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How To Clean Your Air Conditioner Like A Pro
Jack Frost is nipping at our nose and Santa Clause has just left. The eastern
seaboard has just received their third blizzard for a total of over 125 cm
(56 inches) of snow in one week. So, who in their right mind would be thinking
about window air conditioners at this time of year?
Call me crazy, but I am.
It is a good time of year to start this project. Firstly, it keeps ones mind
sharp for the coming spring. Plus, it allows you to try out those new tools
you got for Christmas. Mainly though, it is a good winter project because
by the time spring arrives you will be too busy to think about this job.
Very little is required to clean a window air conditioner, except lots of
patience. If patience is something you lack then it is a job you should turn
over to the local appliance serviceman.
Tools · Tin can or container (old muffin tin works well also)
· Vacuum cleaner
· Long handled brush (an old toilet brush works well)
· Oil can
· De-greaser or spray detergent
· Selection of screwdrivers (Philips, Flat bladed, 1/4" socket head)
· Fin tool (optional)
· New filter (if disposable type)
Lets get started --------------
1. Start by removing the filter from the front grille. If it is a disposable
type simply replace it with a new one. Other types are made in a plastic
frame and can be cleaned and reused. To clean a reusable type lay it flat
in the sink and sprinkle surface with laundry detergent. Then cover with
about one inch of hot water. Just enough so the filter is submerged. Soak
for 15 minutes. Remove from water and rinse with warm water. Hang up to dry
while proceeding to next step.
2. Next, remove the front grille from the main body of the air conditioner.
They usually pivot on 2 spring clips at the bottom. It is usually removed
by pulling the grille gently forward while pushing it down at the same time.
If there is resistance then look for hidden screws. Look near the top edge
of the grille or behind the control knob door. Once removed place the grille
aside until later.
3. Carefully remove metal cover of air conditioner to expose inner workings.
Once all the screws are removed lift the cover straight up. Do not let it
hit the other parts as it can have sharp edges. This is where the old can
comes in handy (ice cube container or muffin tin works well also). Use it
to keep track of all the screws you will be removing. An air conditioner
will often use a number of different types and sizes of screws. Segregate
them from each other or confusion will result when we start reassembly.
4. Check the fan motor for any oil holes or oil plugs. If the motor has oil
plugs they are usually rubber. Use caution when removing because the rubber
may have become brittle. Often they will break off in the oil holes resulting
in a blockage. If this occurs try to remove the broken plug by using a pin
of the tip of a small screwdriver.
Once the fan motor oil holes are exposed add a few drops of oil to each end
of the motor body. Use a general purpose (3in1) oil or clean motor oil. A
#30 oil is sufficient.
The natural tendency is to over-oil. Too much lubrication is as bad as not
enough. Therefore only 3 or 4 drops on both ends of the motor body is sufficient.
Add the oil slowly, pausing a few seconds between each drop. If you add it
too quickly over-lubrication will result.
5. Use the brush to remove surface dust and dirt from the evaporator (front
fins). Use only an up and down motion. Do not go side to side or allow the
fins to be bent over. The fins are very soft aluminum and can be damaged
Once surface dirt is removed, spray with de-greaser or cleaner. There is
a good product on the market called HVAC cleaner. As the name implies it
is meant for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioner coil cleaning. If
this is not available the Fantastic Spray cleaner used in kitchens and bathrooms
works quite well.
Let stand about 15 minutes or as per instructions on de-greaser can. This
will allow cleaner to loosen any hidden dirt. Remove dirt and excess cleaner
by slowly pouring warm water into fins. Do not allow the water to enter any
electrical connections or components that may be near the coil. As an added
precaution cover the motor with one of the cloth rags. to protect it from
Do not use any form of high pressure air or water because this can drive
dirt farther into fins. Also, use extreme caution as these coils are filled
with high pressure refrigerant.
6. Straighten any bent fins. Use a fin comb if available. If no fin comb
then use something soft such as a Popsicle stick. Straightening the fins
will increase the efficiency of the air flow through the coils. This adds
to the overall cooling effect produced by the air conditioner.
7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the condenser (rear fins) coil. A plastic cowling
usually surrounds the condenser fins. If so, check the top edge to see if
it will lift or open. If it opens this will allow easier access to the condenser
fins. Again use caution because the condenser coil is also filled with high
8. Wipe any dirt buildup from both fan blades using a soft rag. Do not bend
blades. This would cause a vibration that would harm the motor.
9. Vacuum all surfaces including front and back of grille assembly. Do not
forget to vacuum underside of metal air conditioner cover. If the cover contains
air holes clean them thoroughly. If necessary use a damp rag.
10. Drain any water left in the base and allow it to dry for few hours.
When completely dry plug in air conditioner and test operation. If everything
appears okay unplug and reassemble.
Once reassembly is complete, retest operation to ensure replacing the cover
has not affected anything. Adding the cover will tend to twist the frame
and can cause interior parts to move out of alignment. This can cause the
fan to become noisy. To correct for this problem remove the cover and realign
to the main body of the air conditioner. Reinstall the cover and test for
noises every time 2 or 3 additional screws are added to the cover.
Finally, cover air conditioner with plastic wrap or an old blanket. Store
in a warm dry area. Raise it from floor slightly by placing onto a couple
of pieces of wood. This will protect the floor from the metal edges of the
air conditioner, and also protect the air conditioner from moisture.
Youre Finished ----------------
Repeat this simple procedure every year. If you do, the machine will be ready
for many more years of dependable service.
Copyright 2004 by Donald Grummett. All right reserved.
Donald Grummett is an appliance service manager in Ottawa, Canada. In the
trade over 30 years as both a technician, business owner, and technical trainer.
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