Many homeowners enjoy the comfort of their central air conditioning system. For those who live in areas where the hot weather months are described as brutal, homeowners couldn’t live without the constant supply of cool air. Even for those who live in areas that the hot weather months are described as uncomfortable – central air conditioning is there to change that sticky, hot air into a comfortable environment.

The constant use of air conditioning can run up the electric bills quickly – especially if you neglect the general maintenance.

Keeping the central air conditioning working properly requires some maintenance. Oftentimes, homeowners hire an air conditioning contractor to come in and perform twice yearly upkeep. Some of what they do should be left to the professionals, but there are a few tasks that a handy, do it yourself type homeowner can manage on their own. Most central air conditioning owners can change the filters every few weeks and that is all they feel they are capable of doing. But, you can do more on your own – especially cleaning the coils.

Cleaning the central air conditioning unit’s coils and components is important because it keeps dirt and debris that can harm some of the internal components, out of the unit. This is a job many people hire an air conditioning contractor for and the truth is – you can do this yourself.

Some Necessary Safety and Preparation

Whenever you decide to do any type of maintenance on an electrically powered item – always take precautions.

Find your main electric box. Most times they electric box is located in the basement, utility room or garage.

Shut off the breaker that allows electricity to flow to the central air unit and to the furnace.

Never work on any electrically powered appliance or device while you have power running to it. You can get a severe shock or even die.

Cleaning The Central Air Unit

Use a rake to remove leaves, twigs and other debris from the outside of the unit. You can also use a leaf blower, which will help blow away small bits of leaves and twigs that you would not be able to get with a rake.

Scrub the outside of the unit with a dry, nylon bristle brush to scrape off stuck on dirt.

Locate the bolts that hold the metal housing in place. Some older units may have screws.

Match up the appropriate tool with the bolts or screws for removal.

Turn the bolts or screws to loosen them. Remove the screws or bolts and set them aside.

With the aid of a helper lift the metal housing to expose the air conditioner. Use care not to hit the blades because they are easily dented and damaged.

Set the metal housing off to the side.

Blow away dust, leaves and other debris with a leaf blower.

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While you have the metal housing off and the blades – known as fins are accessible, use a shop vacuum to remove dust and dirt from the blades. If the fins are particularly dirty – remove the screw that holds the blades in place and set it aside. Take off the blades and wash them well with a hose and soft bristled nylon scrub  brush. Dry the blades with a rag and put them back in place. Replace and tighten the screw.

Cover all components except the air conditioner’s coils with a small tarp, plastic sheeting or a  large plastic garbage bag.

Twist a nozzle onto a garden hose and turn the water on.

Spray the coils with a stream of water that has good pressure. Make sure to spray away from the plastic that is covering the interior of the unit. The coils are easily bent so start by standing away from the coils with the stream of water and move in closer to be able to reach and clean them. If you are not comfortable doing this, you will have to hire an HVAC professional.

Continue to spray the coils until you do not see any obvious signs of dirt and debris.

Allow the coils to dry.

Take the plastic tarp, sheeting or garbage bag off.

Refer to your owner’s manual to see if your unit requires lubrication. The owners manual will direct you to the specific points to add electric motor oil.

With the help of an assistant lift the metal housing and set it back in place. Again, use can to avoid hitting the metal fins.

Put the bolts or screws back in and tighten them.

Restore the electrical power to the air conditioning unit.

A Few Tips

Have an air conditioning contractor inspect and test your Freon at the beginning of each season.

Clean air vents regularly and have an air duct cleaning company clean dust out of your ductwork every year. Excessive amounts of dust put undo strain on the central air conditioning unit’s ability to cool the air in the home.

An easy way to save money on you hot weather cooling costs is to remove and replace the air filter monthly. If you have pets – change the filter every two to three weeks while the air conditioner is in use.

Keep flowers, shrubs and vines trimmed back and away from the condenser. The greenery and color may look pretty, but it interferes with optimal usage.

Keep the drain line clean, clear and free of any type of algae. Locate the drain line inside of the house, which is usually found in the same room as your furnace. Most will have a clean out plug. Remove the clean out plug or cap. If it is dirty, clean it with a small brush and an equal mixture of chlorine bleach and water. Replace the plug or cap.

If you find that your central air conditioning unit is frozen – turn off the air conditioning and contact an HVAC professional. Typically, a frozen unit cannot be fixed by even the handiest of do it yourself type homeowners. There are quite a few reasons for the unit to freeze and none are easily fixed.