How to Clean an Outside Air Conditioner

Clean an Outside Air Conditioner

A wall-mounted air conditioning unit can present some unique cleaning problems. Most home appliances are either exposed to indoor or outdoor conditions, but not both. An air conditioner, on the other hand, is affected by the outside elements (such as weather) and inside elements (such as dust accumulation). Keeping an air conditioning unit clean and efficient can take a little extra effort but the savings in electricity will be worth it.

For everyday cleaning, the best cleaning tool is a dust mop or statically charged brush. Dust tends to accumulate on the top of the air conditioner and between the slats of the front cover. Sweep out the dust and look for any signs of moisture collection or mold. If you discover mold spots, particularly in the front cover or around the seal, use a commercial mold killer.

Never spray an all-purpose cleaner directly on the front cover while it is in place. The excess cleaner may be drawn up into the air induction system. A dry duster should be able to remove most of the surface dust and dirt. If a sticky substance has been spilled on the surface, use a small amount of cleanser and a sponge, not a spray bottle.

Every so often, an air conditioner’s filter must be checked and cleaned. Different models have different filters, so you’ll need to consult your specific owner’s manual for directions on changing the filter. Most of the time, filters are either large pieces of foam, which fit directly against the induction system or metal screens, which are built directly into the front panel.

Look for a section of the front panel, which seems to be different than the others. Most likely there is an attached metal screen, which should pull out easily. If there is no obvious filter on the front, then you’ll need to remove the front cover. There should be a piece of foam material pressed against a large array of metal fins. This foam piece is the filter itself and should be easily pried away.

Now that you have the filter removed, you can clean it by several methods. A vacuum cleaner with an attached crevice tool can remove most of the dust from a panel filter. Compressed air from a canister or air compressor unit can also blow off the accumulated dust. Foam filters can be sprayed with a garden hose or washed in a utility sink and allowed to dry.

Panel filters should be checked for signs of excessive wear or mold. It’s not unusual for an air conditioner to freeze during extremely humid days, so the filter may be temporarily frozen in place. If this is the case, turn off the unit and allow the filter to thaw out before attempting to remove it. If a foam-type filter becomes too damaged or dirty, you may want to purchase a replacement at the local hardware or appliance store.

Sometimes air conditioners develop more serious conditions and need to be cleaned thoroughly. Mold can develop around the outside of the unit, or vegetation may migrate towards the outside housing. Use a commercial mold killer or call a professional appliance repairman to reach the unreachable. Keep mosses, ferns and ivy trimmed back from the outside of the unit.

Occasionally, the drain that usually allows excess water to escape will become clogged with debris. If you hear water gurgling around the system, you may need to vacuum out this dirty water and unplug the drain. Remove the front cover and unplug the unit from the wall. Use a wet/dry vacuum with a narrow crevice attachment to draw up as much standing water as possible.

Grab a flashlight and look for any debris, which may be clogging the drainage pan. If you can’t see a drainage area, watch where the water wants to collect and investigate that area. Major blockages may have to be opened by professionals. Examine your carpeting for any signs of water damage, which may be a sign that the air conditioner’s drainage system is not working.

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