Family Outdoors

Cool Down The Summer Heat

If your central air conditioning system hasn’t been cutting the heat in the past few weeks of hot and humid weather, as it once did, it might be time to clean your outside unit.  (In fact, this should be an annual routine in your home’s Spring time checklist, but — be honest — some of you reading this are thinking, “I’ve never had that done.”)  In any event, hiring a professional can lead to an expensive service call.  To save some money, here’s a quick ‘how-to’ to cleaning out that outside unit:

First, make sure the unit is turned off at the main electrical panel in your home.  (If you do not know how to do this, this ‘how-to’ may be better performed by a professional.)  Once off (use a voltmeter to verify that there is no electricity running to the unit), you’ll unscrew the unit to reveal the inside, so you can spray it out using a garden hose.

Once inside, as shown below, you’ll begin spraying the unit from inside-out.  Air flow during normal operation is just the opposite direction, so you’re working this way to dislodge dirt and grime, which has undoubtedly lodged in the fins.  While some professionals use various chemicals, including dilute acid mixtures, a mild soap or dish detergent solution should really be all you need — and much more friendly to the environment!

Note: DO NOT use high pressure washers or spray nozzles, as they may will severely damage the tiny fins and restrict air flow, which is exactly the opposite effect that you want.

As previously stated, just use the normal pressure from a garden hose.  Do not use high pressure sprayers.  If you’d like, depress the end of the hose with your thumb, as shown.

Although the electrical components should be weather and water-proof, It’s a good idea to avoid spraying any electrical parts, such as the fan motor, just to be safe.

Soon, you’ll see all of the dirt and grime begin to dislodge, as shown below:

Be generous with the soap and water, as dislodging a build-up of months (or even years) of grime will take some patience.  Keep cleaning the fins out until no more debris is dislodging, as well as the water seemingly is flowing well through the fins.

After the cleaning is done, you’ll secure the screws back into place:

As a practical matter, you might want to pick up some extra screws at your local hardware store that match the existing ones:

Undoubtedly, you’ll drop at least one and never be able to find it again (as I did).  A few cents, however, is much better than a huge service bill!

Afterward, you may turn the unit’s breaker back ‘on’ at the panel.  Then, sit back and enjoy a cooler home — and a smaller electric bill, too, due to your cleaner, more efficient air conditioning unit!

DISCLAIMER: This ‘how-to’ is for the dedicated do-it-yourself-er, who has some basic home repair experience.  If you feel uncomfortable with any of this, seek the services of a professional.  You can cause damage to the unit, as well as severely injure yourself, if done incorrectly.


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