Air conditioning maintenance doesn't start and end with changing or cleaning the air filters. While you can hire an air conditioning services company to conduct an annual pre-season deep cleaning, you can perform some of the cleaning maintenance tasks yourself with a little bit of effort and a few supplies. Keeping these areas adequately and regularly cleaned can improve cooling efficiency—and prevent your unit from suffering significant damage.
What are the two key areas of your HVAC system that you should clean—and one you should leave up to the pros?
Evaporator coils are in the air handler portion of your air conditioner, located inside your furnace. The coils take in a liquid refrigerant from the outside condensing unit and change that liquid into a gas. Evaporator coils become cold during this phase change, and that coldness provides the cooling source for the air circulating through the system and back into your home.
Dirty evaporator coils don't perform that phase change as efficiently, which can lead to a gradual drop in efficiency and, eventually, a complete loss of cooling. Dirt sticks to the coils well because of the condensation created during the phase change, so you will need to use a commercial cleaning product for this job
Look at your local hardware store for a no-rinse foaming cleanser. Follow the application and wait-time instructions on the product. Why no rinse? The air handler contains a drip tray at the bottom to collect and dispose of the condensate, and the tray can do the same with the dripping cleaner.
Condenser coils are the evaporator coils' counterparts, located in the condensing unit. The condenser coils are what turn the refrigerant into a liquid, in a process that causes the coils to become hot. Dirt on the surface of the coils can again interfere with that phase change, unit efficiency, and unit function.
The condenser coils don't become wet during the phase change, so they aren't as much of a dirt magnet. But a motorized fan blows circulating air over the coils to prevent overheating, and that fan can also cause dust and dirt to attach to the coils.
You can't use a no-rinse cleanser on these coils because there isn't a drip pan, so the dripping chemicals would sit inside the condensing unit and cause damage. You can instead clean the coils with a carefully pointed hose and a steel brush if needed.
Use a hose with an adjustable nozzle and choose a stream that has a narrow focus with about a medium water pressure. Point the nozzle at the coils from the inside of the unit so that the excess water blows out the grates in the unit rather than directly into the bottom. Rinse the coils a couple of times, keeping the hose several inches away so as not to dent the coils with the water pressure, then check to see how much dirt is left.
Still dirty? Use a steel brush and an extremely gentle hand to scrape off the rest of the dirt.
The ducts that circulate cooled air through your home can start to collect dust and allergens from the air inside your home and the outside air circulating through the filter. The filter is meant to catch those particles, but it doesn't always do the job perfectly. Your indoor air will slowly become less and less clean, and those with allergies or asthma will suffer.
Call in an HVAC company like Capital Heating & Cooling to perform a deep, annual or semi-annual duct cleaning to ensure that you breathe the best air possible. Only a professional cleaning company has the right tools and equipment to thoroughly clean your ducts.