machine, but doing it yourself is fairly easy. Of course, it may not be for everyone, but you may want to try cleaning out your own air conditioner before calling in professional help. Here are a few important things to keep in mind while you tackle this task.
The first thing that anyone should do when cleaning out a room air conditioner is to practice smart, safe habits. The most important thing to remember is that the unit should be unplugged to prevent electrocution. If you only recently unplugged it, give the air conditioner time to cool down, because although it produces cold air, the coils and interior of the machine can become very hot. It’s also smart to wear leather or workman gloves to protect yourself from sharp pieces and fins.
Work to maintain your air conditioner while in use
The best way to make a spring air conditioner cleaning easier is to keep maintaining it consistently. The U.S. Department of Energy advised homeowners on a few simple techniques to keep their appliances pumping out cool air all summer long.
Cleaning and replacing filters regularly can help prevent your air conditioner from getting clogged, and it can reduce the amount of energy the appliance uses. The DOE noted that a new air filter can lower an air conditioner’s energy use by 5 to 15 percent.
It’s also important to keep your coil fins clean, which can be difficult because they’re on the outside of the appliance and often go unseen. Also, keep the window sealed, the condensate drains clear, and limit debris and plant life above and around the exterior of window units.
Get the right tools for the job
You shouldn’t need much to clean your air conditioner, and there are multiple schools of thought on what works best. Almost everyone will want a screwdriver to take plates and pieces off. Fin combs are also helpful for clearing out the coil fins. Some people use water and sponges to clean out the machine, while others keep it drier with shop vacuums and rags.
Get your hands dirty
When you actually go to clean your air conditioner, it’s important to go slowly and know what you’re doing. If you start unscrewing and dismantling pieces, make sure you know how to put them back together. The Family Handyman gave step-by-step instructions for how to disassemble, clean and reassemble a standard air conditioning unit. You’ll be able to clean out the dust and dirt and get that machine running smoothly again.
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SIDENOTE. This post was last modified on November 12, 2020. However, we regularly update our content as we test more products and new models are released. We also listen to the feedback of our customers and make changes to our product recommendations based on their experiences. So don’t be surprised if you see some old comments below! Since reader comments contribute to the topic, we have decided not to delete them.