Your air conditioner plays a significant part in creating an oasis of relaxation out of your home. However, just like most things in life, the aircon unit does not last forever. You may have noticed that it is now working harder, and it takes quite some time for it to reach the level of cooling you desire. And come wintertime, the appliance has become less effective in heating your home.
While your aircon unit does have a limited lifespan, maintenance is a critical part of retaining its efficiency. Maintaining the air conditioner will keep it healthier for a longer period. Therefore, you do not have to worry too much about big-ticket repairs and high energy bills. Cleaning your aircon, though, is not a quick task. You need to be patient, thorough, and precise, but it is well worth the effort.
Why Cleaning Your Aircon is a Must
Most people spend their time indoors, but many do not realise that they have poor indoor air quality. If you think you’re safe from pollutants because you’re inside your house, you’re wrong. Indoor air is one of the biggest culprits behind certain health conditions, which cause the following symptoms:
- Acute or chronic eye, nose, and throat allergies
- Severe skin irritation
And who would have thought that even cancer risk increases due to indoor air? That’s why the Australian Government emphasises the importance of planning the house’s structure to ensure healthier living for the household.
You’re probably wondering what all these health problems have to do with your air conditioner. If there is very little fresh air entering your home, it is easy for pollutants to accumulate to dangerous levels. Also, it is quite evident that a dirty aircon will only contribute to pathogens that already exist in your house. By regularly servicing your air conditioner, you can reduce allergies while improving the air quality inside your home.
Don’t forget that a poorly maintained air conditioner dramatically increases the risk of the unit malfunctioning and failing, which means you need to have it repaired or even replaced.
Some Reminders Before Cleaning the Aircon
Before we start, it is essential to note that a thorough clean of your air conditioner will take time. It is not advised to begin cleaning in the morning and expect to finish before you are due to leave to start work. It will typically require you to set aside about an hour of the day, especially if you want to do a proper clean.
Another thing to understand is that some parts of the cleaning process require you to be a bit skilled, particularly with specific movements. You should also prepare some tools to conclude the entire process.
Finally, cleaning your aircon involves taking care of both units, meaning the inside and outside. You cannot pick just one task and ignore the other part. This article begins with you cleaning the indoor unit, but you can always start with the outdoor one if it is what you prefer.
Steps to Clean the Inside Unit
It’s time to clean the indoor unit. Here are the steps to follow:
1. Make Sure That You Have Turned Off the Air Conditioner
Do not begin cleaning while the air conditioner is running or even with the power on to the system. Safety should be your number one priority. Since you are dealing with an electric appliance, it means you can get electrocuted unless you take the necessary precautions.
2. Open the Front Cover
Lift up the front cover of your split system, the filters are in the front. The filters just lift out, once removed these can be brushed off or vacuumed to remove dust buildup or washed off with a hose. If the air conditioner is near the kitchen the filters may be greasy so may require being washed in hot soapy water.
3. Clean Up the Evaporator Coils
You may need a screwdriver to remove the front panel, by removing the front panel you can use a soft brush to get rid of the dust from the evaporator coil. It is best to wear a mask before you start brushing, especially if you have allergies. This dust accumulated on the coil and comprises particulates in your homes, such as skin cells, pet dander, and more.
You can use a cleaning solution to spray on the coil, there is no need to rinse this off the coil. Spraying the product on the coil may create a foamy substance which will then drop into the pan. It then takes dirt and dust as it falls into the pan. Try your best to get into tighter areas with the spray, especially those that you cannot reach by hand.
We recommend that you do the cleaning on a warm day. That way, when you’re done, and you turn the unit on, condensation will help rinse the coils.
4. Clean the Drain Pan
The next step is to clean out the drain pan using soap and hot water. You can use a 50/50 mixture of water and bleach, which will sanitise this part of the unit. Carefully pour the solution down the drain. If you keep having algae growth in the drain, you can use drain pan tablets found in hardware or home improvement shops.
If you regularly have a smell coming from the unit, mould and algae may have built up in the drain, which is usually a PVC pipe about 2.54cm wide (one inch).
You can use a wet/dry vacuum’s hose, holding it to the end of the tube. There may be some air leakage which can be prevented by closing the gap with a towel. You can also use duct tape to connect the hose and drain together to achieve the tightest seal. Now, turn the vacuum on and keep it running for about three minutes. This method will clear out the build-up in the hose. You can always skip this step if the bleach solution is washed down without issues.
5. Close the Panel
You’re done cleaning the inside unit, so it is time to reattach everything you have removed, starting with the front panel. Make sure that you have stored the screws from the first step since you will need them at the end of the cleaning procedure.
Steps to Clean the Outside Unit
If you think cleaning the indoor unit was laborious, wait until you start with the outside unit. And since this part of the aircon is exposed to the elements, you will find more dirt compared to the indoor unit. Even if you had just cleaned the unit a few months ago, it is not uncommon to find it soiled.
Here are the steps to follow:
1. Cleaning the Unit
If your unit is fixed to floor mounts you should be able to get a broom underneath to clear away any leaf or dirt buildup.
Again, you must make sure you do not have power when working on the outdoor unit. Once the electricity is shut off, you can hose out the unit from the back (the house side) to clean any dirt or debris buildup.
2. Clean the Fins
You can hose off the fins gently, don’t use a pressure sprayer to clean the fins as they can be easily bent or damaged. Run the spray in the same direction as the fins to clean any dust and dirt from them.
3. Finish the Process
Finally, with a bucket of warm soapy water, you can clean the casement of the unit to remove any dust and dirt. Then hose off to remove the excess soapy water.
If the surrounding area of the outdoor unit continually has a buildup of branches, leaves, and dirt this can lead to premature rusting of the casement.
What About the ducted AC Filter?
If you have a ducted air conditioning system, you should clean the filters approximately every six months by unscrewing or unclipping the return air grille, sliding out the filter then either brushing off or hosing off the filter. If hosing off wait for the filter to dry before replacing.
If you have a window-type system, you should also clean these filters approximately every six months as well. Always check the instructions provided on the manual before you attempt to proceed.
If you find the airflow from your air conditioner has reduced or the air con doesn’t seem to be heating or cooling very well, the first step would be to clean the filters as this is most likely the cause.
Year-Round Aircon Maintenance Tips
Regular maintenance typically involves just wiping down the unit and cleaning the filters either by brushing or vacuuming. You do not need to use a brush attachment for this. If you have pets you may need to vacuum more than usual to remove the hair.
Here are more tips on how you can clean and maintain the aircon unit, so it continues to function properly:
- After Each Use: Some appliances come with a “dry out” feature. You can use this setting occasionally to remove moisture and stop mould from building up.
- Every Six Months: It’s recommended that you clean or change the filters. Do a quick dust removal by using a damp cloth. Try to schedule this simple task before winter and at the beginning of summer.
- Every Year: Perform the steps given above for your indoor and outdoor units.
Is It Necessary to Hire a Professional to Clean Your Air Conditioner?
While you can always choose to clean your aircon on your own, you may not always have free time to carry out a thorough clean-up. Additionally, an air conditioning system specialist can check for problems to ensure the maintenance process is complete.
Of course, you should only trust accredited or licensed individuals. It not only protects the warranty of the unit but also guarantees a trustworthy clean-up job that will help improve the system’s performance and efficiency.